Like many cultured Europeans of a certain age, Mario Isola, 48, exudes urbane charm: think grey cashmere sweater and neat coiffure. The man responsible for Pirelli's F1 operations invites us into the sanctuary of the tyre supplier's motorhome and orders an espresso, keen to explain his work not only in Formula 1, but also on the streets of his home city.
He's been with Pirelli for 22 years - his whole working life - which has taken him from designing tyres for road cars to a role in the World Rally Championship. Then, at the beginning of last season, he took over from Paul Hembery and now handles Pirelli's day-to-day trackside operations in F1.
Isola's passion for racing began when he was just 11 years old. He spotted an advert in the back of a magazine for a cheap kart, and badgered his father to buy it for him. He demonstrated a decent turn of speed, so his father upgraded his kart and began to act as his mechanic.