Fernando Alonso stood in the crisp white snow, scarlet overalls contrasting with the gleaming whitewashed wall against which he leant, chatting to his manager Luis Garcia as the world's press filled the adjacent conference room. It gave the appearance somehow of someone still an outsider, not yet part of the fabric of this team.
Behind Alonso was the building where, one floor up, 'The Old Man' had his office. Had Fernando seen Enzo Ferrari's old room? "Yes," he smiled. "A little spooky." The office is just as it was in 1988, when the team's legendary founder died. In the years that followed, while that room has remained frozen in time, everything around it changed.
First came directionless flailing in the wake of Enzo's passing, then a brief-and-brittle period of success based around the dictates of technical director John Barnard, followed by a long, fallow wilderness. Then along came Todt, Schumacher, Brawn and Byrne to rewrite the history books.
Now they've all gone, and it's hard not to feel the team that's left is still a little in awe of the legacy it's inherited - not the one of Enzo Ferrari (that's way too distant past), but the one that dominated most of the 2000s. It won't have escaped Alonso's attention that he was standing opposite 'Via Michael Schumacher'.
Schumacher's sustained success for the Scuderia was way beyond anything achieved there in Enzo's time. It was accomplished in a way that would have been utterly alien to the Old Man, with a dominant driver ruling the roost, allowed to direct things, way more than just an employee. Enzo Ferrari was incapable of allowing that; he was the autocratic boss, revelling in being surrounded by people eager to be blessed by his attention. Drivers were there to fight each other, to spur each other onto ever-greater feats for the glory of the Scuderia.
We saw a glimpse of the future in the mid-1970s, when a thrusting new guy, Luca di Montezemolo, was brought in by parent company FIAT, concerned that the Old Man might be losing his way. The dynamic young Luca deferred to the boss publicly, but in reality ran the F1 team in 1974-75 in what was then a very un-Ferrari way.
Recognising the outstanding qualities of the team's young signing Niki Lauda, he ran the team around him. Clay Regazzoni - from the old school of Ferrari drivers - was there effectively as Lauda's support. It won the team the world championship in '75 after a barren spell of 11 years. Then di Montezemolo moved on, too ambitious to be detained anywhere very long. Not long after, Lauda followed in his wake. With the Old Man back in charge, Ferrari became once again a place of rivalries and conflicts.
So as the wheel of time turns, it's ironic that it's a rather older di Montezemolo who has overseen the transformation of the team from its Schumacher era to something that appears much more Enzo-like. Luca was instrumental in forcing Michael's hand to retire in 2006. In the wake of that, Ferrari became a proper two-car team, with competing team-mates. But they missed Michael, maybe not emotionally - he was still there on the pitwall half the time anyway - but in the fine pitch at which the team used to operate but no longer quite did. So they've now brought in Alonso, and how he approaches this job will likely determine what sort of team Ferrari becomes in the next era.
In between emphasising how this team is now properly Italian after years of being a United Nations of F1 talent, di Montezemolo publicly says that Alonso understands "he is driving for the Scuderia, not himself". Yet Alonso has been chosen for the very qualities of leadership the team felt it lacked in the wake of Schumacher's retirement. Something has to give.
Alonso's situation seems a little nebulous: he isn't being invited to be the leader, but there's an expectation that he will be. Fernando's a complex character. In order to get the best from him, the team needs to invite him in from the cold.
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