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Michael Schumacher

How close was Michael Schumacher to joining McLaren?

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari had a fierce rivalry with McLaren in the late 1990s, but Norbert Haug stated an attempt to bring the German to the Woking outfit was made in 1998.

Article
To news overview © Ferrari

Former Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice President Norbert Haug has revealed that secret talks were held with Michael Schumacher to try and bring the German to McLaren, though the move never materialised.

Schumacher made his name in the Mercedes junior racing programme before getting his F1 chance with Jordan in 1991. After that the German found success with Benetton and Ferrari, ending the Scuderia's 21-year title drought in 2000. Although Schumacher is best remembered for his time with Ferrari, Haug revealed there was an attempt to bring him to McLaren prior to his run of championships with the Italian outfit.

"I knew Michael from when he was a Formula Three driver when I was a journalist, and he came to Mercedes before I was there," Haug said on the Beyond the Grid podcast. "In 1991 we already had Michael go to Jordan for Spa, in 1992 he was at Benetton and then two years later he was World Champion.

"He came and went to Ferrari, took him five years to win his first World Championship in the year 2000. We were fierce competitors, but at the racetrack and in the paddock we always had a good relationship.

"I joked that someday we needed to do it [race] together. There were some secret negotiations in 1998 but it never came together."

Haug explained that McLaren's competitive car designed by Adrian Newey was a big selling point.

"In theory it could have happened but it didn't come together," Haug added. "It wasn't something that was completely impossible because we [McLaren] were really good in 1998 with the new Adrian Newey car so it was attractive for any driver.

"Michael could have won a championship earlier on, he could have won in 1999 without his accident, we could have won 2000 without a car failure. It was a great period of time and a very intense fight, best described with the 2000 race in Spa."

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