sport

Vettel: Schumi is my hero

Sebastian Vettel has conceded Michael Schumacher will always remain an inspiration as he bids farewell to his former hero this weekend.

Like many children growing up in Germany as Schumacher dominated the world of Formula One, winning his seven titles in an 11-year period, Vettel idolised the now 43-year-old.

Given the chance to compete these past three years against a driver he could only admire in his formative years has been something of a dream.

The reality, however, has been starkly different as Schumacher bows out of F1 for a second time following Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix without the success he would have hoped for when he agreed to come out of retirement at the start of 2010.

Fifty seven races later with Mercedes, and Schumacher has only once been on the podium, and that earlier this year in Valencia, which has been a bitter disappointment.

For Vettel, however, his memories are far from tainted as he said: "I obviously had the privilege to meet Michael when I was a small kid.

"He was my childhood hero, a true inspiration back then, and not just for me, but for many other kids.

"When I met him the first time I didn't know what to say because I didn't want to ask something stupid.

"Today it's a little bit different because you are more grown up, you have a normal relationship, so when I talk to him now it doesn't feel like I'm talking to my childhood hero.

"It feels like I'm talking to Michael. I see the person rather than what he has achieved.

"If I remind myself of that, and the fact I have been racing against him for the last couple of years, then the thoughts of me being a small kid are very, very far away.

"It's a dream, but these last couple of years have been very special, the relationship we share is very special.

"So he will always be an inspiration for myself."

As far as Schumacher is concerned, he is happy to be leaving for a second time, six years after he bowed out initially at the end of 2006 after falling just short in his bid for an eighth title.

Asked about his feelings coming into this weekend, Schumacher said: "I guess I have some experience (of retiring), which is why I'm rather relaxed.

"On top of that we are not in any championship fight compared to last time, so I'll just take the best out of it and enjoy it as much as I can."

On this occasion, however, there is no sadness, adding: "Probably not, no."

So pressed on whether he was happy to leave, Schumacher replied: "Yeah. It didn't work out this time, so I'm quite happy to finish from here and go for a different life again."