Neerpasch: “Schumacher was like a dry sponge”
The huge enthusiasm for Formula 1 that spread in Germany at the beginning of the 1990s naturally goes back to Michael Schumacher.
This Michael Schumacher would probably not have existed in this way if Jochen Neerpasch Mercedes had not presented a revolutionary plan at the end of the 80s. Since Mercedes had the firm intention to enter Formula 1, advisor Neerpasch should begin with the search for young drivers. He found them in the person of Michael Schumacher, Karl Wendlinger and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in Formula 3, whereby Frentzen quickly said goodbye to Japan and was replaced by Fritz Kreutzpointner.
Led by experienced Jochen Mass, Neerpasch formed a junior car with them in the Endurance World Championship, which went on the hunt for points for Sauber-Mercedes and technically gave them a realistic foretaste of Formula 1. With the help of Neerpasch and money from Mercedes and Peter Sauber, Schumacher managed to get into Formula 1 at Jordan-Ford in August 1991. Because the clever Eddie Jordan sensed a source of money and wanted to tie Schumacher to himself. This would have meant a double danger: on the one hand, that Schumacher would become a pay driver, on the other hand, that he would not have received clearance for the Stern group when he entered Mercedes.
Neerpasch: “Schumacher would have become world champion in the Silver Arrow”.
“It was very important for Schumacher,” Neerpasch emphasizes, “to be accepted as a full-fledged driver, to earn money. Briatore (boss of Benetton-Ford, where Schumacher changed after only one Grand Prix, the Red.) agreed to the clause in the contract to have Schumacher retired in case of Mercedes entry”. But this dream was shattered a few weeks later, when Mercedes board member Edzard Reuter completely unexpectedly cancelled the planned entry into Formula 1. “Schumacher would have become world champion in the Silver Arrow”, Neerpasch is still convinced.
Neerpasch is still raving about the supertalented young Schumacher: “Michael had nothing else on his mind but car racing. He worked most consistently. In addition to his talent, he showed an enormous will and receptiveness from day one. He absorbed everything worth knowing about the car, the technology, the strategy and the behaviour of the cars during the races. He was like a dry sponge held in the water. And he knew how to make the right decisions.”