Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher announced Thursday he will retire from Formula One at the end of the season, closing the door on a record-breaking career.
Schumacher, 43, first retired in 2006 after 15 seasons, only to mount a comeback with the newly-founded Mercedes team in 2010, but failed to add to his record tally of 91 career wins.
The German has won more races than any other driver in F1’s 62-year history, but has failed to reach his previous heights since returning to the sport for three seasons with Mercedes in 2010.
“During the past weeks and months I was not sure if I would still have the motivation and energy which is necessary to go on, and it is not my style to do anything which I am not 100 percent convinced about,” Schumacher said in a website statement.
“With today’s decision I feel released from those doubts.”
Schumacher's departure was widely anticipated after McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was confirmed last week as his replacement for next season. Some reports had linked Schumacher to Sergio Perez's seat at Sauber after the Mexican switches to McLaren in 2013.
In Schumacher’s time with Mercedes, the team have won just one race, a victory for his teammate Nico Rosberg at this season’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Schumacher said he could still compete with the world’s best drivers, but that Mercedes had not given him a competitive enough car.
“It is without doubt that we did not achieve our goal to develop a world championship fighting car within those three years,” he said.
“It is not my ambition to just drive around but to fight for victories.”
He did not say whether he would continue racing outside Formula One.
Schumacher will race for Mercedes until the end of the season, and is with the team for this week’s Japanese Grand Prix.
“Thank you for being with us over the past three years, we will miss you,” the team said on Twitter.
At his peak while at Ferrari, Schumacher won five straight titles and was almost unbeatable at times, winning all but five of the 18 races in the 2004 season.
Schumacher impressed on his debut in the sport, qualifying an uncompetitive Jordan seventh at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix before a clutch problem ended his race.
He won his first two titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 before switching to Ferrari for the 1996 season, where he battled drivers such as Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen and Fernando Alonso for titles.
He revived a dormant tradition of success at Ferrari, with the 1999 constructors' title the first for the Italian team since 1983.