Dhe memory of Italian tifosi, to find such an imperial Scuderia Ferrari from the start of the season, you have to go back a long way in the memories. Almost twenty years back! even the most fervent supporters will remember: in 2004, when Michael Schumacher crushed the competition, closely followed by a Rubens Barrichello of the great days. Today, it is the turn of Charles Leclerc, 24, to bring the Italian prancing horse back to the top of Formula 1, winning in Australia on April 10 his second victory of the year, over three contested Grand Prix. And here comes the Grand Prix of Imola, in Italy.
If in the Ferrari paddocks in Melbourne the joy was total, on the side of Maranello, 16,000 kilometers away, the atmosphere was not the least. From the team (whose factory is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year), in the heart of the Motor Valley of Emilia-Romagna, the victory of the Monegasque was greeted with a great deal of horns and the sound of church bells. of the tifosi priest don Marco Bonfatti. “Thank you Ferrari”, exults the mayor of the city, after the success of this local flagship, provider of a vital tourist windfall. Above the entrance to the glass offices of the “Sports Management”, employees of the Italian manufacturer hastened to hoist a second banner of the Cavallino Rampante to celebrate this new podium.
A great start for this 2022 season which, race after race, rekindles the somewhat dormant flame among many enthusiasts of the Italian brand. “After years of fasting, our dear Ferrari is finally starting to make us dream again! enthused Benedetto Catalani, president of the small but fervent Scuderia Ferrari Club in Norma, a rural town in Lazio. It just took a little patience: “The history of Formula 1 teaches us that every team has moments of glory and dark moments. “But a true Italian tifosi, him, “will never doubt the mythical Ferrari”, assures Benedetto Catalani.
However, in recent years, the repeated underperformance of La Rossa could have tired more than one. Fifteen years that supporters have been waiting for a title since Raikkonen’s coronation in 2007 (and 2008 for the manufacturer’s title). In vain. Ferrari is lagging behind, relegated to the roles of figuration, in the shadow of McLaren and Red Bull. In 2019, the team and the engine of its single-seater end up in the sights of the FIA, then will come 2020, the annus horribilis for the brand relegated to sixth place in the constructors’ ranking: its worst result for 40 years. “We all suffered for the Ferrari”, recalled Angelo Sticchi Damiani, president of the Automobile Club of Italy, recently at a press conference. And to recall the storm of criticism that fell on the team manager, Mattia Binotto, a time “considered as the ruin” of the brand.
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The management of the group, it will renew its confidence in the Italian-Swiss technician. And behind the scenes, in Maranello, engineers and technicians are working hard for two years to restore the image of the prancing horse. From the Emilia-Romagna factories in February 2022, an F1-75 cut to win will be released, driven by a team which, better than any other of its rivals, will know how to adapt to the new rules (from the return of the “effect ground” to the switch to 18-inch tyres) which came to upset the hierarchy of F1. The latest Italian single-seater is “a beast”, says Charles Leclerc. From the first test laps in Bahrain, Giorgio Terruzzi, a connoisseur of F1 from belpaeseprovides a glimpse of “a human and technical story that contains and releases a pride finally in line with the Ferrari tradition “. A “desire to put an end to humiliations, adds the pen of the Corriereto revive a stunted dream”.
Red fever in Imola
Now at Ferrari, all eyes are on Imola, the “home” stage of the World Championship, less than 70 kilometers from the offices in Maranello. Galvanized by the Italian team’s latest victories, fans will not miss the call: in addition to TV audiences announced as records, 120,000 tickets have been sold for this F1 weekend (Friday start of qualifying, an unprecedented sprint on Saturday and the race on Sunday) around the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit. A real “red fever”, announces the national press. Something to celebrate with great fanfare the return of the public to the banks of the Santerno after sixteen years of absence, between deprogramming of the world calendar and the Covid pandemic.
Whatever happens during the race, Charles Leclerc knows that he will leave Emilia-Romagna always at the top of the classification. But on the side of Ferrari, accustomed to setbacks in recent years, we want to remain particularly cautious and prevent any excess of confidence. “The championship is still long,” said team boss Mattia Binotto. The nerves of the tifosi of the Scuderia have therefore not finished being put to the test until November 20, the date of the last Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. In the Emirates, we dream of a masterful double in the driver and constructor rankings to put the made in Maranello brand back on top of the F1 world. Enough to at least make transalpine sport lovers forget that, the next day, at the Qatari neighbor, we will kick off the Football World Cup … without Italy.