If Schumacher stayed at Benetton for 1996…

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    Ben Needham

    Having listened to the Ross Brawn podcast yesterday, both he and Tom Clarkson (interviewer) were convinced that Schumacher would have won the WDC again in 1996 had he not left Benetton for Ferrari. I was surprised that to both of them it seemed a given, rather than a suggestion.

    As always, “if” is a ridiculous word to use in any sport, but I thought it was worth a look.

    Browsing the 1996 final standings, the highest placed Benetton driver was Alesi; 50 points behind Damon Hill on 47 points. Would Schumacher really have been good enough to double Alesi’s points tally and then some? It’s well known that Berger and Alesi didn’t get on well with the Benetton which was built for Schumacher, but when Alesi finished they were strong results (8 podiums). There’s also the argument that Williams would probably also have backed Hill during the season if Schumacher was closer; Hungary and Portugal may have been his wins rather than Villeneuve’s. It’s also worth pointing out that Schumacher was 48 points ahead of his team-mate Irvine, which shows how well he could out-drive the car in that era.

    All speculation of course, but I still don’t think he could’ve beaten Hill that year with the exceptional Williams. Any thoughts?


    Interesting “what if”. As both Berger and Alesi were disappointed and struggled with the car because it was made so heavily to suit Schumacher’s driving style, probably Schumacher would have made better use of it and scored more points. For example, the wet Brazilian GP might have been his to win.

    Reliability is another big question mark. Benetton suffered 12 retirements during the season, while Williams had only 7. Hill’s only mechanical retirement was in the British GP, the other two being driver errors, and if you take a look at Berger’s statistics, his reliability was horrible. Had Schumacher inherited this car, I think the championship fight would have been closer, but Hill still would win it.

    Oh, and who would have been Schumacher’s teammate at Benetton? Alesi? Berger (I think he decided he did not want to be partner to Schumacher)? Someone else?


    Ben- Good post, Ross Brawn is an F1 genius and I think TC is one of the best F1 journalist and a very good interviewer-but seems a stretch too far for him to win that year, but these guys know things we don’t!

    ‘What if’s” run sport, more so F1- Kimi was a 3 x WDC in the McLaren was reliable, that took one off Alonso I think. Alonso had 4 or 5 if things went his way, Webber and Massa grabbed one each if their day were different, if Hamilton went to Red Bull how many for him??


    It is an interesting what if… Am I right in remembering that loads of Benetton staff followed Schumacher to Ferrari? for sure, considering staff levels were different back then, it would have made a huge difference to the 96 Benetton to lose 1 to 3 key staff. If Schumacher has stayed maybe the stability would have made a difference but no one can know… I felt bad for Alesi at the time…clearly a talent who wrongly chose Ferrari over Williams and then left Ferrari just as they came good.


    If Schumacher stayed at Benetton he would have been in a team in decline rather than in a rising team like Ferrari. Schumacher might have enjoyed a successful campaign in 1996, but what about 1997 and later? He made the switch at the right moment, just like Hamilton to Mercedes in 2013.


    Hello all,

    1st post for me as I just joined this site.

    Regarding the Schumacher @ Benetton for 1996, there’s a tough chance that he would have been Champion again, but one has to consider that the team was the same carrying on and the design of the car was moving forward without interruption. But it took Shumacher 5 years to win with Ferrari with all the money in the world and changing the team from an Italian to an International team.

    My 2nd opinion regarding Alesi specifically is quite obviousand I believe that Schumacher was strongly against having him as his team mate as Alesi was clearly at home for 5 years and wouldnt give in to # 2 status, thus fighting Schumacher, which would have been a spectacle no matter who would come out on top.

    Regarding the post season tests with the opposite cars (Michael with the 412 T2 and Jean with the B195), dont be judging the test times as the cars were obviously improved over the season and should be faster than the best times set in F1 race weekends.

    The Formula has too many variables.

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