Michael Schumacher has revealed that Ross Brawn began making tentative offers to induce the German ace to join the Honda/Brawn/Mercedes squad as long as two years ago. It will be remembered that Brawn was the mastermind behind Schumacher’s previous seven titles, two of which were won at Benetton and five with Ferrari.
When asked by a journalist at Monday’s Mercedes GP launch in Stuttgart if he knew what was coming when Brawn called him called him with a concrete offer in early November, Schumacher said, “Yes, because quite honestly, we had been almost every year in contact. When he went to Honda at the time, he sort of suggested that there was an option, but I wasn’t ready for it.”
While the initial offer might have fallen on deaf ears, Brawn didn’t let the idea die. Said Schumacher, “We always kept in contact, and saw each other at the races and we had loose contact. Sometimes it was a serious question from him and sometimes it was a joke.”
As former team owner Eddie Jordan has indicated, at last year’s season finale Schumacher, Brawn and Mercedes motorsport VP Norbert Haug were spotted trackside in deep discussion. Jordan later predicted, based on this sighting, that Brawn GP would be absorbed by Mercedes, with Schumacher as the lead driver.
While the rumors were denied by all concerned parties for several weeks, the deal was eventually made public, more or less coinciding with Jenson Button’s defection to McLaren. And at this week’s Stuttgart launch, Schumacher partially confirmed Eddie Jordan’s earlier intuition by saying, “In Abu Dhabi, [Ross] sort of touched already a little bit about this subject, but not deeply. We were just celebrating mainly, and then he called me.”
The November call would have coincided with the Abu Dhabi race, ore or less, so obviously the pieces were all falling into place at the time of their “celebrating.” Note too that, ostensibly, Jenson Button was still negotiating to renew his contract with Brawn/Mercedes.
Regardless of the timing, vis a vis the pursuit of Schumacher and the release of Button, what’s clear is that Ross Brawn, from the outset of his joining the Brackley-based squad (whether the nomenclature be Honda, Brawn or Mercedes) had it in mind to lure Schumacher to become part of the team, to recreate the most successful professional relationship that either have them have ever known. The only surprise here is that anyone professes to have been surprised.
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