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Michael Schumacher was “loved” by former Ferrari owner Gianni Agnelli, according to his grandson Lapo Elkann. He admitted much of his interest in Schumacher was due to the German’s success after winning five world titles at the Scuderia.
Agnelli was also a big supporter of Ferrari legend Gilles Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna, who was apparently set to join the Prancing Horse before his death in 1994. Elkann told Oggi magazine: “His favourite driver was the one who won.
“I think that’s why he loved Michael Schumacher. Then he liked Gilles Villeneuve, his way of driving.
“And Ayrton Senna, who, had he not died so tragically, would have come to Ferrari the following year. He loved talent and courage and also recognised them in his opponents. He was a true sportsman.”
Schumacher turned around Ferrari’s fortunes in the noughties after years away from the limelight. The German secured the team’s first Drivers’ Championship title in 2000 just four years after joining the team.
The win was the Italian manufacturer’s first driver’s crown since Jody Sheckter’s success back in 1979. He then went on to win five back-to-back crowns before walking away from the team in 2006.
Upon Agnelli’s death in 2003, Schumacher issued a touching message to the Fiat boss. He explained: “I’m very proud to have known Gianni Agnelli as close as I have, I almost worked together with him and got his support.”
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Fiat boss Agnelli is credited for saving Ferrari from its financial turmoil in the 1960s. Ferrari almost signed a deal with American manufacturer Ford but ultimately opted for a deal with Fiat.
Agnelli purchased a 50 per cent stake in the Italian marque in 1969 to merge the two businesses. Fiat would have a say in Ferrari’s road car brand but promised not to touch the racing team.
However, Agnelli’s share in the company increased to 90 per cent upon Enzo Ferrari’s death in 1988. Elkann added: “He saved the Prancing Horse, preventing it from being sold to the Americans.
“Then he chose the right people: [former Ferrari chairman] Luca di Montezemolo and Jean Todt. He loved Ferrari cars and he loved all the beautiful things in life. It’s not enough to be rich to appreciate beauty. Taste cannot be bought.”
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