Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Friday, October 12, 2012

When to Retire?

TAMMY: The sound of weeping you heard last week was because Michael Schumacher announced his retirement, for the second time, from Formula 1. And many F1 fans were sad.

Me? I say, "meh." I mean, one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time? Sure. More championships than anyone? Undeniable. Iconic to see him driving in person? Absolutely. But did I ever think he'd do anything with this comeback? Nope.

One name for you: Michael Jordan. I just don't think an athlete can retire near the end of his likely career, take a break for a couple years, then come back and enjoy the same level of success. The sport passes him by. The cars changed, in Schumi's case. I mean, great, if you just want to be out there competing, good for you. But I didn't honestly think he'd ever win again.

And so I have more good to say about someone like Reubens Barrichello, who took his forced retirement from F1 (he didn't get a ride with a team) in stride and went to race elsewhere. He's still practicing his skills, learning new cars and tracks, and having a great time by all accounts.

Basically, I believe a champion athlete that goes out at the top of his game will want to come back, which won't work out well for him (or her, I don't judge). I think it's more rational for those in whom the competitive fires burn so fiercely to keep racing, wherever they can, until they've exhausted all opportunities. Then again, where could Schumi have gone from the top of F1? Maybe nowhere.

What do you think, Simon? Should they go out while they're on top or stick around and fade away slowly?

SIMON: With all that Schumacher had achieved, I didn’t understand why he came back. He would be only diluting his record. But I do understand the reasoning. He’d said he wanted to help develop an F1 car for Mercedes and I get that. Mercedes have been supporting his career since his F3 days and he never got to drive for his sponsor. So from that perspective, it makes sense.

But to answer your question, Tam Tam, I think it’s always best to check out at the top. You never want to be that guy who can’t walk away—the sporting equivalent of the old guy in the night club.

Retirement doesn’t mean you have to leave the sport. You just find a new challenge. Look at Denny Hulme. He was racing Touring Cars in Australia until he died and was still competitive. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Schumacher racing in the DTM in the next year.

TAMMY: I don't disagree that one should go out on top ... but when they do, they seem to return and not be able to recapture lost glory. Anyone else with me? Anyone disagree?

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