Ayrton Senna and Ferrari: Top 10 F1 Driver/Team Combinations That Never Happened

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2014

Ayrton Senna and Ferrari: Top 10 F1 Driver/Team Combinations That Never Happened

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    Ercole Colombo/Associated Press

    Throughout the course of their careers, Formula One drivers tend to take in the sights at more than one team.

    In the process, the best ones usually end up spending at least a year or two at the "dream" teamthe constructor either they, the team or their fans would love to see them at.

    But sometimes these dream partnerships never comes to pass. A driver who would suit a team for emotional, personal or nationalistic reasons goes his whole career without ever finding that perfect marriage.

    Or in some cases, that perfect second marriage.

    Here are 10 examples from F1 history of driver-and-team combinations which might have worked beautifullybut which, for a variety of reasons, never became a reality.

Ayrton Senna and Ferrari

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    Senna in red, but not Ferrari red.
    Senna in red, but not Ferrari red.Getty Images/Getty Images

    Last week, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo claimed Ayrton Senna had spoken to him about joining the Prancing Horse in 1994, and that the Brazilian would have ended his career at Ferrari.

    In an article on the Ferrari website, Di Montezemolo revealed details of discussions held in 1994:

    He wanted to come to Ferrari and I wanted him in the team. 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. 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.

    Senna was 34 at the time, so the hypothetical move would surely have occurred shortly afterwards, even as early as 1995.

    The sport's most famous driver joining up with its most iconic team would have been a dream to many fans, especially those with a preference towards the colour red.

    Whether it would have actually happened or not, we will never know.

Alain Prost and Prost

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Had Alain Prost stuck around a few more years, he could have driven for his own team.

    Or maybe he could have started it a little earlier.

    Per Joe Saward's 1995 article at GrandPrix.com, Prost came close to starting his own team in 1989 as his relationship with Ayrton Senna at McLaren broke down.

    A few years later he was sacked by Ferrari, and this time he spoke to Guy Ligier about buying his team. Instead, he took a year off before returning to win his fourth title with Williams and announcing his retirement.

    Prost eventually did buy Ligier in 1997 and renamed the team Prost Grand Prix.

    But he was never truly tempted to get behind the wheel himself.

Michael Schumacher and Williams/McLaren

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    Michael Cooper/Getty Images

    Michael Schumacher spent the best years of his career at Benetton (five years) and Ferrari (11). Quite happy once he was settled at the Italian squad, he never looked likely to move.

    But it would have been nice to see him try his luck at another of the era's top teams, away from his near-constant support group including Ross Brawn and Jean Todt.

    Williams, currently in a slump but once the sport's dominant force, would have welcomed him with open arms, especially during their partnership with BMW.

    McLaren would have also been keenregardless of who they had to kick out to make room.

    Such a move may, depending on when it had been made, have seen Schumacher link up with design mastermind Adrian Newey.

    Just imagine what those two could have done together...

Robert Kubica and Ferrari

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Though as fans we consider ourselves lucky to live in an era with four stellar talents, we'd do well to remember that it should have been five.

    Robert Kubica had enjoyed moderate success in what should have been the early years of his F1 career. With 12 podiums and a win despite never having truly great cars, the future was bright.

    The future was red.

    When asked in 2013 whether the team had planned on offering a contract to Kubica in 2011, Ferrari's then-team principal Stefano Domenicali said on the team's website: "Yes, we were keeping an eye on him. Unfortunately, I don’t think he will be back, because with his physical problem, he would struggle in certain limited situations which require reactivity. It’s a shame.”

    The physical problem Domenicali refers to is what (barring any major development) ended Kubica's F1 career. In early 2011 the Pole was competing in a minor rally. He crashed heavily on the first stage and suffered massive injuries when a crash barrier penetrated the cockpit.

    The worst of these was a partially severed right arm. Though Kubica recovered enough to drive rallies again, he does not have the necessary range of movement in the arm to operate an F1 car.

    It seems almost certain that a Ferrari drive will never become a reality.

Stirling Moss and Lotus

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    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    Stirling Moss should have been World Champion. Instead, he finished second in the championship four times and third three times.

    As one of Britain's greatest talents, it would have been fitting to see him drive for one of the country's greatest teams: Lotus.

    But though he did drive a Lotus and even won the manufacturer's first race, he never drove for them.

    In those days, privateer teams could purchase and race someone else's car, which is what Rob Walker did. His team fielded a Lotus 18 for Moss in the 1960 and 1961 seasons.

    Moss's racing career effectively ended at the age of 32 due to injuries sustained in a crash in 1962, just as the Lotus Works team embarked on a period of domination. They won five Drivers' and five Constructors' Championships in the next decade.

    Would they have won more with Moss? We'll never know.

Nigel Mansell and McLaren*

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    Ben Radford/Getty Images

    *This one involved a little bit of cheating, because Nigel Mansell did drive for McLaren.

    But those two disastrous races in 1995, when he was past his best and the team were in the doldrums, can be compassionately bumped aside for the purpose of the article.

    Mansell was a self-made F1 driver. He sold his home and many belongings to finance himself through the lower formulae, and he complemented his natural talent with iron resolve and determination to succeed.

    He would have been an excellent fit at the team run by Ron Dennis, another self-made man who appreciates a bit of hard work.

    It should have happened in the 1980s or early 1990s, but both sides had other priorities and the moment passed them by.

    The brief pairing in 1995 was a disappointing reminder of what might have been.

Mika Hakkinen and Ferrari

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    Michael Cooper/Getty Images

    Towards the end of the 1990s, Michael Schumacher was engaged in a battle with perhaps his greatest rival: Mika Hakkinen.

    The Finn was in possession of a McLaren which finally allowed him to capitalise on the potential that was there for anyone to see, while Schumacher's Ferrari gamble was starting to pay off with a string of competitive cars.

    It was a great rivalry, but one carried out with dignity and respect (usually). In 2012, when Bild am Sonntag (h/t PlanetF1.com for the translation) asked Schumacher who his greatest rival was, the German replied: "I had a fewbut the bottom line is there is only one left. There is no one for whom I had so much respect on and off the track as Mika Hakkinen."

    They were without question the two best drivers of their era, and fans at the time often talked about how great it would be to see them in the same car. In the AUTOSPORT forums, they were talking about it six years after Hakkinen retired.

    He would have suited red, don't you think?

     

    This was my own personal dream team in the early years of my F1 obsession. For the record, I think Hakkinen would have got more poles, but Schumacher would have won more races.

Mario Andretti and Penske

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    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    Mario Andretti is arguably the United States' best-ever F1 driver and the last American to win a world championship race.

    Penske are one of only three American constructors to have won a race in F1, but they're more well-known for their success in the US. They have competed in the Indy 500 (15 wins), USAC/IndyCar/CART (163 wins and 11 championships) and NASCAR's Sprint Cup (78 race wins and one championship).

    As American dream teams go, this would have been up there with the best. Andretti's presence might even have spurred the team on to stick around longer and achieve great things.

    But, despite Andretti driving for Penske elsewhere, he never drove for them in F1.

Chris Amon and McLaren

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    McLaren and Amon at Le Mans.
    McLaren and Amon at Le Mans.Associated Press/Associated Press

    McLaren hold a British racing license today but were founded back in 1996 by Kiwi Bruce McLaren.

    He and countryman Chris Amon teamed up to win the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race (in somewhat unusual circumstances), and Amon was due to drive for the new McLaren team in F1.

    Amon is considered the best driver to have never won a race and would have been a formidable weapon for the fledgling McLaren.

    But an engine-supply problem meant the team could only run one car, and he never drove for them.

    McLaren themselves recently published an article on their website calling Amon "the one that got away."

    He certainly was.

Jacques Villeneuve and Ferrari

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    Gilles Villeneuve will forever be remembered as one of the greatest natural talents to ever grace an F1 grid. Had he not tragically lost his life during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix, he would surely have gone on to become a champion.

    He was driving a Ferrari back then, and it was at the Italian team that he made his name and legend. Villeneuve holds a particularly special place in the hearts and minds of the tifosi (fans).

    His son, Jacques Villeneuve, probably wouldn't be offended if we were to say he didn't have the same natural brilliance as his father. He was nevertheless a very good driver and won the 1997 F1 World Championship.

    Villeneuve Jr. did eventually sit in a Ferrarihis father's 1979 312 T4, no lessat a commemorative event at Fiorano in 2012.

    But he never drove one for real.

     

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