Ex-F1 Boss Reveals How Close McLaren Came to Poaching Schumacher Away from Ferrari

Published 07/09/2021, 8:46 AM EDT
Michael Schumacher, Grand Prix of Hungary, Hungaroring, 19 August 2001. Michael Schumacher ecstatic after his victory in the 2001 Hungarian Grand Prix . (Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images)


In an alternate reality, we could have seen two F1 legends on the same team. Once rivals, Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen could have been teammates. Had the two been in McLaren together, they would have shaken the grid. Norbert Haug, ex-boss at Mercedes, there were “secret negotiations” involved in trying to get Schumacher to McLaren.

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Haug sat down with F1’s Beyond the grid podcast and revealed that the negotiations took place, but didn’t reveal why it didn’t come to fruition. “I joked that we needed to do it [race] together sometime. There were some secret negotiations in 1998 but it never came together”

Michael Schumacher of Germany and Ferrari drives in the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Interlagos in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Haug added, “In theory, it could have happened, but it didn’t come together–it is what it is. It wasn’t something that was completely impossible because we [McLaren] were really good in ’98 with the new formula, Adrian Newey car, so it was attractive for any driver.” 

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Mika Hakkinen v Michael Schumacher– the greatest rivalry of all time

Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher were fierce rivals at the peak of their careers. Schumacher had five exceptional years at Ferrari while Hakkinen bagged two championship titles with Adrian Newey’s cars. Their rivalry wasn’t one tainted with bitterness or resentment. Instead, their on-track battles always ended with respect for the other driver.

Despite their fueling desire to be on top, neither of them took their battles to a level where it was dangerous. After Verstappen collided with Sainz in Bahrain in 2019, Mika said that “racing hard does not mean damaging the other guy.” This is a simple reflection of the mindset of the double world champion.

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A focal point in their three-year duel was the 2000 Belgium GP. Haug says, “It was a great period of time and it was a very intense fight, best described with the 2000 race in Spa, with the two guys [battling].” Mika’s memorable overtake to win the race only adds another gem to the sport’s history.

Could the two have raced together? Would it be a messy situation? Would they have been a highly dominant team? Unfortunately, these questions can never be answered. The likelihood of having the two celebrated drivers in the same team is just an enticing world for the imagination.

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Shreya Sanjeev

118 articles

Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having attained a journalism degree from St Xavier's College, she finds comfort in the sound of her keyboard while typing and excitement in the sound of F1 cars speeding on a track. A street circuit and Daniel Ricciardo fan through and through, Shreya claims the 2018 Monaco GP to be one of her favorite races of all time.

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