F1 legends, just like any other sport, have always found it hard to know when it is time to leave. Every driver or any athlete in other sports reaches the biggest stage by having a self-belief that kills self-doubt every time.
This is precisely why something that took them to the biggest stage in the sport is the same thing that prevents them from realizing it is time to go. In F1, there have been many world champions that were unable to realize when it was time to stop.
So much so that they let that timeline pass them by and overstay their welcome in F1. In this article, we will take a look at three world champions that did just that in their careers and did not time their retirement perfectly
Michael Schumacher (2012 F1 season)
It can be argued that Michael Schumacher's first retirement call in 2006 was spot on. He was at the top of his game, he'd fought for the title against Fernando Alonso and was still considered one of the best drivers on the F1 grid.
At the same time, Ferrari announced Kimi Raikkonen as one of the drivers on the team. The Finnish driver was arguably the class of the field at the time.
The wheels were starting to turn at Ferrari, and Schumacher felt it was time to move on.
However, when we talk about his second retirement in 2012, it's clear as day that the German had overstayed his welcome. He still had pace and could still stun the field by pulling off a pole position lap at Monaco. However, the application, and as we found out later in his Netflix documentary Schumacher, the sacrifice needed to be elite, went missing as he turned 40 years old.
It's safe to say that the German missed the mark when it came to his retirement.
Jacques Villeneuve (2006 F1 season)
There aren't many drivers in the history of the sport who have jumped to prominence as Jacques Villeneuve did in his career. The Canadian was a runner-up in the F1 championship in his very first season and won the title in his second season in the sport.
Having said that, there aren't many drivers in F1 who have had the fall from grace that Villeneuve did in his career either.
After two years of some very impressive success, Villeneuve could not capture those heights ever again. He moved to a brand new team 'BAR' in 1999 and that escalated his downfall. From that point onwards, he wasn't considered to be one of the best drivers on the grid.
Villeneuve stuck around for a one-off appearance here and there until 2006 and perhaps overstayed his welcome by a few years at the time.
Kimi Raikkonen (2021 F1 season)
Kimi Raikkonen is and always will be considered the true enigma of F1. This is because no one in his right mind was able to figure out what was going on with the Finnish ace.
Raikkonen's career could easily be divided into two parts. The first part was from his debut at Sauber in 2001, his promotion to McLaren in 2002, and then his move to Ferrari to win the World Championship in 2007.
This phase of Raikkonen's career could rival any of the best drivers in the world in terms of quality. Every driver is fast, which is why they reach the pinnacle of motorsport, but the level at which Raikkonen was operating was elite.
He almost won the title in 2003 but just lost out due to Ferrari's late-season resurgence. He was ruthlessly quick in 2005 and there were some mind-blowing drives that season that made him a priceless commodity. The 2007 season saw him bring a level of maturity to his already spectacular speed and hence clinched the title.
He was still a very strong driver in the second phase of his career but he did not operate at the same level as the true elites of the grid.
It was in this second stage of his career that he moved to Alfa Romeo from Ferrari in 2019. His performances were still strong and he was clearly the better driver than the younger Antonio Giovinnazi on the team. However, he was driving for a team that had become a backmarker by that time.
A driver that almost struck fear in the hearts of the opposition was now scraping through at the tail-end of the grid. He stayed in F1 for as long as he could, but it was a far cry from the elite driver who mesmerized the viewer in the 2000s.