Upon closer examination it turned out his mount dated back to 1951, and was, in fact, the very car driven by the Argentine Froilan Gonzalez, who scored Ferrari’s first-ever world championship grand prix victory that very year at this very circuit.
Now owned by F1 tsar Bernie Ecclestone, the car was wheeled out in Silverstone to celebrate that special occasion 60 years ago. Only one team can celebrate over 60 years of F1 participation – namely PUMA’s partner team, Ferrari – and thus it was fitting that a little over three hours later Fernando was able to present the Scuderia with double cause for victory by scoring the team’s first win of 2011.
While the victory was most certainly a massive relief for all those hardworking red-clad team members, it was not totally unexpected, for the team’s trajectory after correcting a few wind tunnel correlation issues has most certainly been upwards.
In fact, the 2005/6 world champion finished a split-second behind the winner in Monaco, and would arguably have won in Canada had he not been unceremoniously punted off the track by eventual Montreal winner Jenson Button while ahead of the McLaren driver.
A fortnight ago the Andalucían-born superstar placed second in the European Grand Prix in Valencia, so only one thing remained: win. And, win he did in Silverstone, finishing over 20 seconds up on reigning champion and current points’ leader Sebastian Vettel in his previously dominant Red Bull.
‘Sixty years since Ferrari’s first win, same car, same circuit and the same passion shown by all the people working for this fantastic team. In some cases it’s the sons and daughters of the people who worked (on Gonzalez’s car) then,’ said an obviously emotional Fernando after his win, the 27th in a stellar career.
The omens had been good during qualifying after he and Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa claimed third and fourth on the grid respectively, proving they had the speed to run at the sharp end.
However, Formula 1 is not simply about speed, but encompasses cunning strategies and tactics, outstanding reliability, supreme skill, impeccably choreographed pit stops and superb teamwork – particularly given the mixed conditions experienced on Sunday, when drivers were forced to take the start on intermediate tyres after a brief shower hit the track shortly before the start.
Although Fernando took a lead he was not to lose at the halfway point after Vettel hit a problem with a jammed rear wheel during a pit stop, the 24-year-old German admitted after the race that Ferrari/Alonso had unquestionably been the better combination on the day.
However, Ferrari accepts that a first swallow does not make the spring, and after the race Ferrari Sporting Director Stefano Domenicalli was adamant the Scuderia would not be resting on its laurels.
Following Fernando’s second place in the last grand prix, the Italian stated Ferrari had solved its calibration issues and clawed back approximately 80% of the performance lost due to a wind tunnel which had not, in Fernando’s words, ‘been telling the truth’. Thus, encouragingly, there is even more speed to come.
In the meantime all of us here at PUMA congratulate Ferrari and Fernando on their first win since the Korean Grand Prix – 11 long races ago!
Youtube link to Fernando driving the 1951 Ferrari: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-0XbEqtwEc