On Tuesday, October 3rd, 1995, at Fiorano, it is all about the positive debut of the new V10 that Ferrari intends to use in the 1996 Formula 1 World Championship. The engine, mounted on a shorter (i.e., modified to accommodate the engine) 412 T2 hybrid car driven by Nicola Larini, begins testing in the late afternoon. Eleven laps are run, with two short breaks for ritual checks before sunset. The best time is 1'03"51, which is very interesting considering that the track record with the current V12 is 1'02"93. But it is clear that many more tests will be required before a definitive judgement can be made, although it is promising that no major mishaps occurred. The following day, Ferrari's new V10 engine faces its first real tests. The 412 T2 hybrid, adapted to the smaller engine, with Larini at the wheel, runs 37 laps on the Fiorano circuit, setting the best time of 1'03"26. The single-seater with the 10-cylinder seemed more driveable. At the same time, at Imola, Williams and Benetton test ahead of the last races of the Formula 1 World Championship. The fastest is Damon Hill (1'28"21), ahead of future teammate Jacques Villeneuve (1'29"02) and Michael Schumacher (1'29"55). The German, testing a new differential, goes off track. Speaking of Schumacher, it seems there may be problems regarding the exchange of the year, the one that brings the World Champion to Ferrari and the Berger-Alesi pair to Benetton? Says Flavio Briatore during practice:
"I think I’m being realistic if I say that nothing is going to happen until January".
Maranello spokesman Giancarlo Baccini explains:
"There are details to be defined on which Todt and Briatore are talking, but we have no doubt that Michael will be driving a Ferrari as early as 1995".
The German could test the Italian cars with an unmarked suit immediately after Adelaide, while waiting for an agreement with the sponsors. The same problems could arise for Berger and Alesi at Benetton. On Thursday, October 5th, 1995, meanwhile, Jean Alesi is a guest at Juventus training. The Frenchman is asked if he is sorry he cannot test the new V10 engine:
"In truth, I don't care much about the engine. If anything, I'm sorry to go, especially to leave the fans".
Is there still hope for a victory before the end of the season?
"A lot will depend on the weather conditions. We hope for rain, too".
At Imola, the Williams and Benetton tests continued, with Damon Hill approaching the track record, while Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher improved their times. The Englishman set a time of 1'27"56 (Schumacher's record 1'27"27), while the German, with a time of 1'28"50, preceded the Canadian (1'28"62). Also on the track was the Forti, which continued testing the semi-automatic gearbox. On Friday, October 6th, 1995, an off-track accident for Michael Schumacher and engine failure for Jacques Villeneuve brought an early end to the Benetton and Williams tests. The World Champion (1'28"03) hits a small wall at the high variant and breaks his suspension. The Canadian had obtained a time of 1'27'91, very close to that of Damon Hill. At the end of the tests, the schedule for Michael Schumacher's first test with Ferrari was set. The German will be at Estoril in Portugal, the week after the end of the Formula 1 World Championship and will make his debut in the Maranello cars on Monday 20th or more probably Tuesday 21st of November 1995. The tests, agreed in the previous days after a secret meeting with Jean Todt, will almost certainly focus on a comparison between the two 10 and 12-cylinder engines with two different single-seaters. Meanwhile, from Monday, October 9th, 1995, testing of the new engine will continue with Larini at Fiorano.
The Tuscan driver will also take care of the final tuning of the three cars that will be sent to Aida, Japan, where the Pacific Grand Prix will be held on Sunday, October 22nd, 1995. Race in which Schumacher will have the chance to mathematically win his second World Championship. The race, originally scheduled as the third round of the season, on Sunday, April 16th, 1995, was moved to October as the local infrastructure and communication routes were severely damaged by the Great Hanshin earthquake. A maximum of 30 points are available for the remaining three races, which means that Damon Hill could still win the title, but in reality, Michael Schumacher would only need a fourth place to become World Champion since, even if the Williams driver were to win, the Benetton driver would be more than 20 points ahead of the British driver with two races remaining. Behind Hill and Schumacher in the World Drivers' Championship, David Coulthard is third with 43 points, followed by Johnny Herbert and Jean Alesi, both with 40 points. In the Constructors' World Championship, Benetton leads with 112 points, and Williams is second with 92 points, with a maximum of 48 points available. In the two weeks leading up to the race, there is heavy criticism of Damon Hill, with experts thinking that the British driver was not aggressive enough towards Michael Schumacher at the European Grand Prix. In an interview before the race, Ligier part-time driver Martin Brundle states:
"Damon has to do two things. First, he has to establish himself as the number one at Williams for next year, so the team can give him their full support. Second, he has to re-establish himself as a racer. Maybe he needs to lose a front wheel once or twice to re-establish himself".
Schumacher, his title-rival, said that Hill made half-hearted attempts to overtake, which led to him getting into trouble. The comments were prompted after a series of battles between Hill and Schumacher in previous races, most notably at the Belgian Grand Prix, where Hill accused Schumacher of blocking him. At a Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) World Motor Sport Council, meeting on October 19th to discuss driver etiquette, they opted against introducing new rules on the issue. Following the accidents during the year involving Hill and Schumacher, Formula One's governing body emphasised that the International Sporting Code would be enforced on the basis that drivers are free to drive as they wish, provided that they do not deliberately endanger another driver or repeatedly obstruct him on a straight. Nevertheless, Williams are the favourites for victory in the Pacific Grand Prix due to the layout of the track: their car, the Williams FW17, is better suited to high downforce tracks like Aida, and should therefore have a good advantage over Benetton. Trying to match the pace of the Williams cars, the Benetton team introduces a revised rear suspension geometry on the B195 for the race. In anticipation of the Japanese race, there are five driver changes implemented by the team principals. After driving the Ligier-Mugen Honda from the tenth race of the season, in Germany, Martin Brundle is replaced by Aguri Suzuki, as per the pre-arranged agreement with the French team.
The McLaren-Mercedes team brought Jan Magnussen to Japan to replace Mika Häkkinen due to the appendicitis operation the Finnish driver underwent. The third driver change sees Ukyo Katayama returning to Tyrrell-Yamaha, after missing the European Grand Prix due to an accident at the Portuguese Grand Prix. Gianni Morbidelli returns to the Footwork team to replace Max Papis, while at Pacific, Bertrand Gachot returns to replace Jean-Denis Délétraz; both had driven for these teams earlier in the season. Délétraz was replaced as he had not paid the agreed instalments to the Pacific team. The Pacific team had originally intended to race with local driver Katsumi Yamamoto in the place of Délétraz, but he was not granted an FIA Superlicence and so Gachot took over the seat. Similarly, the Forti team's plans to replace Roberto Moreno with Hideki Noda failed for the same reason, even though Noda had raced three Grands Prix for the Larrousse team in the 1994 season. As usual, qualifying would be split into two one-hour sessions; the first taking place on Friday, October 20th, 1995, and the second on Saturday, October 21st, 1995. David Coulthard took his fourth consecutive pole position in his Williams-Renault, setting a time of 1'14"013. The Scottish driver will be joined on the front row by team-mate Damon Hill, who sets a time 0.2 seconds slower. Michael Schumacher set the third-fastest time in the Benetton-Renault, getting closer to the Williams drivers during both days of qualifying by constantly reducing the downforce on his car.
His last run, right at the end of the second session, prompts David Coulthard to leave the pit lane to counter the time set by the German driver. The Scot then uses an extra set of tires, which means that out of the seven sets of slicks allocated by the FIA, he will only have two sets of new tires available for the race, while Michael Schumacher will have the advantage of being able to use three. Damon Hill, worried about starting on the dirty side of the track (the side of the track that is opposite the racing line), will only have two sets of new tires for the race. Gerhard Berger takes fourth place despite an excursion into the gravel at the end of the second part of qualifying. Team-mate Jean Alesi was fifth, while Eddie Irvine set the sixth-fastest time. Rookie Jan Magnussen qualifies in P12, just two places behind team-mate Mark Blundell, making no mistakes in both sessions. Suzuki, Katayama, Morbidelli and Gachot qualify in P13, P17, P19 and P24 respectively. Two free practice sessions are also held before qualifying: the first on Friday morning and the second on Saturday morning. Both sessions last 1 hour and 45 minutes in dry weather conditions. Michael Schumacher sets the best time in the first session (1'16"057), 0.3 seconds faster than Hill and Coulthard, in second and third place respectively. The Ferraris took P4 and P5, with Gerhard Berger ahead of Jean Alesi. While McLaren driver Mark Blundell sets the sixth-fastest time. David Coulthard laps faster than Michael Schumacher in the second free practice session with a time of 1'15"730. Damon Hill is second in the Williams, 0.3 seconds behind his team-mate. Eddie Irvine, in his Jordan-Peugeot, sets the fourth-fastest time, 0.7 seconds behind David Coulthard. The Northern Irishman split the two Ferrari drivers in third and fifth place: Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. Sixth and seventh place for the Benetton cars; Schumacher ahead of Herbert. Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jean-Christophe Boullion are eighth and tenth in the Sauber-Ford, separated by Rubens Barrichello, ninth in the Jordan-Peugeot. David Coulthard, on the use of a new set of slicks at the end of the qualifying session, admits:
"For me, it was just about going out for my last run and try to do better just in case Michael improved. But I had to be out on track within a range of time that was so close to the end of the session… There wasn't time to see if Michael went quicker, then go out and try to set a time if he did".
On Sunday, October 22nd, 1995, the drivers hit the track at 09:30 a.m. for a 30-minute warm-up session. David Coulthard sets the fastest time, lapping in 1'16"831. Damon Hill sets the third-fastest time in the other Williams, preceded by Jean-Christophe Boullion in his Sauber-Ford. Olivier Panis follows in fourth place, in the Ligier-Mugen Honda, 0.8 seconds behind Damon Hill. The British driver drives the spare Williams down the inside of the start straight in an attempt to clear his grid position on the dusty side of the track. Michael Schumacher finishes the session in P8, despite an off-track in which he damages his single-seater. The weather conditions for the race are dry, with an air temperature of 21 °C. The remote and inaccessible nature of the circuit, as well as the fact that the Japanese Grand Prix will take place only a week later, prompts only 15.000 spectators to attend the Pacific Grand Prix. The race started at 2:00 p.m. with David Coulthard keeping the lead at the first corner. Damon Hill, who started alongside his team-mate, is the author of a bad start. Michael Schumacher then tries to overtake his rival on the outside at the first corner, but Hill manages to keep his position. However, both drivers get off the ideal trajectory, allowing Jean Alesi to move into second place. At the end of the first lap, David Coulthard leads Jean Alesi by 2.8 seconds, while Damon Hill is in turn 0.3 seconds behind the French driver. Gerhard Berger is fourth, while Michael Schumacher drops back to fifth. Bertrand Gachot is the first driver to retire due to a gearbox problem on lap 2. Shortly afterwards, Aguri Suzuki and Jean-Christophe Boullion, on laps 10 and 7 respectively, spin off the track and are unable to continue. Boullion blames Minardi driver Pedro Lamy, who is guilty of driving inappropriately in front of him. Meanwhile, on lap 5, Michael Schumacher overtakes Gerhard Berger and regains fourth position to then start closing the gap on Damon Hill, who is ahead of him in third place and who in turn is a few tenths of a second behind Jean Alesi. Schumacher tries to overtake Hill on lap 11 at the hairpin, but the British driver manages to defend himself from the German's attack. As Hill and Schumacher are held back by Jean Alesi's Ferrari, which is significantly slower, David Coulthard pulls away, lapping a second a lap faster over the first eight laps. On lap 18, Coulthard's gap to the runner-up is 14 seconds, giving the impression that the Scottish driver can win the race comfortably. On lap 18, Jean Alesi, Damon Hill, and Michael Schumacher pit for the first of three stops.
The Benetton pit crew makes a quick stop, allowing Michael Schumacher to come out ahead of Alesi and Hill, who loses further time due to a blocked fuel valve, making his stop last almost twice as long as Schumacher's. It was precisely the Benetton driver who came out of the pit-stop in fourth place (behind David Coulthard, Gerhard Berger and Johnny Herbert), with Jean Alesi in seventh (preceded by Eddie Irvine) and Damon Hill in tenth (preceded by Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Mark Blundell). While Jean Alesi and Damon Hill were being held up by the slower drivers, who were proceeding with a two-stop race strategy, Michael Schumacher was pulling away and recovering on David Coulthard. Mark Blundell pits on the next lap, and Damon Hill overtakes Heinz-Harald Frentzen on lap 22. On the next lap, Jean Alesi overtakes Eddie Irvine at the hairpin; shortly afterwards, Damon Hill tries to follow Jean Alesi, but the front wing of his Williams hits the rear of Eddie Irvine's car, causing minor damage. Irvine pitted at the end of lap 25, allowing Hill to resume his pursuit of Jean Alesi, with no further obstacles to deal with. Like his team-mate, David Coulthard is supposed to make three stops, but the strategy is now changed to make only two, thus - compared to what was originally planned - the Scottish driver stays on track for six laps more, and ten loads more fuel on board at his first stop, on lap 24. Meanwhile, thanks to a lighter fuel load and the different strategy, Michael Schumacher begins to lap consistently faster than the Scot. Schumacher makes his second stop on lap 38 and comes out of the pit lane ahead of Jean Alesi in third, but more than 20 seconds behind David Coulthard. Michael Schumacher immediately starts recording fastest laps, once again getting closer to David Coulthard, while Damon Hill manages to climb up to third place, moving ahead of Jean Alesi at the end of his second pit-stop, made on laps 38 and 39 respectively. Alesi's Ferrari dropped one more potion when team-mate Gerhard Berger overtook the French driver at the hairpin, taking fourth place on lap 45.
David Coulthard makes his second and final stop on lap 49, exiting the pits 14 seconds behind Michael Schumacher, who continues to increase the margin between the two. In the laps that follow, due to lapped traffic getting in his way, David Coulthard is unable to capitalise on the performance advantage offered by the new tires after the stop. The German Benetton driver makes his third and final pit-stop on lap 60 with a 21-second lead, exiting ahead of David Coulthard and leading the race. Michael Schumacher manages to bring the gap over the Scottish driver down to 15 seconds and wins the Pacific Grand Prix after completing his 83 laps, securing his eighth win of the season. David Coulthard was second in his Williams-Renault, 14 seconds behind the German driver, while his team-mate, Damon Hill, finished the race in third place. The Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi finished the race in P4 and P5 respectively. The car of the Austrian racer suffered an engine malfunction throughout the race. Johnny Herbert took sixth place in his Benetton-Renault, finishing ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Olivier Panis, and Mark Blundell. Throughout the race, Rubens Barrichello and Jan Magnussen battled for P10 and P11, with the Dane holding off the Brazilian until lap 37, when the Jordan-Peugeot driver managed to overtake him in the hairpin. Jan Magnussen concluded the race in P10, while Rubens Barrichello retired on lap 67 with an engine problem. The Deutschlandlied, the German anthem written by Haydn, resounds once again, martial, and solemn, at the end of the Pacific Grand Prix. And Michael Schumacher, on the highest step of the podium, is uber alles, above all, as the words go. He was three steps, that is three points, away from his second World Championship, the Benetton driver. But it was not enough for him to do the bare minimum, meaning a fourth place. The German driver wanted to win again, success number eight of a triumphant season. A result that puts him in first place as the youngest driver (26 years old) to win two consecutive world titles. In this respect, he was faster than Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jack Brabham, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
"A placing would have been enough for me. But when I realised I could win, I did everything I could to finish first. And at this point it's strange, I can't even realise what happened. Maybe it was easier than last year. Although it was a tough challenge, and we had to fight against an opponent, Williams, who had much more experience than us with the Renault engine. Instead, the team worked exceptionally well. I must thank Benetton and all their men. This achievement is also thanks to them, and I will never forget the years we spent together. I feel emotional".
A tear was also shed by Flavio Briatore, on the podium with the tricolour, just to reaffirm the Italian character of the team, even though it is based in England.
"We’ve shown that we’re currently the best team in Formula 1. If Michael was exceptional and is certainly the best driver, one who never spares himself, who always goes on the attack, our guys, technicians, and mechanics were also perfect. I think the first pit-stop in this race was one of the best ever".
In this regard, it is necessary to tell a backstory that can explain the superiority of Benetton and Schumacher and the success of their strategy. The team developed a computer programme in which they simulated the five or six possible situations that could occur during a race. Fuel was put in the tank of the German driver's car for 27 laps. Michael Schumacher explains:
"If I had been in the lead, I would have had to push hard to try to gain time. Instead, when I saw myself trapped behind Alesi and Hill, we changed strategy. I pitted on lap 18, when the Frenchman and the Englishman made their first stop. But I still had a chance to continue, so I was able to change tires and refuel with little fuel, to take that 3-4 second lead that allowed me to overtake my rivals during the stop: easy".
Then Schumacher went on the hunt for David Coulthard:
"I knew I was going to catch him because he had only chosen to change tires twice and couldn't handle certain rhythms. Everything went as planned. I can't say it was easy, but I didn't have to take any risks either, because it would have been enough for me to finish second at least".
No problems with Damon Hill?
"Actually, there were, but I prefer not to talk about it. If you insist, I will tell you that after the first corner he behaved incorrectly, he braked without justification. But that's something we'll see between us, face to face. In any case, I expected, from the start of the season, that Damon would defend himself better. I think I won the championship in Portugal, at Estoril, when Coulthard won and Hill came in P3, behind me".
And to that, Damon Hill replies:
"Michael wasn't happy with what I did a couple of times in the race, and he has told me that he is unhappy with my driving. I find that extraordinary. The situation now is that we are completely free to drive as we like as long as it’s not deliberately dangerous, So I drove in that style and he didn't like it. He shouldn’t complain... Somehow, when we got into the braking area at the end of the back straight, I did something wrong. But I can't see what I did wrong. Sometimes it seems that there’s a rule for him and another for everybody else. I just think that either you agree to that, and there should be no complaints, or there are rules, and you should stick to them. I think that I’m a better, stronger driver this year than I was last year and can start from that next year. Clearly, Michael has an advantage over everyone and if I want to win, then I have to overhaul him".
But for Michael Schumacher, the time has come to go to Ferrari. No regrets?
"No, why? I bring to Maranello my experience, hope and the title, the number 1 on the car. I won't take a day off, apart from the week between Suzuka and Adelaide. We will work together, we will try to improve responsiveness and precision. Ferrari must have confidence".
But didn't he realise he had lapped Berger and Alesi?
"Yes, I did. Evidently, they have a car that doesn’t adapt well to all tracks. We will try to get a better one next year".
Luciano Benetton also attends the champagne party before going to Tokyo.
"I’m sorry that Schumacher is leaving. He’s a great champion. Losing him was almost a physical pain for me. But we prefer to invest in technology for the team rather than in one man. He’s good and having him as an opponent will be tough. But this is also a challenge that Benetton is willing to take".
At the end of the race, it turns out that Michael Schumacher had a problem downshifting the gears after his last stop, and that he was lucky to complete it as the warning lights had activated on the steering wheel. In short, the Pacific Grand Prix ends with Michael Schumacher standing in the pit box enjoying a large can of Japanese beer with Gerhard Berger and Jean Todt. Talking and laughing in German, to the great anger of the French who were hoping, it is evident, for a visit of gratitude from Michael to the offices of Renault, one of the main architects of the victory. But it was fate that the transalpine company would not have to rejoice in its repeated successes for long: even Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost, after winning with the Règie's 10-cylinder engines, had left without saying goodbye. Schumacher's presence among the Ferrari men will soon be official. The new driver will be presented at Maranello on Friday, November 17th, 1995, five days after the last Grand Prix of the season, when he will drive about twenty laps at the Fiorano track in the hybrid Ferrari with the new 10-cylinder engine (which in the meantime will be tested on Monday, October 23rd, 1995, at Monza by Nicola Larini) to give an initial judgement. The following week the German will be busy at Estoril, Portugal from Monday, in a test session that already takes on the flavour of a first challenge. Jean Alesi in the Benetton and Jacques Villeneuve driving the Williams will also be there. In short, a foretaste of what the future holds. The present, on the other hand, does not seem to be very happy for Ferrari, given the result in Japan. Apart from the start, thanks to the temperament of Jean Alesi and the skill of Gerhard Berger who recovered positions, the 412 T2s showed nothing good. They had suffered a one-second gap during qualifying and maintained the same pace in the race. An 83-lap race, which meant a gap of around 1'20"0, inevitably meant lapping. Among other things, the Ferrari men had failed to save tires in time trials, which meant that even at the start, hopes were minimal. Jean Alesi, visibly angry, explains:
"The first set of tires was fine and allowed me to push. Then I could only defend myself. At one point I saw Berger pass me like lightning. To tell the truth, I didn't expect that".
Certainly, Jean took this overtaking as yet another snub from the team-mate he will find again next year in Benetton. Which certainly does not bode well for a good relationship.
"In any case, I'm not giving up. I dream of finishing the season with another win for Ferrari. I'm doing the rain dance for Sunday's race at Suzuka. And in Australia, at the Adelaide street circuit, anything can happen. In short, I always try, because that's the way I am".
Less optimistic, but certainly nothing new, is Gerhard Berger, who believes - and he is right - that the Benettons and Williams are unbeatable.
"I had a problem, the umpteenth this year, with a sensor that made my engine grumble. But I couldn't have done more, in fact I'm happy with fourth place. If I then look at Benetton, at what they were able to do on this occasion too, I really can only be elated at what lies ahead. I’m sure that next year I will be in a competitive car. And that gives me a whole new set of motivations that will allow me to work hard".
The Benetton party, meanwhile, continues into the night. Mini firecrackers, champagne, cans of beer: this is how Benetton and Michael Schumacher celebrate their second World Championship victory in the restaurant of the Aida circuit. And, while Flavio Briatore is still haranguing the crowd standing on a table, the German, a little tipsy, zigzagging, goes to sleep.
"On Sunday we race, and I have to be ready".
There, this sentence summarizes everything Schumacher is. A simple young man from humble beginnings. He did not forget that his father Bolf supplemented his salary in Mannheim, a working-class Buhr town, by working as a guard at a kart track, and that his mother Elisabeth was a shop assistant in a butcher's shop. But it was precisely this situation that drew him to motor racing: his only fun already at the age of four was to drive around in those four-wheelers. And then, what happened?
"I loved driving, speed. When I was sixteen, I left mechanic school and decided to become a professional driver. I went looking for old tires in the rubbish. But I was good with karts. I was first German junior champion and, in 1985, vice world champion. At that point I was lucky enough to be noticed by Jochen Neerpasch, who put me in the Mercedes junior team for the sports cars. There were three of us: me, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger. That's how my racing fortunes began".
But what was your first car, and what could your ideal car be?
"I learnt to drive a real car aboard a Fiat 500. About the one I would like the most, I answer: the next one".
What are Schumacher's driving skills?
"I think my most important quality is that I’m always able to concentrate hard on what I do. I’m careful, I try to learn. At the beginning, without experience, I made some mistakes. Now I think, in most cases, I can anticipate the mistake, avoid it. Also, I’m a perfectionist. If my car is the fastest, I'm not satisfied, I try to adjust it to be even better".
Is there a driver you particularly admire?
"No. At least, among the current ones. I have a lot of respect for guys like Diniz who drives the Forti and starts on the last row, without much hope for a result. I respect him for the motivation he manages to give himself, knowing that he is in a very slow single-seater. I used to look up to Prost, for his approach to competition and to Formula 1. And then there was Senna. He was my idol, fantastic. I was lucky enough to race against him. It's hard to think that he's gone. And, in a way, I feel sorry for me as well. I would have preferred to win fighting with Ayrton, but I wouldn't have felt belittled to finish second behind him".
Michael Schumacher is one of the highest paid sportsmen in the world and ever. How does it feel?
"This is an old argument. If we get paid a lot of money, it's because someone thinks it’s somehow well spent. I’m not a greedy person, but I think it’s fair to be paid a lot because it’s a law of the market. Money, as they say, doesn’t solve all problems, but it helps a lot. In the beginning, I used to fly economy class to save money. Now I can afford to rent a jet or buy one. But not a Boeing 737 as someone wrote. The private plane is to save time".
What do you value most?
"Family. It is at the top of my thoughts. I married Corinna because I love her. And I would like to have children soon. I think it's the most beautiful event in life. Then of course there are hobbies, entertainment. I like sports, almost all of them. I practice many of them, from boxing to swimming, also because I have a strict physical training programme to which I adhere very carefully. I like collecting watches, all kinds. And I love the sunrise. Because it gives me a great sense of peace and makes me full of hope for the whole day".
You dropped out of school as a boy. Any regrets?
"Yes. Maybe one day, if I have time, I will try to get at least a diploma. I’m passionate about science. I read Stephen Hawkin's latest book, the one called Black Holes and Baby Universes. I find it extraordinary, because in its complication it’s also simple. I got to know the author, who is confined to a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy. He is one of the personalities who impressed me the most".
And here we come to current events. Michael Schumacher is about to race for Ferrari. You already declared that you did not do it just for a king salary. But aren’t you afraid of having made a mistake?
"I don't want to talk about this subject yet, because the time will come to do so. I can only say and repeat that a man, a driver, needs stimulation to improve. I think my choice is also due to this. And I think I have a good star on my side. Plus, I think I can make a positive contribution to my future team".
You did not do this just to improve your image, which, despite everything, is still not at its best?
"It’s a challenge. I’ve always admired the faith and passion of Ferrari fans, who are many and everywhere".
Won't it just be a way to kind of settle for something else before Mercedes? You said two years ago in Australia that you did not care much about Maranello and that you dreamed of a silver car, all German...
"Dreams are one thing, reality is another. Let's live this one day by day. Then we'll see".
Moving on to topics of lesser importance, which person would you most like to spend an evening with?
"My wife Corinna".
And what is the one thing you will never get tired of?
Michael Schumacher is a very honest guy, even in official interviews he has never been such a politician as some of his colleagues. On the contrary, the German driver is sometimes disarming in his honesty. One day, someone asked him if he felt like he was the heir of Rudolph Caracciola, the greatest German racing driver of the past.
"Caracciola? Sorry, but I don’t have an exceptional knowledge about this story. I’ve heard of him before, but I don't know him".
And a few weeks before the Pacific Grand Prix, sitting next to supermodel Naomi Campbell, he was asked which women he preferred. He said:
Bernie Ecclestone was right. One day he declared:
"To revive Formula 1, we would need an Indian driver or a black one. Or a German".
With the Drivers' World Championship closed in advance, F1 finds its final motivation in the Constructors' World Championship. A trophy that interests Frank Williams above all. But the English manager will still have to clash with Schumacher and Benetton. It will be enough for the German driver to win the Japanese Grand Prix to remove all hope from Hill and Coulthard's team. In the standings, in fact, Benetton has 123 points while Williams 102. Ten more points and the Anglo-Italian team will be unstoppable, even if in the final Australian race Hill and Coulthard arrived in P1 and P2. The Suzuka circuit should not offer Ferrari much of a chance, but the incurable Jean Alesi is hoping for a stroke of luck or help from the rain.