Michael Schumacher’s move from Benetton to Ferrari in 1996 would probably never have happened without the death of Ayrton Senna. This is now revealed by the former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo. It’s no secret that Scuderia Senna wanted to sign a contract – and the Italian revealed a year ago that the Brazilian had met shortly before the Brazilian died.
Senna really wanted to leave Williams and end his career at Ferrari. Contractually, a change would have been possible in 1996, but after his accident in Imola in 1994, Ferrari instead signed two-time world champion Michael Schumacher. Many fans dream of a possible pairing of the two superstars, but that would not have happened.
“A Schumacher / Senna pairing would have meant that we shoot ourselves in the foot,” di Montezemolo told ‘Sky Sport 24’. “That would not have worked, because if you have two superstars on the same team, you don’t win,” he believes. The pairing would have given a good show, “but it wouldn’t have been good for Ferrari.”
In addition to Schumacher, Scuderia then brought Northern Irishman Eddie Irvine as number 2 driver. Apart from his unexpected World Cup chance in 1999, when Schumacher was long absent due to a broken leg, Irvine also stayed in this role. Successor Rubens Barrichello also played this role under the rule of Luca di Montezemolo – even if he saw himself as “1b”.
With this division of roles, Ferrari won five World Championship titles in a row from 2000 to 2004, after having been without a driver’s title for 21 years. Schumacher also had difficult years at the beginning of his Ferrari days.
The ex-president remembers that there were critical voices in Italy at the time when the German commitment was announced. “There was some skepticism, but I was convinced of my choice because the time was right,” he says.
Schumacher could have been fetched two years earlier, he emphasizes, but that would have been too early. “We didn’t have the car to win. Michael came after a long restructuring of the entire team. He came to us when the driver could make the difference.”