Michael Schumacher’s move from Benetton to Ferrari was condoned by his wife Corinna from the very first time he mentioned it.
At the end of 1994, Schumacher announced he would depart Benetton, run by his long-time mentor Flavio Briatore, to join Ferrari on a deal believed to be a massive $30-million a year. In effect, Schumi was departing a team with which he won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995 for one that had not won a F1 drivers’ championship since Jody Scheckter triumphed in 1979.
In a recent El Método documentary broadcast on the French television channel Canal+ Corinna Schuamcher turned back the clock: “I still remember it. We were in the garden when Michael asked me: What do you think if we went to Ferrari?’. I said: Yeah if you can do it, that would be great.”
Of course, history recorded that Luca di Montezemolo condoned Jean Todt to head-hunt Schumacher from Benetton, and then proceeded to lure the likes of Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne et al to Maranello and turn the team into one of the greatest of all time.
Recalling the time, Corinna added: “Michael actually has a very good feeling about who he can rely on and I think it was like that at the time, he said he wanted to do something with Jean. It would be so nice if Michael could tell the whole story about that time because I wasn’t always there.”
Todt, the former FIA President after his Ferrari stint, remains one of the few insiders allowed contact with otherwise never seen Schumi. No doubt the bond carried over from their days of Ferrari glory and, of course, the hard times and challenges that came with the territory.
Corinna: The great thing for Michael was knowing that someone like Jean is there for us
“Jean was always there when we have questions. When you know there’s someone by your side who does something for you, without consequences and thinks with you. This is a gift.
“Being Michael’s friend through good times is great fun, but when things change and suddenly someone can’t do it anymore, you need help, or it’s vacation and something bad happens, you really see who your friends are. And Jean is definitely one of those few people,” declared Corinna.
Meanwhile. Michael’s condition has remained a closely guarded secret, reports claim he is privately cared for by a medical team at their home in Geneva, Switzerland.
Last month, after a visit, Todt revealed that the seven-time F1 World Champion “in good hands” and that “I don’t leave him alone.
“Him, Corinna, the family, we’ve had so many experiences together. Sometimes success and money changes you but Michael has never changed. He’s so strong,” said the Frenchman.
Of course, Michael’s son Mick had a two-season spell in F1, ill-advised and badly mentored by Ferrari the 23-year-old was ousted by Haas at the end of this season and dropped by Ferrari yesterday, and found refuge at Mercedes as a reserve for 2023, backing up the team’s regulars Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
As fate will have it, his journey so far has (sort of) mirrored his father who too was unceremoniously ditched by Ferrari way too soon, to make way for Kimi Raikkonen, meaning Schumacher was forced to quit at the peak of his prowess, only to return four years later with… Mercedes.