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A look at Michael Schumacher's 2010-12 return to Formula One

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As he neared retirement the first time, at the end of the 2006 season, seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher summed up his decision this way: "Might as well leave while I'm still at the top level."

He changed his mind, of course, as so many other top athletes do after they've stepped away from the sport they mastered.

After a three-year absence, Schumacher, who won five of his titles with Ferrari in consecutive years, emerged from retirement to drive again from 2010 through 2012, this time for the Mercedes team.

The comeback proved disappointing, with the German driver going winless and managing only one top-three finish.

But Schumacher's legacy remained intact, and the Formula One world was stunned Sunday upon learning that Schumacher was in critical condition after a skiing accident in the French Alps.

Schumacher, who would turn 45 on Friday, also holds the Formula One record for most career wins with 91. And before he retired the first time, Schumacher was earning $60 million to $80 million annually as one of the world's highest-paid athletes.

While the wins never came during Schumacher's comeback, the driver many argue was the best in Formula One history still found solace.

As reported by Formula One's website, Schumacher said, "I found that losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning."

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post attributed a quote to Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel that was posted on his Twitter account. Vettel does not have a Twitter account.

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