Former Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug has revealed that "secret negotiations" took place in 1998 between McLaren, Mercedes and Michael Schumacher to pair the great German with Mika Hakkinen the following season.
At the time, a Schumacher-Hakkinen tandem at McLaren would have appeared as a recipe for disaster given the fierce rivalry that existed between the Ferrari charger and the flying Finn.
But Haug, who knew Schumacher well from his formative years in the sport when he drove for Mercedes, said the spectacular deal between McLaren, Mercedes and the future seven-time world champion could have happened.
"I knew Michael from when he was a Formula 3 driver when I was a journalist, and he came to Mercedes before I was there – he was already there as a junior," Haug said on Formula 1’s latest Beyond the Grid podcast.
"We were fierce competitors, but at the race track and in the paddock, we always had a good relationship.
"I joked that we needed to do it [race] together some time. There were some secret negotiations in 1998 but it never came together.
"In theory it could have happened, but it didn’t come together – it is what it is. It wasn’t something that was completely impossible because we [McLaren] were really good in ’98 with the new formula, Adrian Newey car, so it was attractive for any driver.
"Michael could have won a championship earlier on, he could have won in ’99 without his accident, we could have won 2000 without a car failure.
"It was a great period of time and it was a very intense fight, best described with the 2000 race in Spa, with the two guys [battling]."
While the talks never came to fruition, Schumacher did eventually end up driving for Mercedes when he returned to F1 after a three-year absence in 2010.
Haug admitted to having fond memories of the German outfit's collaboration with the F1 legend.
"He is a great manager as well," Haug added. "He is a really, really special guy.
"Having fun as well, working hard, looking after other people, knowing the names of the mechanics and mechanics’ kids and so on – you know all these stories. It’s just the truth.
"I rate him very highly – great memories."