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Schumacher confirms his retirement

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MONZA, Italy -- Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher announced his retirement from Formula One after winning the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday.

The Ferrari driver will leave the sport at the end of this season, following the year-ending Brazilian Grand Prix on October 22.

"Michael Schumacher will retire from race driving at the end of the 2006 world championship," Ferrari said in a statement released immediately after his victory.

As the most successful driver in Formula One history celebrated a 90th career win, he slashed world champion Fernando Alonso's overall lead from 12 to two points with just three races remaining.

The Renault driver, controversially relegated five places on the starting grid for impeding Schumacher's team mate Felipe Massa in qualifying, pulled over with a blown engine 10 laps from the end while in third place.

Ferrari took a three-point lead over champions Renault in the constructors' standings.

Yet what happened on the track was entirely overshadowed by what followed the chequered flag, with the seven-times champion confirming that he would retire from racing at the end of the season next month.

Stepping from the red machine that has already powered him to six victories this season, Schumacher embraced and hugged his jubilant team mates starting with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.

"At the end of this year, I've decided together with the team that I'm going to retire from racing," he told a news conference.

"All these years in Formula One have been amazing, especially those spent alongside my friends in the Scuderia (Ferrari)," he said.

"Soon my future will belong to my family, while I am happy to be still part of Ferrari. But for now, what matters is this world championship," said the German.

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, the McLaren driver who followed the 37-year-old across the line in second place after starting from pole position, will step into the giant shoes of the departing great.

"I was really pleased to hear that he would be the person," said Schumacher.

Poland's Robert Kubica finished an impressive third for BMW Sauber in only his third grand prix since replacing former champion Jacques Villeneuve.

While Schumacher's chances of an unprecedented eighth title burned stronger than ever, Alonso's day ended in smoke and flames.

Renault team mate Giancarlo Fisichella limited the damage to them in the constructors' standings with fourth place, ahead of the Hondas of Briton Jenson Button and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.

Italian Jarno Trulli was seventh for Toyota and Germany's Nick Heidfeld collected the final point for BMW Sauber after a drive-through penalty.

Schumacher's Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa, winner of the last race in Turkey and partner to Raikkonen next year, finished ninth after running off the track following Alonso's engine failure.

Former champions Williams had another bleak afternoon, failing to score a point for the 10th race in a row -- their worst run of failure since the 1970s.

Schumacher's Monza win put him just two points behind championship leader Alonso.

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