Ex-F1 driver Jochen Mass says he helped convince Michael Schumacher to join Ferrari when initially he was heading to Williams.
Schumacher would win his first two World Championships in 1994 and 1995 with Benetton, and after that he was ready to sign for Williams for the 1996 campaign.
That was until Mass, who developed a strong relationship with Schumacher during their time together as Sauber-Mercedes team-mates in the 1991 World SportsCar Championship season, talked his compatriot into joining Ferrari.
Sure, joining the dominant Williams team would have almost guaranteed Schumacher success, but Mass knew his fellow German could make himself a legend by reversing the fortunes of the historic Ferrari team.
Mass knew what he was talking about having had the chance to test the 1993 Championship-winning Williams FW15C.
And the five Drivers’ Championships for Schumacher and six Constructors’ Championships for Ferrari which followed between 1999-2004 meant it was certainly mission accomplished.
Speaking on the Beyond the Grid podcast Mass said: “I thought the car, with all the help it had, the electronics and so on, it was fantastic to drive, easy to drive. I said ‘With only that car can you become World Champion.’
“Seriously, the car was so nice it was ridiculous. It was ridiculous from the effort, or let’s say the non-existing effort to drive it, it was just fast, wonderful, it felt good, everything was perfect.
“Michael called me up later and he said ‘I’m going to drive for Williams next year’, I said ‘Fantastic Michael, really good’. You know, because I really liked Frank a lot and really wanted him to have the best driver.
“But, for Michael, I said listen ‘Whatever you win now, it’s the car, it’s not you, the car is too good. You need Ferrari, get it out of the trough it is in, pull it out and make them champions again, you would be King of Italy’.
“He said ‘I don’t know, I don’t know’ and a month later he called me up said ‘I’m going to Ferrari’. I said ‘Well done.’
“Of course, I felt sorry in a way for Frank, but these championships, if you have a very superior car, of course, have less weight than if you make Ferrari World Champions again.”
So, when Schumacher was set on a Williams drive, if Mass had have “said great, super idea, do it” then Schumacher “would have done it”.