Quietly fades the don

Sports

Vermächtnis. His tongue hisses it, slithery and clear. And no other word in any other language describes its meaning with the same gravitas.

Trolleying a sleek, silver bicycle out of the sleek, silver Mercedes motorhome, Michael Schumacher speaks a sentence that includes 'vermächtnis' (pronounced 'fermishtnis') in the most casual way possible, leaving his technicians giggling with him. On his disappearance through the doorway, a German technician helps translate. "Michael says he now wants to leave his vermächtnis, his legacy, on a cycle."

The car, apparently, has had enough of it. Or enough of him.

Either way, the most driven, accomplished and successful driver in Formula One history has once again — for the second and final time in his career — decided to hang up his driving boots. A pair that often seemed a few sizes too big for Schumacher on his return to a sport he was once synonymous with. Placed a modest 14th in the drivers' championship before the Indian Grand Prix, the German is 173 points off the leader, Sebastian Vettel.

Legacy, hence, is all that Schumacher has left to drive for in the remaining four races of his professional life. In as many race weekends from now, his pledge to push the realms of human possibility to the next level would have ended. In a rather subdued manner.

In 2010, when he entered the cockpit of an F1 car after a three year 'break', F1 had seen enough to believe it was possible. He had, after all, won five of the last six championships with Ferrari before his retirement in 2006. Few envisaged this anticlimax in the Mercedes. Least of all Schumacher himself.

"The car could have been much better. It was poor, and that is a fact," Schumacher deadpans. "I did my best in each of the last three seasons. Unfortunately, it hasn't translated into points." Prior to his first retirement, the prodigy from Hürth-Hermülheim had 1369 points — with 91 wins. Now, going into his second, he has added 191 points to the tally. Including the 43 in 2012, a season in which he notched his only podium finish (the bottom step) at the European Grand Prix in Valencia. "I have no regrets. None," Schumacher says, holding his mesmeric glare. "My conscience is clear."

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