As was widely expected, Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher today announced he would be retiring from Formula One at the end of the season.
Since the announcement that Lewis Hamilton had signed a three-year contract with the Mercedes team in place of the German driver, Schumacher was put in a position where a decision over his future needed to be made.
There were suggestions that the seven-time world champion could join Sauber, but three years after returning to the sport after his first retirement, Schumacher has instead opted to call it a day.
"I have decided to retire at the end of the season," said the 43-year-old.
"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."
He added: "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.
"It's not painful, 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."
Schumacher, who won five straight titles between 2000 and 2004 while with Ferrari, retired back in 2006, 15 years after making his driving debut with Jordan-Ford at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix.
When Felipe Massa was injured in a freak accident during practice for the 2009 Grand Prix, there were suggestions that Schumacher could be called out of retirement to step into the spare seat at Ferrari. In the end, that didn't transpire, but it put the possibility of a return back in Schumacher's mind, and the following season it was announced that he would drive for Mercedes.
His return was met with much fanfare, although there were doubts that at the age of 40 he would be able to hit his previous heights, and sadly they were proved true. Now in his third season since returning, Schumacher has stood upon the podium just once, when he came third in Valencia earlier this year.
A visibly emotional Schumacher was flanked by Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn and Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug as he made his announcement earlier today.
Haug 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 said: "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 has confidence in the man filling his seat at Mercedes.
"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."
Schumacher currently lies 12th in the driver standings, 50 points behind Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
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