Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz return to the top of F1


You feel bad for Sainz, though. Ferrari is the top of the tree for F1 drivers. Probably, Leclerc will only leave here if he fails and is shown the door. For Sainz to have hopes of winning the title with Ferrari, he must by default have quieter hopes than his pal fairs. Sainz says that if he finds himself feeling sorry for himself for whatever reason – “If on any given day I feel tired, or sad, or maybe something is wrong with me, if I’m bad mood and that I don’t know why” – it’s his habit of finding a peaceful place in the Maranello compound and repeating a mantra. “Shit, that’s fine. “I’m a Ferrari driver. I’m in Maranello. I’m going to drive a simulator today. I’m going to test the car. And soon I’m going to race.

The race, Leclerc agrees, offers the ultimate reset. He was a teenager in the Formula 1 feeder series when his beloved father, Hervé, died. Leclerc entered the next scheduled race, a few days after his mourning, and won it. You feel these drivers will suffer losses, disappointments and indignities Monday through Thursday, as long as they manage to beat the 200 mph blues on the weekends. For Sainz, minor insults are everywhere if he bothers to look. Returning a stack of immaculate baseball caps to the garage, he scribbled his signature on the other side of each visor, automatically making room for Leclerc’s name to appear before his own. Although they are virtually the same height, a cut-out tableau of the two drivers in the center of Maranello romantically imagines Leclerc a taller head.

by Netflix Drive to survive, a series that works hard to legitimize the experiences of competitors constrained outside the elite group like Sainz, has had a big impact on F1, expanding the sport with new fans, changing the way fans relate to drivers at all levels. Leclerc has only really experienced a heightened Netflix era in his sport, which began in 2018. But Sainz competed just long enough to notice the change in weather. “More people recognize you on the street,” he tells me, “more sponsors, more events, more photos.” A driver’s life, he means, has become a little less about driving. He makes progress in baseball caps that need to be signed and concludes, “No more autographs, no more chance of distraction.”

Sainz stands up when he’s finished, carefully pinching the belt loop of his jeans, pulling the belt higher. It’s noisy in the hangar. Mechanics test a car that emits a sound similar to the sustained, quivering guitar chord that opens a rock concert. An older Ferrari has been lifted, with neat bits of leather luggage still strapped to its roof rack, an incongruity that has the closest mechanics screaming, “Sta andando in ferie!(It’s going on vacation!) The guitar chord ends. Perhaps Sainz took the time to remember this mantra, his counter to all self-pity. Shit, anyway! I am here, in Maranello!

Shirt, £1,082, Giorgio Armani. Gloves, his.

Knitted T-shirt, £380, Ferrari. Helmet, his.

There is a vast Two-story Ferrari museum on-site, its rooms filled with immaculate cars, trophies and memorabilia. The museum’s director, a dapper man named Michele Pignatti Morano, has previously told Leclerc, Sainz and their colleagues: “If you win us another championship, I’ll knock down walls for you.” Leading me on a tour, Pignatti Morano explains a Ferrari ritual: that certain championship-winning cars are brought into this museum and parked forever on the carpeted banks of a room they call Victory Hall. Melodramatic music plays here. Hardcore fans are known to waver and cry. Pignatti Morano hails a wall that could be torn down if they needed space for Leclerc or Sainz’s car. “I told them, ‘Don’t use me as an excuse,'” Pignatti Morano said.


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