Tue, Oct 24, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Schumacher says `so long' to F1

SPECTACULAR The German arrived in Brazil needing a miracle but though none was forthcoming, he produced a heroic drive that many will remember for years to come

AP , SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

Michael Schumacher, left, receives a commemorative trophy from soccer legend Pele before the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil at the Interlagos racetrack near Sao Paulo on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher ran out of luck in the final race weekend of his glittering Formula One career.

Needing a victory to keep alive his slim title chance, Schumacher had mechanical problems both in qualifying and in the race at Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix. Yet, he gave another remarkable display of his driving skills before retiring by rising through the field from 18th to finish fourth.

"Today my racing career comes to an end," he said. "Obviously, it is a special moment for me, and I am proud to have lived my career with some fantastic people, namely everyone who is part of the Ferrari family."

Records

He retires after 16 years in Formula One with most of the driver records, including 91 victories and 68 pole positions.

Before the race, he was honored by a presentation from a great from another sport, Pele.

"I told him I was happy he was retiring at the top of his form, like it happened with me," Pele told local media. "It was an honor to represent millions of fans from around the world and pay this tribute to him."

Schumacher thanked the fans in return.

He said he doesn't know whether he will miss Formula One.

"It is far too early to answer that question," he said. "I haven't had time to think about it."

His last grand prix didn't start well when a fuel pump malfunction in Saturday's qualifying sent him to the middle of the starting grid, and a punctured tire moved him to the back of the pack in Sunday's race.

But on the first lap he moved from 10th to seventh, and had just passed Giancarlo Fisichella for sixth when the left-rear tire blew entering the ninth lap and shattered his chances of victory.

He changed tires and returned in 18th place, more than a minute behind race leader and teammate Felipe Massa and out of contention barely 15 minutes into the race.

Praise for Schumacher

* "I am proud to have been racing with Michael. He is retiring as the man with all the records, and it has been big pressure to race against him -- and a big privilege as well." -- Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

* "What he has achieved is something remarkable. I don't think there will be a driver in the future who can beat that achievement for a long time, or maybe ever." -- Mika Hakkinen, a two-time world champ who battled with Schumacher in the late 1990s.

* "He's one of the greats in Formula One history. He's definitely right there with [Juan Manuel] Fangio, Jim Clark, Jackie Stuart and Ayrton Senna. He's numbers are better, but the current Formula One allows for that because there are more races." -- Emerson Fittipaldi, a two-time world champ in the early 1970s.

Source: AP


Asked about his bad luck, he said, "It was simply like this. It's part of racing."

Massa

Massa won the race, and Fernando Alonso finished second to seal the world championship and constructors' title for Renault.

Schumacher eventually moved into the top 10 midway through the 71-lap race, but wasn't able to move past fourth place.

His tire problem eased Alonso's drive to the championship. The Spaniard needed to finish eighth or better to retain the title.

"I am proud to have been racing with Michael," said Alonso, F1's youngest world champ. "He is retiring as the man with all the records, and it has been big pressure to race against him -- and a big privilege as well."

Schumacher's tough luck began on Saturday in qualifying.

A fuel pump problem in the last part of the qualifying session at the 4.3km Interlagos circuit kept him from starting better than 10th, six spots behind Alonso.

Schumacher had been more than a second faster than Alonso in the final practice before qualifying on Saturday. He also had the fastest overall time in qualifying with 1:10.313, but it came in the second knockout stage of the session and didn't count at the end.

Schumacher had problems in the previous race too, the Japanese Grand Prix.

The German driver was winning the race in Suzuka when a blown engine forced him out with less than 20 laps remaining. The incident put him 10 points behind Alonso entering the final race.

Schumacher can't complain about bad luck earlier in the year, however.

He was 25 points behind Alonso midway through the season, but won five of the last seven races to stay in contention for the title. Some of his rivals, including Alonso, were the ones with problems in that period.

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