Such a day as today, a November 13 a quarter of a century ago, in 1994, a young and impetuous 25-year-old German pilot began to write one of the most unique chapters of the motor racing history: in the circuit of Adelaide (Australia) tore the myth of Michael Schumacher, the considered, still by many, the greatest pilot of the F-1.
One of those who firmly believe it, almost as a dogma of faith, is Joan Villadelprat (64 will turn Friday). "I think so, that Michael – always referring to him by name – is the best ever, as a complete pilot, for everything he has won, for so long, for the record … I had it all. For me it was God, ”says who was director of operations and sports,“ the right hand of Flavio Briatore", in the team Benetton Ford, the team that, thanks to the arts of Italian, swelled the great German promise to Jordan and Mercedes.
Michaeles the best in history, as a complete driver, for everything he has won, for his perseverance … He had everything ”
That 1991 was when Villadelprat, the only Spanish technician who worked in the F-1, met a young 22-year-old Schumacher. “He was a humble family kid, his father had a go karting and he was a mechanic and ran. I had been in junior team Mercedes, so I came quite prepared. In Jordan, in his first GP, he made a qualy brutal in Spa (7th). We realized that it was someone special. ”
He confirmed it with Pat Symonds, then a German track engineer, when they did some tests at Silverstone, having as reference the times of the three-time champion Nelson Piquet, the other driver of the team. "I look at the chronos and say:‘ Oysters, Pat, tell the boy to loosen up, that we are not to break records, but to adapt to the car. " Pat tells him to take it easy and Michael replies: "No, if I'm discovering different ways of plotting." We looked at each other and said: “Oysters, what apparatus we have! We had a serious monster, which was growing, and also shitting it. ”
He could be aggressive and he could be fine. There have been very bastard pilots. But to be a champion you can't be a good uncle. ”
That Schumi rookie was discovered as a young talent with a shy look, "which many confused with arrogance" – Villadelprat defends – a pilot "with a great capacity for work, with enthusiasm, stubbornness, eager to learn, not just do it right , but understand the car, and with a mechanical vein that made him spend hours talking with the engineer. A very hardworking guy, who gradually took a security in himself that conveyed to everyone. ”
It was the 1994 World Cup the culmination of that learning fusing with the best, after a first course 92 where it was 3rd (behind the untouchables Williams of Mansell and Patrese) and a 4th place in the 1993 World Cup that he had in the podium to Prost, Senna and Hill. “From 1991 to 1995 the whole team grew up with him. Was a uncle that gave 100% and forced you to give 120, ”says Villadelprat, who does not hesitate to consider Benetton the strongest team of 94, with great preparation for refueling (they had returned after 10 years of prohibition) and very skilled in the strategy, “with a dream team technician ”with brains like Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Pat Symonds, Nicolas Tombazis or Paul Monaghan, the popes of the F-1. A team that questioned the establishment represented by Williams, McLaren and Ferrari.
If Senna had not died in Imola, Michael would have won the title the same, for physical and mental strength ”
“The 1994 was a very fucked up championship: we started winning very clearly, and after Senna's death, even more. Michael was annoyed five times with disqualifications and penalties. We were breaking the establishment: a sweater maker, with half the budget of the big ones, was eating them. We were breaking schemes. And they tickled us, that if we cheated … ”. So between Mosley (FIA) and Ecclestone (F-1) they matched the championship to reach the last GP, Australia, with Schumi leader by a point on Damon Hill (Williams). "If Senna had not died (in Imola, 3rd race), we would have won the same, with Michael's mental and physical strength, but surely they would not have bothered us so much, it would have been a more disputed World Cup."
That last race showed the spirit killer from German When Schumi he saw that the English would overtake him by catching the inside of the curve, flicker and inevitable collision. The Benetton got up and crashed into the fences. The German, white, leaves the car crestfallen, thinking that he has lost the title. But Hill also abandons due to breakage. Schumi He was champion.
“It was a very clear host; a faithful portrait of what Michael was like, but it was due to a year-round frustration: we were very pissed off, ”Villadelprat claims, justifying the hardness of the German, one of his features. “Michael could be aggressive and could be fine. There have been very bastard pilots. But it is that to be a world champion you cannot be a good person. I've met 9 and they are all whores. ”
After the first title the second one fell the following year (1995), sweeping the Ford engine. The second stone of an empire that would be interrupted four years, when leaving to Ferrari (1996). "He took the best people in Benetton, 22 guys who were a machine, integrated, six years working together, it was like taking an entire ballet." For Villadelprat, the key that Schumacher raised his empire at Ferrari was “an intelligent move: he blinded his 22 employees at Ferrari. If they touched someone, he could break the contract. Thus they could work without the sword of Damocles. He created the entire structure we had done in Benetton, and when a title arrived (2000), four more fell. ”
And the myth was born, the 7 crowns, the records. “By history, by titles, it is the largest. He was one of the pioneers in taking care of himself as a professional. It is a misfortune how it has ended: so many years playing life at 300, and falls skiing.