Formula One driver Michael Schumacher gives the hang loose sign after a… (Luca Bruno / Associated…)
When seven-time champion Michael Schumacher announced he would come out of retirement and rejoin Formula One with the Mercedes GP team in 2010, it electrified the sport.
But Schumacher largely has struggled ever since he returned, and Thursday he confirmed what many expected: That the German driver would retire -- again -- after this season.
"I can be happy with my performance and the fact that I was continuously raising my game," Schumacher, 43, said in a statement. "But then, at some point it is time to say goodbye."
That time drew nearer last week, when it was announced that 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton would move from McLaren to Mercedes next year, joining Mercedes' other driver Nico Rosberg and leaving Schumacher without a ride.
Rather than seek another team, Schumacher called it quits after this year.
Schumacher is winless since returning and so far this year he's 12th in the championship standings with only one top-five finish in 14 races. That was in stark contrast to his 91 career victories and seven titles.
It wasn't clear whether Schumacher had lost a step to his younger rivals, or whether Mercedes' cars simply couldn't keep pace with those from McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull. Perhaps it was a little of both.
"I had a lot of criticism in the past three years which partly was justified," said Schumacher, who initially retired in 2006. "We did not achieve our goal to develop a world championship-fighting car."
Formula One's next race is the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday at the Suzuka Circuit track. At a news conference there Thursday, Hamilton, 27, was asked about replacing Schumacher at Mercedes next year.
"I don't think anyone can replace Michael; he's a legend in the sport," Hamilton said, according to a transcript on Formula One's website. "For me to get to race with him has been a real privilege."
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