Pairing Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher together at Ferrari would have been a popular decision, but would not have been conducive to winning championships, according to former Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo.
One of Formula 1’s greatest “what ifs?”, it has long been established that three-time world champion Ayrton Senna wanted to come to the Scuderia to finish his F1 career, something Montezemolo admitted was close to happening before his death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
“He came to me in Bologna on Wednesday before the tragedy at Imola,” Montezemolo revealed to Sky Italia. “He told me that he wanted to come and race at Ferrari at all costs, and that he wanted to get rid of Williams.”
“We stayed with the idea of talking after Imola. Then what happened happened. It was going to be the icing on the cake of that team, like Michael was later on.”
At the time of his passing, Senna was three races into his switch from McLaren to Williams, with his new team unable to iron-out the various problems with the car until later in the season.
In contrast, Schumacher was enjoying a breakout season with Bennetton, capitalising on a strong start to capture the driver’s championship in 1994. The German then went on to defend his crown in 1995 before switching to Ferrari in ’96.
However, even in the event Senna had survived his accident, Montezemolo does not see how the Scuderia could have made him and Schumacher work from an intra-team harmony standpoint.
“A nice dream, but we would have been shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said. “It would have been a big hit, but not good for Ferrari.”
In Montezemolo’s estimation, Schumacher’s eventual partnership with Rubens Barrichello was the perfect example of how a team should work, with one driver acting as wingman to the other.
“With two stars of that level together, you don’t win,” he insisted.
In saying that, Montezemolo’s remarks raise a “what if?” of their own. Presuming Senna had made the switch to Ferrari in 1995, when — if ever — would Schumacher have been able to join? Would their title-counts be different? Or would Senna (born in 1960) have retired anyway by the time Ferrari was able to challenge for title, paving the way for Schumi to do exactly as he did? Certainly there’s a lot to ponder, even if in the end, you can’t change history.