Although Michael Schumacher’s signing with Mercedes GP had become an open secret in recent days, two elements in the German ace’s new Silver Arrows deal are somewhat surprising.
First, it had been assumed that Schumacher, who will be 41 when the new season begins, would only commit to a one-year contract. The rationale behind this assumption was that Mercedes had the long-term goal of hiring another German, Sebastial Vettel, who is nearly 20 years younger than Schumacher. But Schumacher has actually signed a three-year deal, which indicates that both he and Mercedes regard this as more than an ad-hoc, one-off arrangement.
Secondly, Ross Brawn first approached Schumacher will a tentative offer at the beginning of November, at least two weeks before Jenson Button announced that he was defecting from Brawn/Mercedes to join the McLaren team. Again, this counters pervious speculation which held that Ross Brawn only considered teaming with Schumacher again once Button had left the team in the lurch. But, in fact, Brawn opened the door to a renunion with his German protege well before Button’s decision had been made.
Even so, Brawn insists that Button wasn’t edged out of the team to make way for Schumacher. As reported in The Times, Brawn said, “It overlapped. Out of loyalty to Jenson we made a good effort to try and find a solution. They were tough discussions, but it didn’t work out. When that started to look difficult, I started talking to Michael, and things developed from there. When we were in a position to talk to Michael seriously, it wasn’t a difficult discussion.”
The key phrase there seems to be, “Out of loyalty to Jenson we made a good effort…” This is not quite the same as saying, We did everything possible to retain Jenson, as he was our absolute first choice. Frankly, it sounds as though Plan B was pretty well-formulated at the outset, once Mercedes’ acquisition of Brawn was more or less a done deal.
In fact, if you consider the timing, this would seem to confirm an observation made by former team owner Eddie Jordan earlier in the year. Jordan said he’d spied Schumacher, Brawn and Mercedes motorsport Norbert Haug having a serious discussion at the 2009 season finale at Abu Dhabi. Jordan connected the dots, and predicted that Schumacher would be sitting in a Silver Arrows in 2010.
Perhaps a Schumacher-Brawn reunion has really been on the cards since the moment Brawn became a team owner. Together, they’ve been the most successful driver/technical director team in the sport’s history. Said Schumacher of the reteaming, “It was the only combination able to trigger this. There was no other combination I felt I wanted to work for and work with. Ross is a long-term friend. He knows me in detail, as I know him. We’ve won races we shouldn’t have, had tough times, good times, but in the end we have managed to finish with a positive attitude.”
And when asked if he had any concerns about Schmacher’s ability to resume his previous standard of performance at the very highest level, Ross Brawn said, “I asked Michael that question, and he is the best judge of what he can do, and I trust him implicitly. He’s told me he can do it, so I’m very confident. He’s always been his own best critic, he knows what he’s capable of. I’m very comfortable, very confident. I put my trust in Michael, and it won’t be misplaced, that he will do a job.”
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