SAO PAULO — Michael Schumacher’s main goal entering his final Formula One race is to have some fun.
The seven-time world champion will finish F1′s most successful career at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, hoping that he can enjoy the moment without the pressure of having to do well on the track.
Schumacher retired for the first time after the 2006 season, when he came to the finale in Interlagos still fighting for the championship.
Out of contention this time, the 43-year-old German driver said Thursday that he comes to the Brazilian GP looking to “just take the best out of it and enjoy it as much as I can.
“I guess I have some experience and that’s why, probably, I’m rather relaxed about the happenings,” Schumacher said. “On top (of that), we are not in any championship fight compared to last time that happened to me.”
Schumacher lost the title to Fernando Alonso in 2006, when he had already announced his retirement plans. He was retiring while on top, but this time it’s different. He struggled throughout his three seasons with Mercedes since returning in 2010. He is only 15th in this year’s drivers’ standings.
“I have tried that mission to end successful,” he said. “It didn’t work this time but I’m quite happy to finish from here and go for a different life again.”
Nobody has matched Schumacher’s seven titles, and he’s also the F1 driver with most wins (91), pole positions (68), fastest laps (77) and most podium finishes (155). He is second in the numbers of races entered (307) behind former Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello.
How would Schumacher sum up his 19 seasons in F1?
“Well, I don’t think we have long enough here to sum it up, but let’s put it that way: It was mostly 20 good years and lots of fun and lots of excitement,” he said.
Alonso called it a “privilege” to have competed against Schumacher.
“Michael will be record in history of Formula One, maybe for a very long time and we’ve been there, we’ve been in the grid close to him,” the two-time champion said. “Some good fights and great respect on the circuit and always constantly learning with someone that changed a little bit this sport.”
Schumacher’s fellow countryman Sebastian Vettel, who is battling Alonso for this year’s championship, called Schumacher his “childhood hero.” He met Schumacher at a young age at his idol’s home track in Kerpen.
“I think he will always be an inspiration for myself,” said Vettel, who is trying to become the first driver to win three consecutive championships since Schumacher did it in 2002-2004.
Brazilian GP organizers are planning a surprise to honor Schumacher’s career, just like they did in 2006, when soccer great Pele awarded the driver a trophy before the race.
Schumacher is a four-time winner in Sao Paulo.
“Interlagos is the right place to round off my career because so much of the fascination of Formula One is rooted there,” he said. “I always enjoy the enthusiasm of the fans, and it’s simply a great circuit, which has seen many memorable events.
“Of course, I would be happiest if I could say goodbye with a strong race, and I am sure we will be doing everything we can to make it happen.”