September 10, 2006 was a day that will remain long in the memory of every Formula 1 fan.
Just moments after crossing the line to score an emotional home victory for Ferrari in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Michael Schumacher announced that he would be retiring from the sport at the end of the season.
Seven world titles, 90 grand prix victories and the majority of the sport’s most notable records had fallen Schumacher’s way since making his debut in 1991, but at Monza, he confirmed it was all coming to an end.
“There’s been a lot of discussion for a lot of time concerning my future and so on, and I think all the fans, all the motorsport interested people have a right to be explained what is to happen,” Schumacher said in the press conference following the race, clearly emotional.
“You have to find the right moment and we feel this is the right moment.
“To make it short in a way, it’s going to be my last Monza race I’m going to do.
“At the end of this year, I’ve decided together with the team that I’m going to retire from racing.
“It has been an exceptional, a really exceptional time, what motorsport in more than 30 years has given to me. I really loved every single moment of the good and the bad ones, those ones make life so special.”
As we all know, Schumacher’s retirement only proved temporary. After a failed comeback attempt in 2009 with Ferrari as a replacement for the injured Felipe Massa, the German returned full-time in 2010 with Mercedes, for whom he raced until the end of 2012.
Schumacher also made use of the press conference to say that he was happy that it would give Massa, his then-teammate, the opportunity to sort out his future. By this point, Ferrari had already signed Kimi Raikkonen up for 2007 from McLaren.
“In terms of timing, the decision I thought it was fair to find a moment that Felipe has a chance to decide his future because I think he is a very great guy. He has been doing a very good job for the team, very supportive, a really great teammate.
“There is a moment for him to decide his future and there is no point for me to take my decision any later than his decision had to be taken.”
Massa himself confirmed his upcoming retirement from F1 last weekend at Monza, choosing that race in particular as it is where Schumacher’s announcement gave him the chance to continue with Ferrari.
“My future replacement, it’s a driver at some stage the team will tell. I was always pleased and I knew a long time ago to hear that he was the person,” Schumacher added. Said person – Raikkonen – was sitting just inches to his right after finishing second at Monza.
“Now I’d just like to concentrate on these last three wins and finish it in style and hopefully with the championship.”
The eighth world championship wasn’t to be as Schumacher lost out to Fernando Alonso at the final round in Brazil, having previously claimed his 91st race win in China. But it was nevertheless a significant end to the all-conquering Schumacher-Ferrari partnership that ruled F1 in the early 2000s.
By way of further reading on the intricacies of Schumacher’s exit from a Ferrari race seat, F1 writer Tom Rubython’s account is of definite interest, particularly concerning the power struggle at Maranello. You can find a link to the account on Reddit here.