Ferrari F1 team boss Mattia Binotto recalled 1996 when Michael Schumacher came to Ferrari from Benetton and imposed his impressive work ethic on the entire team that led them to incredible success at the start of the new millennium.
Schumacher arrived at Ferrari as a two-time world champion with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 and with him came Ross Brawn and Rory Bryne, while Jean Todt had already arrived in the team from Peugeot’s sports car programme.
Schumacher arrived at Ferrari in November 1995 and at the first test in Fiorano he immediately left an impression on the entire team, including the young engineer Binotto.
“I still remember the first test on the Fioran,” Binotto told ‘Beyond the Grid’.
“He never managed to get through the first turn on the track properly.”
Schumacher was slower than drivers who had previously tested on Fiorano, including Jean Alesi, Gerhard Berger and test driver Nicola Larini.
“I remember that after the first test he immediately asked Jean Todt to change that corner, he didn’t want to see him anymore.”
“Yes, we changed that corner because it wasn’t representative for the World Championship. That was the point.”
“Since then, the Fiorano has had a different configuration.”
Schumacher scheduled first meeting at 8 a.m.
Binotto recalled that Schumacher moved the start of the first meeting of the day to 8 a.m.
“We arrived at the track around 8:20 a.m., Michael was already there waiting for us. He looked at his watch and asked us where are we.”
Schumacher changed Ferrari’s habit of driving the first laps at 9 a.m. and then discussing the test program that day – he scheduled a meeting at 8 a.m. which became a new practice for the team.
“Since Michael came, we’ve been holding the first meeting every day at 8:00 in the morning.”
Changing the testing approach
“In the last hour of the day we would go out on the track with little fuel, about 10kg, doing a qualifying simulation. So the next day you would read in the Italian newspaper that Michael Schumacher is the fastest for Ferrari. He asked us why are we doing it.”
“He insisted that we drive all day with 50kg of fuel, that was another big change for us, that approach.”
“By the way, he drove the fastest lap and with 50kg of fuel.”
“He was a hard worker and a leader. A strong, fast driver. And he taught us how to do the job.”