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McLaren could have signed Schumacher, says Dennis
Alan Baldwin | February 19, 2005 10:29 IST
McLaren had the chance to sign Michael Schumacher from Ferrari five or six years ago but decided not to, according to team boss Ron Dennis.
"We had the opportunity, but we didn't take it," Dennis told reporters when asked whether he had ever wanted to see the seven times Formula One world champion racing one of his cars.
"The collective decision was that it wasn't the right thing for the company," he said.
Schumacher, now the oldest driver on the grid at 36, will start this year's championship in Australia on March 6 as one of the favourites after winning a record 13 of the 18 races in 2004.
Mercedes-powered McLaren's last world champion was Finland's Mika Hakkinen in 1999 and Dennis intimated that he and Schumacher had discussed a move at around that time.
The German joined Ferrari from Benetton in 1996 as a double world champion but failed to win another title until 2000 when he secured the Italian team's first driver's crown for 21 years.
Dennis said he had spoken to Schumacher in Monte Carlo at a meeting he believed was initiated by the driver, who had driven in the past for Mercedes in the world sportscar championship.
"I do believe we could have reached the point where he could have driven for the team," said the Briton, whose team finished fifth overall last year while Ferrari scooped their sixth successive constructors' title.
"But when you say to someone 'Do you want to drive for this team?' the individual says yes and at that moment you've got to be committed to the process.
"Until you can put yourself in that position you don't ask the question. So it was a long discussion, to go away and think about each other's position and then decide if that question was going to be asked."
"And we didn't get to the point of it being a question," added the team boss.
"It wasn't just my decision ... it was a decision with the people it needed to be discussed with.
"It's not something I can look back on and say I regret or I don't regret. That was the opinion that we reached as a group and I was one part of it."
Dennis said money was not the deciding factor but recognised that the memory of negotiating a budget-breaking deal with three times champion Ayrton Senna had played a part.
"What I can recall is that I felt I was a significant contributing factor to paying Ayrton more money than this company could afford," he said.
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