Michael Schumacher will head into retirement for the second time at the end of the season, convinced that Lewis Hamilton is the right man to replace him at Mercedes.
Seven-time champion Schumacher, the most successful driver in the history of Formula One, yesterday announced his decision to quit the sport for the second time at the end of the season. The 43-year-old's exit from Mercedes was confirmed last week, when it was announced that Hamilton had signed a three-year deal with the German team.
There had been suggestions that, for next season, Schumacher would join Sauber – for whom he raced in sportscars in the late 1980s and early 1990s – but his emotional statement at a Mercedes press conference means he has just six races left of his career.
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 [to retire]."
Prior to the news of Schumacher's decision, Hamilton, 27, said of the German: "I don't see myself as replacing Michael. I don't think anyone can replace Michael, he's a legend in the sport, he has achieved so much already."
1994-2006: With Bennetton and Ferrari
Seven world titles (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
91 wins – including a record 13 in 2004 season
154 podium finishes 68 pole positions
2010-2012: With Mercedes
One podium finish (third in Valencia, June 2012)