Jean Todt, the rather gnome like President of the Automobile World Federation FIA, was a very close companion to Michael Schumacher for many years during their time together at Ferrari.
During the opening of the FIA Hall of Fame, the 71 year old Frenchman reveals his greatest moments with Ferrari and Michael. Despite a chequered history of on track behaviour at times, nobody can deny the statistical achievements that the German driver reached, and are unlikely ever to be surpassed in the foreseeable future. With numerous F1 champions inducted into the Hall of Fame, there was obvious chatter regarding Schumacher and his road to recovery since the Skiing accident and subsequent brain injury back in 2013.
Todt worked in the golden age of Schumacher and Ferrari domination as team manager and confesses to becoming a very good friend of the seven time world champion.
While many Formula One champions have been honoured in the FIA’s new Hall of Fame, Michael Schumacher continues to fight for his recovery at home in Switzerland and Todt claims that moments such as this are particularly painful.
“Whenever I talk to someone, a taxi driver, a receptionist, staff at the airport, or a waiter in the restaurant, and people find out I’m working in Formula One, the following question inevitably comes up – How is Michael Schumacher?”
“We miss Michael. He is fighting. I am happy that his manager Sabine Kehm has come to Paris. I invited Mick Schumacher, but he’s testing in Spain. And Corinna is in the USA. The fight goes on. Michael is a very special person, not just for motorsport. He means a lot to me, he is my friend. ”
When asked about the most emotional moment in their shared past, Todt looks back on Suzuka 2000 when Ferrari, thanks to Michael, celebrated achieving Ferrari’s dream of becoming world champion for the first time since Jody Scheckter in 1979.
“I said Michael on the podium – Michael, our life will never be the same again. That was the most powerful moment of my career, up there on the Suzuka podium.”
“But another moment might show better what kind of person Michael really was. When we prepared for the 2001 season, he came to me rather quite shy. Outwardly an overbearing person to many, but in truth he is a shy person.”
“So he came to me and said, “Can I test in Fiorano? I want to see if I can still do it. ” So we had him do the test, and of course everything was the same. But that shows me: self-doubts have always remained with Michael, even with a driver of such class. “