JUNE 1, 1998
Schrempp says no to Schumacher
DAIMLER-BENZ chairman Jurgen Schrempp last week told the company's annual general meeting that it was "absolute nonsense" to suggest that Michael Schumacher would join the McLaren-Mercedes team in 1999. Schrempp said that Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard were "very successful" and were "very likeable people".
This is the clearest indication to date that Schumacher will stay at Ferrari in 1999 although he might be in a position to switch teams because he can get out of his deal if he does not win the World Championship. If Daimler-Benz and McLaren do not wish to bid for his services and no-one else in the paddock can afford to hire him it is logical that he will stay with Ferrari for one more season and try to win the title with the Italian team.
McLaren does not currently need Schumacher in order to win races but as soon as the other teams begin to catch up, Michael's value will increase and so Schrempp may not be quite as dismissive of rumors. He must also be aware that it would be a major loss of face for Daimler-Benz if either BMW or Volkswagen were able to snatch him from Ferrari for the 2000 season.
There have already been stories that Volkswagen boss Ferdinand Piech is trying to get Schumacher to agree to a deal involving VW engines and the Benetton team for the year 2000. Piech last week confirmed that his bid for Rolls Royce Motor Cars does include the Cosworth company, which is building Ford's F1 engines and if that bid is successful in the next few weeks it would be possible for Volkswagen to have an F1 engine ready to race in the year 2000.
Piech says that VW is also planning to buy two other luxury car makers in the next few months and so could probably produce F1 engines through a company such as Lamborghini, Lotus or even Bugatti. Lamborghini is currently controlled by Tommy Suharto, the son of the recently deposed President of Indonesia, who may be interested in liquidating his assets following his father's demise.
Lotus is controlled by Malaysia's Proton car company which last week raised its stake to 80% by buying the shares in the Norfolk car-making group which were owned by the family of Yahaya Ahmad. Although Italian Romeo Artioli retains 20% of the shares in Lotus he will probably sell if the money is right. Artioli also owns the rights to the Bugatti name.
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