In the span of two short weeks, two auto racing legends have announced their retirement.
At the Paris Auto Show, French rally driver Sebastien Loeb told the media that he plans to partly withdraw from the WRC at the end of the 2012 season. The nine-time world champion, who also owns just about every record in the sport, will take part in only four or five events next year, which means he will no longer contend for the title.
My guess is, Loeb wished to retire completely, but Citroën wanted him to honour the final year of his contract. They found a middle ground when Loeb agreed to participate in a limited number of rallies (i.e., the ones he likes the most). After that, Loeb will race for Citroën in the World Touring Car Championship -- mainly for fun -- with no pressure whatsoever.
A few days later, it was Michael Schumacher's turn to call it quits
. Forced out of Mercedes by Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time F1 champ will bow out for the second time in his career.
Who will replace these two all-time greats who've made a powerful mark over the past 20 years, not just on the track but in the hearts of fans as well? As always, we'll find out soon enough which of the younger drivers will step up.
Interestingly, Loeb and Schumacher have completely different personalities. While the former is friendly and accessible, with no real enemies or haters around him, the latter comes across as a cold and aloof snob who doesn't mind hurting other people's feelings. Ask Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Rubens Barrichello what they really think of Schumacher...
Schumacher owes his many victories and titles to cars that were far superior to the competition (Benetton) and team conditions that were much more favourable (Ferrari). On the other hand, Loeb helped develop the Xsara, C4, and DS3 and turned them into winners despite his teammates reluctantly agreeing to play second fiddle.
OK, I admit I'm not a big fan of Schumacher: I admire his impressive career and résumé, but he's made it awfully hard to like him with stupid moves like ramming into Jacques Villeneuve's car in an effort to prevent the Williams driver from winning the 1997 championship.
Having said that, I applaud his wisdom and courage for leaving Formula 1 at the right time. Too many champions have had a great career and a pitiful swan song.
Happy (permanent) retirement, Michael!