Michael Schumacher had thoughts of stepping away from Formula 1 following the death of Ayrton Senna, his former team manager Flavio Briatore has revealed.
Senna died after crashing at the 1994 San Marino GP, a race ultimately won by Schumacher, who went on to win that year’s championship and ended his career with a record seven world titles and 91 grand prix victories.
Schumacher was outspoken after that fateful day at Imola, saying at the post-race press conference: “It’s not a good feeling, I can’t feel happy. What happened this weekend… I’ve never seen something like this. Not just one thing, so many things. I hope we learn from this, we have to use this – things like this shouldn’t happen without taking the experience from it.”
Speaking on an RTL special to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Schumacher’s maiden title win, former Benetton boss Briatore discussed how deeply the incident had impacted his driver.
“Schumacher was the Pavarotti of driving a car,” Briatore said.
“He changed after the death of Ayrton Senna. He seriously considered whether to stop motor racing.
“Fortunately for us all, he stuck with it. Damon Hill was not a championship driver. He completely messed it up.”
Schumacher went on to back up his ’94 title win with another triumph the following year, as Benetton won their sole constructors’ championship in the process.
Briatore said: “The truth is we did not have the money to hire a good driver. A world champion, a star.
“They all laughed at us. That’s why we had to look for a talent.
“For the established Formula 1 teams we were a danger. A T-shirt manufacturer that beats all the legends. They complained about us all the time.
“But when they saw Michael in the car, they all shut up.”