NOVEMBER 7, 2000
If you're bigger than Mercedes, don't bother applying here!
WHEN DaimlerChrysler board director Jurgen Hubbert stated firmly at the weekend that there would be no future berth for Michael Schumacher in the McLaren-Mercedes squad, he was re-stating the feelings of the German car company which played such a major role in the young Schumi's emergent career a decade ago.
The significance of Hubbert's remarks are twofold. Firstly, it serves as a reminder of just how closely identified Schumacher has become with Ferrari. Secondly, it proves that one can become too famous. At the moment, if a McLaren-Mercedes wins a race, it may be driven by Hakkinen, maybe by Coulthard. If one should win a race driven by Schumacher, credit for that success would automatically accrue to Michael.
Furthermore, Hubbert was also echoing the sentiments expressed by DaimlerChrysler Chief Executive Officer Jurgen Schrempp last year. The robust Schrempp described as "absolute nonsense" that there was any prospect of Schumacher joining McLaren. "We have two very successful drivers in Mika and David, they are getting better all the time and they are two very likeable people," he asserted.
I fancy there would also be a small issue of Schumacher's status at McLaren which would be impossible to resolve. Currently Michael enjoys unfettered number one status at Ferrari with Rubens Barrichello - just like Eddie Irvine before him - committed to fulfilling a subservient position.
McLaren Chairman and CEO Ron Dennis would be no more likely to agree to such exalted status in his own team than bite on a light bulb. Over the past three seasons he has made it clear, time and again, that the only fair and equitable strategy by which his team will be run is by adopting an even-handed policy for both drivers. Just as they have in the past, Hakkinen and Coulthard will be free to race each other for the 2001 World Championship until one or other is no longer mathematically in with a chance. Thereafter the loser will fulfil a supporting role to the title contender.
Dennis may also be haunted by the style imposed on his team by the late Ayrton Senna who, although a close personal friend, was not only a hugely motivating force but also hugely demanding in terms of financial resources. In 1993 car development at McLaren had to be cut back, and the hat passed round to the sponsors for extra cash, in order to fund Ayrton's $1 million (dollar) a race aspirations.
In retrospect, it was well worth the investment. Senna won five races in the Cosworth-Ford HB-engined McLaren MP4/8, sometimes very much against the odds. But McLaren won't be allowing the likes of Schumacher to set that sort of agenda in the future. Hence Hubbert's remarks at the weekend.
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