Senna ‘wanted to drive for Ferrari’ – Montezemolo

1994 F1 season

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Ayrton Senna would have joined Ferrari for the final years of his Formula One career, the team’s president Luca di Montezemolo has claimed.

On the day before the 20th anniversary of Senna’s death during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Montezemolo told Ferrari’s website: “He wanted to come to Ferrari and I wanted him in the team.”

Montezemolo said he met Senna four days before he was killed at Imola. “When he was in Italy for the San Marino Grand Prix, we met at my home in Bologna on Wednesday 27 April.”

“He told me he really appreciated the stand we had taken against the excessive use of electronic aids for driving, which didn’t allow a driver’s skill to shine through,” said Montezemolo.

Driver aids such as active suspension and traction control had been banned at the end of 1993. However at the Pacific Grand Prix two weeks before the Imola race Ferrari had been found to have a form of traction control on their cars.

Montezemolo said Senna, who had joined Williams from McLaren at the beginning of 1994, was already thinking about his next career move: “We spoke for a long time and he made it clear to me that he wanted to end his career at Ferrari, having come close to joining us a few years earlier.”

“We agreed to meet again soon, so as to look at how we could overcome his contractual obligations at the time. We were both in agreement that Ferrari would be the ideal place for him to further his career, which to date had been brilliant, even unique.”

However Senna lost his life just four days later. “Unfortunately, fate robbed all of us of Ayrton and Roland Ratzenberger over one of the saddest weekends in Formula One history,” said Montezemolo.

“Of Senna, I remember his kindness and his simple almost shy nature, which was in complete contrast to Senna the driver, a fighter always aiming for the best.”

“I always appreciated Ayrton’s style of racing,” he added. “As with all great champions, he had an incredible will to win and never tired of seeking perfection, trying to improve all the time. He was extraordinary in qualifying, but also a great battler in the races, when he always fought tooth and nail.”

1994 F1 season

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Image © Williams/LAT

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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74 comments on “Senna ‘wanted to drive for Ferrari’ – Montezemolo”

  1. I really don’t see a way Senna would’ve wanted to go to a team which hadn’t won a single race in years and had illegally used a form of TC, such was the stand they had taken against driver aids. As shown in later years, Williams hadn’t lost any of their winning capability, see how Hill battled for the title with MSC and went on to win it in 96, followed by JV in 97. Thus I believe Senna would’ve stayed there.

    Go home Luca, you are drunk.

    1. But, but, a recent fan poll showed that Senna indeed wanted to go to Ferrari?

      1. @ardenflo I must admit I didn’t get that at first until I realised it was a reference to this!

      2. LOL, nice one @ardenflo!

      3. Haha nice one!

    2. Haha- Luca has claimed this one before, but you are right. Just like Webber liked the idea in finishing in “The Horse” as it has the “romantic” side for a driver, Senna really had no reason to and I could not see it. With Mark having issues with Seb I personally would have liked him to have had a shot though to finish off.

      But Ayrton in the Horse…………… nah :)

    3. I think this is true. I remember hearing this same claim in the year he past away. I always believed Senna wanted to move to Ferrari some day before the end of his career because that claim was public then. And no one dismissed it. So, if is true, I don’t think it would have something to do with the winning ability of the team/car. I guess he probably liked the team. Isn’t that a valid reason?

      1. Senna had his shot at Ferrari and it didn’t work out (1993), and Senna did not join teams because he liked them. If he ever left Williams, which is doubtful considering how well they did through 1997, he probably would have gone back to McLaren. By the time Ferrari was on the up (1999) Ayrton would have been ready to retire, if he hadn’t done already.

        1. and Ferrari was on the up because of a certain Schumacher, Brawn and Todt.

      2. He liked McLaren and he still went to Williams to be in the best car. It’s hard to believe he would have walked away from a team which was by and large the strongest until 1997 unless he was completely retiring.

        1. And its also likely that had Williams had Senna, and had been even stronger in 1994 that Williams would have kept the Renault full backing and would have continued to be the top dog instead of having to first share with Bennetton and then see Renault get out altogether @matt90

          1. Wikipedia says they only shared because Benetton acquired Ligier’s share. Was that something Williams could have actually put pressure on Renault to control?

    4. No one saw a way Schumacher would’ve wanted to go to a team which hadn’t won a single race in years and had illegally used a form of TC, such was the stand they had taken against driver aids. But he did, and in hindsight, it was brilliant.

      1. Why would Schumacher care about going to a team using TC? He almost certainly used it illegally in 1994 himself. And Ferrari had won races recently, in 1994 and 1995.

      2. @austus

        Yes MSC went to Ferrari, but he took the team the made Benetton what it was. No Brawn, no Todt, and more than likely no 5 more WDCs.

    5. Ok, Luca isn’t a dear, but check this out:,Ayrton_Senna_at_Ferrari_A_deal_that_was_.html it wasn’t luca saying that, it was fiorio, and i don’t think Cesare has a fond memory of LDM…

      1. @matiascasali

        it wasn’t Luca saying that, it was Fiorio

        To avoid any doubt, the quote in this article (not the one you’ve linked to) is from Luca di Montezemolo, not Cesare Fiorio.

        1. i know, i was saying about the above comments trashing luca with “Senna never would race in such a crappy team” when it was senna who wanted it afterall…

    6. @carlitox when Schumacher moved to Ferrari the situation wasn’t much different; actually, the low-performance period had lasted two years longer (only a couple of wins in 1994 & 1995), but the two-time world champion went there and in a matter of two years was fighting for the title at the last race. Likely with Senna on board Schumacher would have got nowhere near the Prancing Horse, but Senna could have developed the team just like the German did.

      1. ……but Senna could have developed the team just like the German did.

        I hardly believe that. Even so, I hardly believe he would have won 5 titles in a row, like MS.

        1. Not least because he would have undoubtedly left F1 before getting the chance.

        2. @corrado-dub considering Senna was a very technically inclined driver as many WDC were back then, and spent much time learning about the car and engineering that went into them and making suggestions to the team, it’s likely he would have helped Ferrari win a couple of WDC or even WCC if given the right team mate.

          However, I agree with @matt90, by this time Senna was so worn out by the political circus of f1 that he would have most likely retired and probably went tour car racing or something. He still had the skills and was as fast even more so, so I don’t see it hard to believe that Senna could have helped set something up at Ferrari.

          1. Corrado (@)
            1st May 2014, 14:13

            No, you’re wrong ! Every driver learns/knows the car, makes suggestions, talks and share impressions/feelings with every engineer and/or mechanic… but at the end of the season there’s only 1 winner ! If Senna was so good as you say, and would have helped Ferrari win at least 1 WDC and/or WCC, why he didn’t do it with Toleman and/or (especially) Lotus ?!?!? Simple, he couldn’t do it ! Senna was great indeed, but he was too obsessed with driving the fastest car and in the fastest way possible in order to settle for the team from 2nd or 3rd position and then make it the winning team. Don’t tell me you believe that McLaren was the winning team in 88, 89 and 90 because Senna was onboard. MSchumacher went to Ferrari and took the team from 3rd (1995) to 2nd (1996-98) and then to 1st (1999). The rest (2000-2004)… is just HISTORY ! So, I think the part where Senna would have made Ferrari a winning should be left unspoken… ’cause it’s really science-fiction.

          2. If Senna was so good as you say, and would have helped Ferrari win at least 1 WDC and/or WCC, why he didn’t do it with Toleman and/or (especially) Lotus ?!?!? Simple, he couldn’t do it !

            Why couldn’t Schumacher do it with Mercedes? Because he couldn’t! He couldn’t have done it with Ferrari even if he’d had th… oh wait.

            For one thing, Senna spent only one year with Toleman, a competitively tiny team to Ferrari. But because he didn’t win a championship with them he couldn’t have developed Ferrari? Schumacher didn’t stick with Jordan and win them a championship either.

      2. I based my opinion on the grounds that Senna went to Williams because they were simply the best, to the point he offered to drive for free. He wanted to win, not develop a winner. Schumacher was more patient, and it paid off as we all saw.

        1. vuntoosree
          1st May 2014, 6:30

          @carlitox he was more patient because he had just won his 2 first WDC and was still very young so had time on his side, unlike Senna who took 5 seasons to get his first WDC. Senna tried to lift Lotus back to the top in his day but didnt succeed

          1. He didn’t lift them to the very top, but then he didn’t have prior experience winning a championship himself on account of being less experienced than Schumacher (comparing Schumacher joining Ferrari after 4 and a bit seasons and prior experience of winning races, let alone championships, with Senna joining Lotus after only 1 year). He did help make that team a race winner- something it hadn’t been in the 2 previous years and never was again after Senna left. He joined a team which was in the doldrums and in the years he was there they came 4th, 3rd and 3rd. Senna also hadn’t had the same opportunity to build the network of Schumacher which was instrumental in turning Ferrari around.

          2. i know its been months since u posted this. just felt like sharing:

            ayrton followed the honda engines from lotus to mclaren.

  2. Even when he is saying something nice, he still manages to come across as a bit of a tool.

  3. I wonder, if Senna had joined Ferrari later, would Ferrari have persued Schumacher to driver in the second car? I can bet the answer is ‘no’. But that would’ve been epic.

  4. I have never thought of that: Senna v Schumacher at least as good as Senna v Prost…………… nah,…….. better :)

    1. Who knows if Schumacher would’ve ended up at Ferrari at all? It’s interesting to think of the impact this would have on other careers.

      I’m thinking that had he stayed at Williams (and obviously had a regular drive at Imola in 1994), Hill’s and Villeneuve’s WDCs would belong to him, along with another possible WDC in 1995.

      It would be an alternate F1 history.

  5. I find this disgusting. This, to me, is Luca using the additional focus on Senna this week to generate more publicity for Ferrari. There was no need for this.

    To shamelessly use Senna’s legacy to enhance the image of Ferrari is utterly appalling.

    1. @jackysteeg So the whole world can bring up memories about Senna this week except for Montezemelo because you claim he just wants to generate publicity for Ferrari. How does this have anything to do with publicity? Will anyone become a Ferrari fan after reading this article, or perhaps someone will run out and buy a Ferrari road car now! No.

    2. I think its arguable as to whose legacy is bigger? Ferrari or Senna. I think its former. But then, for me.. teams come first, drivers second.

    3. @jackysteeg I somehow doubt LDM just put out a press release to say that Senna wanted to drive for Ferrari. There is obviously a lot of focus on the 20th anniversary of Senna and Ratzenberger’s deaths and no doubt he was asked to comment on it. It would be a bit strange if he intentionally avoided mentioning a meeting he had with Senna 4 days before his death. I’m not LDM’s biggest fan but i think you are overreacting.

      1. I somehow doubt LDM just put out a press release to say that Senna wanted to drive for Ferrari. There is obviously a lot of focus on the 20th anniversary of Senna and Ratzenberger’s deaths and no doubt he was asked to comment on it.

        @keithedin I think you are right in what you are saying.

        Sometimes the grab for the one liner construes the reader into thinking that the entire interview/chat/conversation was A) about one quote and B) initiated by the interviewee, when it generally is initiated by the interviewer by asking a couple of questions about the topic of the moment, which is clearly centered around the 20th anniversary of Senna and Ratzenbergers’ passing.

    4. Completely agree

  6. That’s the thing about being dead: other people can project their desires and dreams on to you without any contradiction.

    1. From Wikipedia:

      For the 1994 season, Senna had offers from McLaren, Williams, Benetton, and Ferrari, the team he believed was the soul of Formula 1, and to which he planned to move to in 1996 before retiring in 2000

      1. Yes because he rally would have left Williams? Hill was fighting for titls Senna would have surly won a title and then in 96 and 97 the car was great. I hope you no Senna left to go Williams because they were the best Ferrari were not the best in 96

      2. Haha! When did Wikipedia ever become a remotely reliable source!?

        1. Studies have shown it to be more accurate than the Encyclopaedia Britannica

          1. Even if it is, I wouldn’t ever quote directly from it.. Literally anybody could have written that and you would be none the wiser, unless there’s a reference/citation with it.

    2. @sharoncom,@raceprouk
      Just for the history : Ayrton had a very special relationship with Italy. His mother has Italian origins. His career started from Italy (1978) and not from the UK like many on this blog try to forget ,karting with his favored teammate Terry Fullerton in Angelo Parilla’s team. He must have know what Ferrari is in Italy especially during the Villeneuve years. Ferrari first attempt to sign Ayrton was back in 1986, He was caught by Enzo’s eyes and he was also liked by the famous Gianni Agnelli. He met the old man in Maranello after the belgian GP but his contract with Lotus wasn’t going to be cancelled without severe penalties. The second attempt to sign Ayrton by Ferrari was in 1990 when Cesare Fiorio was Ferrari team principle. Fiorio wanted to sign Ayrton alongside Prost to revive the dream team line up. Cesare contacted Angelo Orsi the photo reporter of Autosprint who is a close personal friend of Senna to arrange a secret meeting in MonteCarlo (BTW Orsi is the only man who photographed Ayrton while he was dying in Imola after the crash but he never revealed those photos in respect to Ayrton’s memory even Adriane Galisteu tried to view them but Orsi refused) and the two discussed many contractual details. The detail that they didn’t dealt with was that Ayrton wanted his sponsor Logo Banco Nacional to appear on his race suit while Marloboro wanted all that space for him. When Prost was aware of Fiorio plans he went as always into a political war with him that finished by firing Fiorio and later himself. BTW Senna was very close to Giancarlo Minardi who knew him back in 1982 when Senna was involved in Formula Ford and Minardi was the owner of an F2 team, Minardi wanted Senna to drive for his team but Senna refused and since then they became close friends. In 1993 Senna was very close to drive for Minardi in that year before going to Williams according to Giancarlo Minardi himself who persuaded Senna to back off from his plan and from that the idea of the famous “open contract” of 1 million dollar per race with McLaren was born.
      The 3rd attempt was this one in which Montezemolo speaks about, In 1994 Ayrton wasn’t satisfied at all with the FW16 and the decision of Renault to sell the V10 engine to the Benetton wasn’t helping at all but unfortunately Ayrton was dead and we will never know if he was going to drive for Ferrari and how many WDC he would’ve won. Here are some photos of Ayrton with Di Montezemolo,Agnelli,Orsi,Minardi and some articles about what i have said
      Senna with Agnelli and Di Montezemolo
      Senna with Di Montezemolo
      Senna with Minardi
      Senna with Orsi
      Senna with Zermiani 1
      Senna with Zermiani 2
      Senna interview Montreal (Italian)

  7. By the way, Montezemolo probably thinks that Ferrari is retirement home, because everybody wants to retire at Ferrari.

  8. Whilst everyone else is remembering Ratzenberger and Senna, LdM is remembering how *he* nearly signed a driver to *his* team. What a total jackass.

    1. “Of Senna, I remember his kindness and his simple almost shy nature, which was in complete contrast to Senna the driver, a fighter always aiming for the best.”

  9. this says everything for me that I need to know about LDM

    1. LOL wonderful video!

    2. pfff hahahaha nice one!

  10. Scuderia Ferrari now the official FIA Formula One world drivers championship champions’ retirement home, serving the community since 1950.

    1. @mateuss Only now? Many champions ended their career while driving for the Scuderia! Hawthorn, Scheckter, Andretti, and technically both Schumacher and Raikkonen.

      1. Technically how? Schumacher maybe, as he intended to retire. Raikkonen didn’t intend to.

  11. Senna was a pretty savvy guy, he knew he was the best and any team would want him. From the sounds of it he made sure he had options open to drive for whoever he wanted. Nice of him to make Luca think he’s special though.

  12. A poor attempt to put Senna below Ferrari in their whole “Ferrari is more important than its drivers” scam.

    1. @kelsier
      Aaand how did you come to that conclusion?

    2. So you think Senna is more important (to F1) than Ferrari (or McLaren, Williams, Lotus) ?!?! If so, you’re….. yuuuuuhuuuuuuu !

    3. Come on guys, Senna is an absolute legend, but Ferrari is the F1. Without Ferrari, the F1 will lose at least 50% of its appeal and fans all around the world!

      1. Surely you don’t actually believe this. Big teams have come and gone and Ferrari would be no different, granted had they left in the mid to late 2000s it would have been more significant than if they had failed in the mid-ninetees but Ferrari needs F1 more than F1 needs Ferrari. If F1 lost Ferrari they might lose 50% of their Italian fans, but F1 is considerably bigger than Ferrari.

        And, for the record, I think Montezemolo is talking out his rear end as usual, Senna might have moved to Ferrari if they had managed to produce a decent car but there’s no way he would have been there in the mid-nineties.

        1. How would we look at Senna now if he was still alive? Would these superlative descriptions of the man still be prevalent?

          Taking nothing away from Senna’s ability, its no secret that people are often glorified in death, rightly or wrongly so.

          Would Senna have won more titles if he had lived?

  13. Robert Richards
    30th April 2014, 20:35

    It’s 20years, how time flies.
    I still get goose bumps and shivers down my spine just thinking of Senna.
    My birthday is on the 2 May, and I’ll never forget the sadness and how I cried when Senna died.
    Senna, may you be the example to the world, for your caring and good will.
    Not forgetting what you brought to F1
    No other driver can ever replace you, and may your legacy and triumphs live on forever.
    Remembering the Ronald Ratzenberg’s Family and the Senna Family, and the good work the Senna Foundation is doing.
    Viva Senna
    Kind Regards
    Cape Town
    South Africa

  14. Not a chance. Just Ferrari trying to get some press during this week.

  15. I wonder if Giancarlo Minardi is facing the same kind of comments.

  16. So some of you claim that, given that everybody has been sharing their memories about Senna, Montezemolo is entitled to talk about him. Sure, that’s cool. But one thing is saying “Oh I met Senna, and he was nice, and bla bla bla”, and another is going on his team’s website to say he nearly signed Senna for his team. How is that a tribute to the driver? It’s a tribute to *his* team – and that’s what makes it so disgusting: this week is not about Ferrari, it’s about Senna. And I guess they were jealous that other teams are getting the attention (namely McLaren and Williams) while their Italian squadra is out of the game.

    I’m not even a Senna fan (never been) but this is disgusting. And if you think every driver wants to race for Ferrari, think again because it’s not true. One example? Easy. Mika Hakkinen.

    1. Corrado (@)
      1st May 2014, 7:38

      I’m a Ferrari fan, but I totally agree. If they’re coming up with all these “memories” just for the image… it’s really pathetic indeed.

  17. Senna ‘wanted to drive for Ferrari’ – Montezemolo

    Luca if he wanted to drive for Ferrari he would have, Ferrari made him numerous offers over the years for him to join them and he turned everyone of those offers down. Luca he was only using the Ferrari offers as a way of getting a better deal out of McLaren and latter on Williams.

    1. Even Senna’s girlfriend has said that Senna wanted to finish his career with Ferrari.
      I doubt that she would just make that up afterwards.

  18. Corrado (@)
    1st May 2014, 7:34

    Yup, he wanted to drive for Ferrari… but he didn’t ! If you ask me, Ferrari actually should be happy he did not drive for them in the end. That’s because, most likely, he would have blocked the way for MSchumacher, and I hardly believe Ferrari would have gained the same amount of success between 1996 and 2004. MSchumacher was, by far, their most successful driver, was/is their star… so there shouldn’t be absolutely no regrets from the MS era. Prost, highly regarded, drove for them anyway… and nothing improved for Ferrari.

  19. Thank God Senna didn’t drive for Ferrari. Death seems to have mythologised him. I doubt he would’ve received half the plaudits in life as in death.

  20. Luca .. you’re not good enough to hire drivers of Fernando’s calibre.. I really doubt Ayrton would want anything to with you or your incompetent team

  21. His girlfriend said this, he was going to retire at Ferrari, no matter how they were performing.

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