Former Formula 1 driver Jochen Mass has revealed he convinced Michael Schumacher to sign for Ferrari instead of Williams in the early 1990s.
Mass was team-mates with Schumacher in 1991 when they both drove for Sauber-Mercedes in the World SportsCar Championship and had developed a close relationship with his compatriot.
Despite having been out of F1 for 12 years, Mass was offered a short 20 lap test by Frank Williams in Alain Prost’s 1993 championship winning FW15C in December of that year at Paul Ricard – a car wrought with electronic aids.
After four seasons with Benetton which saw him claim 19 wins and two F1 World Championships in 1994 and 1995, the German would eventually sign for Ferrari for 1996 through advice from his mentor.
According to Mass, Schumacher wanted to sign for Williams given the team’s superiority at the time. However, Mass talked him out of it in light of how good the car was – believing any success with the team would be viewed on car performance and not driver skill.
Speaking on the official Formula 1 podcast Beyond The Grid, 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.”
When pressed if it was truly possible to have had Schumacher in the Williams in the mid-1990s, Mass replied: “Of course, he wanted to.
“Had I sort of approved it you like. Had I said great, super idea, do it, he would have done it, yes.”