Britta Roeske, Sebastian’s PR Manager, welcomed me, filled me in on the rules and showed me around, all the way into what felt like the sport’s tightly guarded Sistine Chapel: Ferrari’s garage next to the race track. There was an army of technicians monitoring incoming data on computer screens and mechanics getting ready for the returning car. The intense mood radiated 50% hyper-professionalism and 50% pride and religious devotion to the spirit of Ferrari. Sebastian meanwhile was out on the track, doing laps — the final chance to do tweaks to the car before the start of the season.
In the afternoon I talked to Sebastian about the tension of a performance that is defined by testing the limits of a collaboration between a high end machine and a human being. The teams have armies of great engineers working within the confines of tight rules that limit the design of the engine and the car. The edge that superior technology provides you can be significant— and still tiny. Eventually I asked him about the deciding factor, that makes the difference between winning and losing: Driving skills? The biggest tolerance for (or ignorance of) risk?