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One Flag

As the new racing season gets underway, the spotlight falls upon the drivers. Yet exclusive access to key people in Scuderia and Endurance reveals the culture of teamwork that has made Ferrari the world’s most successful name in motorsport
Words: Daniele Bresciani / Photographs: Maki Galimberti
In a sport where the machine is undoubtedly very important, the human factor still counts. Today’s drivers racing in the current Formula One and WEC championships are well aware of this, as are those who work with them throughout the season and who were also involved in their selection.

Scuderia Team Principal Fred Vasseur – centre – shares a joke with Formula One drivers Charles Leclerc, left, and Carlos Sainz

“Drivers don’t have to be best friends, but they must be able to work well together,” says Fred Vasseur, Scuderia Team Principal. “Then there are some qualities that are hard to spot until they are put to the test. It’s hard to say how a driver will react to a difficult situation. However, if I have to single out one common characteristic of Formula One drivers, I’d say it’s the ability to put everyone under pressure, including themselves, with their obsessive attention to detail.”

With its new look and state-of-the-art engineering, Ferrari’s latest SF-24 F1 car is designed to win races. But the human element behind every racing endeavour is equally important

Antonello Coletta, Global Head of Endurance and Corse Clienti, has also had to pay close attention to the details. This was especially true last year, when Ferrari returned to the prototype class in WEC, and he had to choose not just two drivers, but two full crews for the pair of 499P hypercars. “That involved taking several elements into account: each driver’s style of driving, their physical compatibility, their character, and their approach to racing. And then, once the two crews were put together, it was essential they got on well with each other. Because, whilst healthy rivalry managed from the pits is a good thing, it must never be forgotten that we all rally behind the one Ferrari flag.”

From left: Lilou Wadoux, Davide Rigon, Alessio Rovera, Daniel Serra, Olivier Beretta, Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella and Andrea Bertolini

Of course it’s not just team principals who manage drivers, the engineers also play a vital role. “Endurance presents a challenge that is in some ways multi-faceted,” says Giuliano Salvi, Endurance Race Cars Track Operation Manager. “Whilst motor racing is by its very nature an individual sport, endurance demands they work together as a team. And, whilst Formula One drivers can be likened to sprinters in athletics, then endurance racers are like marathon runners. They also have to be able to adapt to continually changing conditions. In a race that can last from six to 24 hours, tyres degrade, track conditions change and the driver has to contend with everything from bright sunshine to pitch darkness with no artificial light at night. It’s really like having many races rolled into one and the driver has to adapt in order to be at their best in all these conditions, which can mean not driving flat out for every lap.”

From left: Robert Shwartzman and Yifei Ye will drive the AF Corse 499P; Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen will pilot the number 50 Ferrari 499P, while Antonio Giovinazzi, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado will share driving duties in the number 51 499P

Therefore ‘management’ is the watchword, during, but also prior to, a race. “The car, driver, and team must be considered as one,” says Matteo Togninalli, Head of Track Engineering for the Scuderia. “The driver helps us understand the behaviour of the car and of the tyres, focussing on the main limitations so as to optimise the package delivered by the development group. Each driver is different, so we have to stitch the car around him like a suit, using set-up, car control strategies, as well as the tyres. The driver adapts to the car and the car is adapted to the driver. You have to find the best package, using the tools available while conforming to the regulations.”

The number 50 Ferrari 499P hypercar (above) and its number 51 sibling each require a carefully selected crew who will work together seamlessly and rally behind the one Ferrari flag

In short, intuition, courage, instinct, and man-management are vital factors. At Ferrari, the drivers can count on constant support from their dedicated teams. They are not left to their own devices as though they were lone round-the-world yachtsmen. That’s another discipline entirely. But one that Ferrari will soon be involved in...

Cover image, from left: Scuderia drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz join Ferrari’s Endurance campaigners James Calado, Nicklas Nielsen and Miguel Molina