Michael Schumacher to retire
Michael Schumacher will retire from Formula One for the second time at the end of the season.
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Schumacher's seat at Mercedes will be taken by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in 2013, and with a dearth of other options available to him he has opted to quit the sport at the age of 43.
He said: "I have decided to retire at the end of the season. I still feel I am capable of competing against the best but the time sometimes comes to say goodbye and this time it might be forever.
"I had been thinking about whether I had the necessary motivation to carry on but I do not want to do something I am not 100 per cent committed to. Having made the decision I now feel a release."
Schumacher's first stint in F1, between 1991 and 2006 saw him rewrite the sport's record books, winning seven world titles and 91 races.
He will be best remembered for helping to revive Ferrari's fortunes after joining the Prancing Horse in 1996 as part of the 'Dream Team' along with Ross Brawn, Jean Todt, Rory Byrne and Paolo Martinelli, winning five straight titles between 2000 and 2004.
He retired at the end of 2006, but was convinced to make a comeback with the Mercedes team in 2010 by close friend Brawn.
However, his return to the sport he once ruled has not been a success and he has taken just one podium finish over the last three seasons, that result coming at Valencia earlier this year.
There had been suggestions Schumacher would join Sauber, for whom he raced sportscars in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in 2013, but he has instead opted to stop racing.
Schumacher, his voice breaking with emotion, was flanked by Brawn and Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug as he made his announcement.
And Haug paid a glowing tribute to Schumacher.
He said: "I thank Michael. We have known each other a long time, we started together in Group C racing and he went on to be the most successful driver in Formula One, winning more races and titles than any other driver.
"We were competitors against him (when Schumacher was at Ferrari with Mercedes supplying McLaren with engines) and we had always dreamed of working together and it came after Brawn Mercedes won the World Championship in 2009.
"We did not achieve what we wanted to but Michael has laid some strong foundations and I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart."
Brawn hailed Michael Schumacher as "the greatest racing driver of this century".
"I think he is the greatest racing driver of this century and I was very privileged to work with Michael, we had some fantastic times, some tough times, but also some very successful times."
"Michael brought a lot to the team in his second period in the sport that people don't see.
"We haven't achieved what we wanted to achieve but what we achieve in future, Michael will have made a contribution to it.
"For me personally he is the greatest racing driver of this century."
Schumacher's voice broke with emotion as he revealed he would stop racing at the end of the season, but he insisted the decision to once again leave the sport was the right one, confessing he was "empty".
"It's not painful," he said. "It is a relief to me, I have done so much in this sport but when the battery is going low the first time, and then it is doing so again, and I am older, it is something I am looking forward to.
"There are plenty of other things in life you can do and now is the time to change that."
It seemed almost fitting that Schumacher should announce his retirement at Suzuka, a track where he has won six times, and where he clinched two of his titles, including the 2000 success that kick-started Ferrari's period of domination.
And he intends to finish his career on a high, starting with this Sunday's race in Japan.
He said: "It is now key what comes with the next six races to go. I will do exactly as I did the first time I retired, I will focus 100 per cent on what I am doing and then look at what happens next.
"I have options obviously but what they are I will decide when the time is right, I had options to stay but did not feel right about it."
Hamilton will fill his shoes next season, and Schumacher has backed the Briton to shine, admitting the confirmation of the 2008 world champion's move from McLaren had helped him to make up his mind about his future.
"We all know Lewis is one of the best drivers we have around and I am sure he and the team will have a successful future," he said.
"The team had an option in Lewis that helped me decide.
"I was in the picture when negotiations were going on but I was not sure about myself. I have no hard feelings."