Michael Schumacher has bowed out of Formula One for a second time, insisting he had had ‘tremendous fun’.
On a day when compatriot Sebastian Vettel won his third successive world title to suggest he could one day eclipse Schumacher’s record of seven, the 43-year-old at least gave it everything he had in his final race for the Brackley-based Mercedes team during a remarkable Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.
In the most difficult of conditions around Interlagos that caused a degree of chaos at times as drizzle and light rain were a constant menace until it turned heavier late on, Schumacher salvaged some pride with a seventh-placed finish on his 308th and last outing.
It at least ensured he did not depart with the wrong kind of seven against his name as he went into the race on a record drought of six races without a point.
“It’s a strange sort of coincidence I’ve ended my Formula One career now in P7, which was my first qualifying result at Spa-Francorchamps 308 races ago,” said Schumacher.
“It has also occurred to me that I was driving with the number seven on my car today and that I have seven world championship trophies in my cabinet.
“But what an exciting race. Strangely enough, my last Formula One race began with a puncture which pushed me down the running order.
“But it’s always been my philosophy to never give up. There’s always a chance, you just have to keep going and seize it when it comes.”
Naturally, Schumacher had a word of congratulation for Vettel, who battled through his own adversity before emerging triumphant and becoming only the third driver in F1 history to win three successive titles - Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio the others.
“I’m very proud of Sebastian and really thrilled for him,” added Schumacher.
“As early as the first lap, I suddenly found him blocking the track facing the wrong way, but the two of us both staged great comebacks in the race.
“His performance also showed you just have to keep plugging away, and it’s obviously a nice ending if you see the story I’m finishing off here.
“In a way it does remind me of 2003 when I had a similar struggle and just managed by a point to win the championship.”
Although the past three years with Northants-based Mercedes have not gone according to the plan Schumacher would have envisaged when he stepped out of retirement, he can now look back with fondness.
“Even under these difficult conditions, my final Formula One race was tremendous fun,” added Schumacher.
“I would like to thank the team and my fans for their support over the past years. I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve spent together very much indeed.
“It has been a beautiful time with lots of exciting moments we have shared, and lots of tough moments.”