FERRARI’S GOLDEN AGE
fledgling plans to lure the Brazilian to the
Prancing Horse ended on May 1, 1994.
In that ’ 94 season, Gerhard Berger
scored a fortunate win in Germany and
Ferrari finished third in the points, albeit
some way behind Benetton and Williams.
At that point, some key figures who’d
play an important role in the future were
already on board, including chief mechanic
Nigel Stepney, an ex-Lotus/Benetton man
whose brief was to introduce “British”
thinking to the shop floor. Sadly, Stepney
died in a road traffic accident just days
before this issue of RACER went to press.
Always loyal to trusted pals, Todt had
also hired former Peugeot engine chief
Gilles Simon to work on a new V10, which
would be mandatory for the ‘ 96 season.
Additionally, a savvy business graduate
called Stefano Domenicali had quickly
been moved from the road car dept. to the
race team, where he was put in charge of
human resources and sponsor liaison.
But in the summer of 1995 Todt made
the move that would transform Ferrari’s
fortunes. He’d been on nodding terms with
‘ 94 World Champion Michael Schumacher
since their sports car days, when the
German drove for Mercedes. The chance
to join Ferrari was too good to turn down,
and Michael signed up for 1996 and
beyond. Alesi was dropped, while the plan
was for Berger to stay, providing valuable
continuity. However, the Austrian didn’t
want to be a supporting act, and duly
jumped ship, joining Alesi at Benetton. Todt
had to cast around for a driver who could
work alongside Michael without rocking
the boat, and he settled on Eddie Irvine.
By the time he arrived at Ferrari,
Schumacher was a double F1 World
Champion, and many wondered why he
would leave Benetton to join an
organization that had underperformed
for so long and seemed destined to be
permanently in a state of political turmoil.
The skeptics appeared to be proved
right when Barnard’s F310 disappointed at
the start of 1996, plagued with reliability
problems. Crucially, Schumacher earned
a brilliant wet win in the seventh race of
the season in Barcelona, which took the
pressure off everyone, including Barnard.
At the previous race in Monaco, Todt
had set the wheels in motion for the next
major step. Having hired Schumacher he
now wanted the other men who’d made
Benetton so successful – technical director
Ross Brawn and chief designer Rory Byrne.
“I’d had a tentative approach from
Michael, but nothing serious,” says Brawn.
“I said a key element would
be to get rory [byrne] on
board and Ferrari said,
‘we’ve already done that!’”
THE YEARS OF THE HORSE
Momentum was building in the transitional years of 1996
and ’ 97, but it was the introduction of the first Brawn/Byrne
Ferrari in 1998 that truly started the team’s “golden age.”
2000 2001 2002 003 2004 2005 2006
2000 2001 2002 003 2004 2005 2006
* Michael Schumacher finished second, but was disqualified from the
1997 championship for his move on Jacques Villeneuve in Jerez
* With Schumacher injured, Eddie Irvine was second in points for Ferrari
– the only time Michael (fifth) finished lower than a Ferrari teammate
As technical director
of Benetton, Ross
Brawn was a key
player in Michael
first two World
1994 and ’ 95, as
well as the five
earned at Ferrari.
(TOP) The ’ 96 Belgian GP was
the second of Schumacher’s
three wins that year. (ABOVE)
An F1 Drivers’ Championship
delivered at last: Schumacher
and Todt celebrate in 2000.