Niki Lauda has confirmed that Michael Schumacher turned to Sauber and even Ferrari once he knew he would lose his Mercedes seat.
Austrian legend Lauda, who has joined Mercedes as non-executive chairman, insists seven time world champion Schumacher lost his seat only because his decision-making period about the future beyond 2012 was so prolonged.
He says Mercedes had to look around for alternatives, and closed a deal with Lewis Hamilton.
“We have seen how fast-moving and ruthless formula one is, with Mercedes responding extremely quickly once Hamilton was available,” former F1 driver Alex Wurz told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.
Lauda revealed to the German broadcaster RTL that, once Schumacher realised Mercedes’ future was with Hamilton, the 43-year-old German “talked to Sauber and telephoned Ferrari”.
But he ultimately decided, on the Tuesday before the Japanese grand prix, to retire.
However, if both the Hamilton signing and Schumacher’s decision happened at around the same time, why didn’t Mercedes delay the Hamilton announcement so that Schumacher could avoid the perception that he was pushed out?
Team boss Ross Brawn explains: “Once we knew Lewis was coming to the team, we had to respond quickly, because Lewis wanted McLaren to know about the new situation.
“He has been with them (McLaren) for a long time and wanted to deal with them fairly. So once it was clear, we made it public.”