Irvine: All teams wanted Schumacher but he only wanted to win at Ferrari

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Michael Schumacher could have won more than seven Formula 1 titles had he not chosen to rebuild Ferrari, says ex-teammate Eddie Irvine.

Having won two championships with Benetton in 1994 and 1995, the German legend opted to join a struggling Scuderia in 1996, forming the dream team with Jean Todt, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne.

However, after losing close championship fights in 1997 and 1998 and breaking his leg at Silverstone in 1999, Schumacher would have to wait until 2000 to finally achieve his goal of earning Ferrari their first drivers' title in 21 years. 

“Schumi was very German, except for drinking, in that he was terrible!” Irvine, who partnered him between 1996-1999 told the Il Festiva dello Sport in Italy.

“Michael was very professional and he was one who worked very hard, a great professional.

“I remember that at that time in Ferrari everyone had his role and everyone knew that they had a lot to do, but I remember when he arrived at Ferrari we were way behind but Michael had set the goal of winning with Ferrari.

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“He was very determined and, I repeat, all the other teams wanted him but he just wanted to win with Ferrari," the Irishman continued.

“He could have won more going somewhere else but he was a very focused person, and in the end, after so many years where he came close he managed to win the World Championship five times with Ferrari thanks to his hard work.

“A great talent but great perseverance and determination, an unbelievable driver.”

Whether Schumacher could have flourished at the likes of Williams or McLaren, the main contenders of the day, is another matter, but one man at the heart of it all during those glory years recalled how motivated Ferrari was.

“When you win 15 of 17 races [in 2002] you prove to be the best and we were in that moment,” former team boss Stefano Domenicali commented.

“But still every morning we were afraid of not winning the race. Jean Todt and Schumi wanted to win every single race and so every morning before the GP we concentrated on making sure we would have won that race.

“Jean Todt and Michael were winners, obsessed with details and yes they had a great time together and we saw their great talent bring Ferrari to dominate the World Championship.

“I think they were very close because they had a similar attitude. I believe the biggest secret of the Ferrari success was the relationship between those two.”