SCHUMACHER AT FERRARI
and Rory would resign immediately if he
did that.” Feeling they were caught up in
events not of their making, Brawn and
Byrne were refusing to carry the can.
In “Camp Schumacher” feelings were
running similarly high. He, like Brawn and
Byrne, was contracted to Benetton until
the end of ’ 96. But Jean Todt, who’d
taken on the Ferrari team boss role in ’ 94,
had already sounded out Schumacher
and his manager Willi Weber about his
future availability as a Ferrari driver.
Initially Weber was much more convinced
by the numbers (as in, $) than was
Schumacher (as in, horsepower). But, like
Brawn, Michael was conflicted about the
controversy of his success at Benetton.
Poison, power and politics were playing out
above him – and Weber was able to use the
perceived damage to his driver’s reputation
to exit the contract one year early.
While these negotiations had played
out, Schumacher had totally dominated
the 1995 season in a Benetton free of
Walkinshaw or any technical question marks.
But he already knew he was leaving at the
end of the year. Michael didn’t need to
convince Todt too hard that as soon as
Brawn was available, he should join, too.
What Schumacher found when he got to
Ferrari was a technical desert. The design
and R&D were all done at John Barnard’s
GTO facility in Surrey, UK. Maranello had
become merely an assembly shop.
“As Jean was negotiating with me for
’ 97,” recalled Brawn, “he did a severance
package with John Barnard that allowed
him to keep the GTO facility.”
So Brawn knew in advance he’d have
to transform a rundown Maranello into a
proper, functioning design and build
technical department once again. He also
knew that he was going to need help if he
was to do this and simultaneously run the
race team: which, in Brawn’s mind, is
“Flavio was planning a plea
bargain with Max. I informed
him that both myself and
Rory would resign if he did”
Benetton F1 boss Briatore, with his
colorful past outside of the sport, his
unconventional way of doing business and
his lack of deference, wasn’t a man Mosley
warmed to. But that antipathy was mutual.
“There was a major political situation
between Flavio and Max,” recounted
Benetton’s then-engineering chief Pat
Symonds recently. “In Spain ’ 94, Flavio
came into the motorhome saying, ‘That’s it.
That’s the last we’ll be hearing of Max
Mosley,’ which was a dangerous statement
They’d each doubtless found skeletons
in the closet of the other, and both were
planning on using them to the full.