Schumacher and Ferrari

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER and Ferrari have both spent the weekend denying that they have reached an agreement to

work together in 1996, but there is no question that a deal is close.

Schumacher, however, told the press that "four teams are involved: Benetton, Williams, Ferrari and McLaren." He said that he was "happy at Benetton" and that many things would have to be right if he were to switch elsewhere.

"The first priority has to be the competitiveness. I want to win races because I'm sure other good drivers are going to come into good top teams, and I don't want to be in a situation where I struggle not to be able to win."

As we understand it, Schumacher has made a proposal to Ferrari and it has been accepted. The deal has not yet been signed and Michael is believed to be using the Ferrari offer as a lever to get Benetton boss Flavio Briatore to raise the necessary money to keep him.

Schumacher also says he is no hurry to make a decision as he wants to see how the team develops and does not want to be rushed into making an early decision.

Schumacher's dominant position on the driver market does, however, depend on the German taking a decision fairly soon because some of the other teams are not interested in waiting for Schumacher for too long as it will compromise their planning and therefore their preparations for the 1996 season. Williams is thought not to be interested in paying Schumacher's retainer and would prefer to invest the money in building faster cars and using a cheaper driver.

If Schumacher does sign for Ferrari, Jean Alesi is the man expected to be replaced as he has made it plain that he will not be Schumacher's team mate. Alesi was quoted in the Italian press saying that he felt that Ferrari has "betrayed" him. This caused Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo to say that Jean "knows how much I admire him but while we have had talks with other drivers, he has had talks with Renault."

He went on to say that Alesi should say what was bothering him and not "cry treachery and behave like a little baby."

Di Montezemolo confirmed the talks with Schumacher saying that as president of Ferrari his duty is "to bring home the best". Schumacher, he said, is "undoubtedly the number one".

A decision is expected within a couple of weeks. Montezemolo added that he had also had talks with Damon Hill and others. In the meantime, however, Ferrari is putting together a package to raise the extra money needed to pay Schumacher. This is expected to include a new fuel deal with Shell and the sale of this year's V12 engines to Minardi next year (see below).

Follow grandprixdotcom on Twitter

Print News Story