"Without me, Michael Schumacher would have signed with Williams instead of Ferrari in the 1990s," says former F1 driver Jochen Mass. The now 74-year-old former driver of McLaren, among others, says he played an important role in the transition from Schumacher to the famous Italian team.
Mass was Schumacher's teammate in 1991 when they battled together for Sauber-Mercedes in the World SportsCar Championship. He built up a good relationship with Schumi at that time. After four seasons at Bennetton and two world titles, Schumacher finally decided to sign with Ferrari in 1996, on the advice of his mentor Mass. But Schumacher didn't intend to do that at all, Mass told in the Beyond the Grid podcast. The then 27-year-old Schumacher actually wanted to sign with Williams.
Williams were too good
Mass knew what he was talking about because Frank Williams had let him drive several laps in the title-winning FW15C. He liked that very much. "That car, with all the electronic help, was fantastic and easy to drive. I said: 'Only with that car can you become world champion'. Michael called me and he said he was going to drive for Williams from next year. I thought that was great for him and Frank because I wanted him to have the best driver".
"But in the end, I said to him: 'If you win now, you win it by the car, not by yourself. You have to go to Ferrari, you have to get them out of the deep valley they are in now. You have to make them champions again, then you will be the king of Italy! A month later he called me to tell me he was going to Ferrari. In the end, I thought it was a bit silly for Frank, but he would be much more respected if he became world champion with Ferrari," the former driver concluded.