How Scuderia Ferrari is reliving its best days in Formula 1 thanks to Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz

In the hangar, where classic models are refurbished and spruced up, I ask him about his first impression of the complex as a child. He imagined Wi

In the hangar, where classic models are refurbished and spruced up, I ask him about his first impression of the complex as a child. He imagined Willy Wonka magic and industrious Umpalumpas everywhere. Is your adult self disappointed? With a wave of his arms, Leclerc indicates his surroundings: seamstresses sewing old leather seats, a convertible valued at eight million disassembled piece by piece and with a completely new engine. The employees, Wonkas and Umpalumpas all, help turn unlikely ideas into something tangible. “It’s so much more than I ever imagined,” he says.

During my visit to Maranello, Ferrari publicists made it clear that they would not allow questions about possible injuries or death on the track. But now, in the garage, Leclerc brings up the forbidden topic to better explain how much he enjoys being here. His mother sometimes calls him on the phone, scared, says Leclerc. That family friend, Charles’s godfather and the person who first brought him to Maranello, was a young trainee named Jules Bianchi who became an F1 driver but died in an accident in 2014 at the age of 25. .

Arthur, Leclerc’s little brother, is also a pilot. The family has been—and continues to be—exposed to risk. Interest in F1 is usually greatest at the beginning, when collisions are more common. It then goes up and down based on when accidents are reported on social media. Netflix, which treats the pilots like real people with real families, continues to highlight the crashes and shows them in slow motion. Are Ferraris ever funny? For parents, no; for partners, either.

“For my mother it is very hard,” says Leclerc. “I don’t know what to say anymore, beyond the fact that I love what I do. There is nothing I can say to make her feel better. Nor am I going to tell him that I will be careful because it would not be true. I always give the best I have, whatever it takes. She
You know it’s a dangerous sport. It’s a lot safer now than before, but it’s still a risky sport.” Leclerc draws an incongruous smile. I see a faint pirate gleam in one eye. “She knows,” he says, “that when I get in a car, I’m really happy.”

The storm subsides and the sky over Maranello clears in time to show a spectacular sunset. With ciaos and handshakes, Leclerc and Sainz head to the car park. If they have trouble sleeping, they can always relax by imagining completing laps around an F1 circuit and watching their abbreviated surnames, LEC and SAI, go up and down on fictional markers. In the morning they will meet again with the team of management at Bologna airport to board a private jet for the next race.

I will be leaving Italy from the same airport, at the same time, but I get there before anyone else after an invigorating drive. The taxi driver controls the wheel with one hand while he talks on the phone with the other, with that artisan mixture of little brake and high speed that I already consider a defiant local delicacy. The last thing I see in the rearview mirror of the car is the tower of the Maranello church, the priest of Ferrari Land and the bells waiting to ring again. In the airport lobby, there is a Ferrari store with several mannequins in the window. They all wear a bomber jacket from the brand and look in the direction of the slopes. It seems that they too are holding their breath.