I have always been, and I will always be, 100% daddy’s girl. I am not sure if this is the root cause of me being a total, unapologetic tomboy, but I can’t deny that my undisputed love for my dad had certainly an impact on who I am.
Hands up, no lies, my dad in my eyes was this mystical creature descended from heaven, the saviour and bringer of anything good and amazing, the legendary super powerful dude who-drives-the-car and who-goes-to-work and who-spends-time-in-office and who-owns-a-computer and omg he is such a hero fuck you stupid princes my dad is the real shit. I never quite got why the entire planet Earth didn’t consider itself honoured and blessed to be The Planet were my dad was born – I certainly considered myself being so lucky to be his daughter.
As you can imagine, anything my dad did or said was pure gold out of a fountain of diamonds and rainbows; anything he liked was to be religiously and devotedly liked, and anything he owned or hoped to own were the official Most Precious Things Ever Existed.
Much for my mum’s dismay, it became quite obvious that I had more things in common with my dad than with her.
He loved (and still loves) to travel, he had amazing stories to tell, he took beautiful pictures, he used to have a dark room kit to develop photos from film, he did some pretty cool stuff when he was “young and wild” (and hippie!)… excitement all around. But most importantly, my dad has always been into sports. When he was at home, the TV was constantly showing some sport programme: NBA basketball, wrestling, football, motorbikes, athletics, skiing, you name it.
For the average Italian catholic family, Sundays were the days dedicated to God: you had a shower, you wore your Sunday best clothes (aka: the prettiest dresses to make all other church-goers green with envy), you went to church to attend mass, you spent mass doing some proper fashion police and gossiping about people you saw, you repented from your sins (or pretended to), and if you survived long enough to see the end of it, then you went to the nearest patisserie to buy dessert to take home for the Sunday lunch.
Well… in my house, only my mum was (is) religious. My dad is as atheist as it comes. My mum made sure I did all the sacraments and Catholics bits and bobs, hoping for me to develop some sort of faith. I did, just not for the God she was hoping for. For my dad and I, the Only Religion Worth of Worship was Formula 1. Still is! (yes, and to a much worse lever of hysteria, for the record). Trust me, when people talk about “religious integralists”, they could have easily portrayed my dad and I on a race Sunday. Infidels-hating people? HA! No match for my dad and I’s rage against whoever dared to step in the way of Ferrari and its racing glory. Oh, and we A L W A Y S watched it live (and still do). Even if it meant waking up at 4am and be barely able to keep our eyes open.
The ritual was always the same every single racing Sunday: silence fell at exactly 12:00pm with the first few notes of Grand Prix’s theme tune (an Italian programme about Formula 1 and motorsports in general). The presenter, Mr Andrea De Adamich (a former racing driver), was our Pope. My dad and I stared at the TV without even blinking our eyes. If we were eating, we didn’t chew, or swallow, or anything, to not miss any single breath coming out of the presenter’s mouth. No guests were allowed, unless they loved Formula 1 AND only if they brought luck to Ferrari. I remember I had a friend, during those glorious Schumacher years, who supported Mika Hakkinen and McLaren. For four Sundays in a row, he came over to watch the race at my house, and in each race, Michael Schumacher didn’t even make it to the first corner. I unplugged the landline and went into hiding, or faked sicknesses, or other things to avoid him like the plague on the following Sundays (vengeance tasted so sweet when Michael won in Monza and Hakkinen was found crying somewhere around the track)
Of course, my dad and I spent Sundays praying. Oh yes, we did! We prayed non-stop, deeply, and intensely, we prayed hard and till tears run down our faces… only we prayed whoever the Ferrari drivers were at the time to not let us spend another depressing Sunday afternoon witnessing Ferrari doing the usual shitty race and mourning the driver’s championship that surely, we’ll win – just not this year (again. FFS).
Put it this way, I learned the hard way that prayers don’t work. Period.
Whenever Ferrari won, our household exploded: we got the cakes and the wine out, we’d shout, and jump, and scream, then I’d run to grab my enormous Ferrari flags and I would hang them in every window or terrace of the house. My mum was not allowed to touch our display of Ferrari love up until the following Sunday. YES SIR. Oh, when Michael Schumacher made the Miracle with capital M to win the Constructor’s championship and then, finally, the DRIVER championship. My dad and I cried for a week solid, and then we enjoyed 7 blissful years of:
– turning the tv on to watch the race;
– sit on the sofa (bed in my case, as I had the tv in my bedroom);
– watch the race start;
– ensure Michael was leading the race;
– fall asleep;
– wake up when Michael was on the podium;
– repeat the next race.
On Monday, my dad would buy Austosprint, the most famous motorport magazines, and when he finished reading it, he’d pass it on to me so I could cut Ferrari’s pictures and stick them to my bedroom’s wall. If it was summertime, then he’d also buy “La Gazzetta dello Sport” every day. I am proud to say that those two things helped me perfecting my reading skills at a very young age, because my dad was kind and sweet, yes, but after the fourth time I made him re-read the same old article, he’d tell me “learn to read and read it yourself!”. And rightly so! Oh, that day I read that Ferrari was about to sell Jean Alesi and Gehrard Berger to hire Michael Schumacher… I was FURIOUS! I hated that German prick with a passion. That hate didn’t last long though!
My dad’s and my love for Formula 1 has been often borderline insane; I bet that my mum has secretly wondered more than once whether she should have had us locked up in a mental facility. The stuff we did…. like waking up at an ungodly hour in the morning to queue at Monza and get the best seats to watch the private practice’s sessions, lying to my mum “we are just having a little gathering with some Ferrari fans….” and ending up in Monaco for the Thursday practice session (my mum was not pleased….). There is one lovely episode that I feel like sharing though:
My dad knew I was madly in love with Nigel Mansell. He is still today one of my all-time Ferrari heroes (my son’s second name is Nigel… just sayin’…). One of the Italian petrol companies came up with a Formula 1 sticker album, with all the drivers and cars: every
10 Mila Lire of fuel (no Euros when I was a little girl!) you got a bag of sticker, so the more you filled your car, the more stickers you got. The thing was though that fuel of that brand was more expensive, and my dad didn’t really want to spend more for some stickers, since my bedroom was plastered with Ferrari stuff top to bottom anyway. I begged, I begged, and I begged some more, till he gave in and said, “ok but JUST THIS TIME”. He filled the car, got the stickers, gave them to me.
We both held our breaths whilst I opened the first little bag.
And I saw it.
One shot, one kill, here it was, Nigel’s sticker in my hand.
We had a moment of silence.
My hands were shaking.
My dad and I screamed the car down of happiness (I bet he was also very happy that he didn’t have to put up with a very disappointed daughter and, potentially, more fuel purchases to find that fucking sticker!).
The price to pay for loving an extreme sport is that, unfortunately, sooner or later, you’ll learn that those daredevils you hail as heroes are just as mortal as you are. My dad used to tell me all about those legendary accidents that he witnessed over the years of his Formula 1 love, such as when Niki Lauda almost got burned alive in 1976, or when Wolfgang von Trips collided with Jim Clarke’s car and his car went flying, killing him and 15 spectators at the Italian Grand Prix in 1961. I remember how emotional it was for both of us, walking around Monza’s circuit, and stand in the sport where it happened. Yes, if you are wondering, my dad also talked an awful lot about his personal legend: Gilles Villeneuve.
When you are a kid, and you hear all these stories, you don’t really get that these are real things. Most importantly, you don’t think that, one day, you’d be the one witnessing it happening in front of your eyes.
My rose-tinted, legendary portrait of the Formula 1 world ended dramatically on the 1st of May 1994, when Ayrton Senna died at the San Marino Grand Prix. Even though 24 years have passed since that fatal day, I still had to pause for a moment before keeping writing about it.
That race was just… NO. That weekend was doomed from the start. Rubens Barrichello almost died on the Friday practice session. On the Saturday, Roland Ratzenberger was killed by crashing his car at 310kmh on a wall. It was not looking good. But, life goes on, and to quote Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, “After all, tomorrow is another day”. I can still see it happening in front of my eyes as we speak. It felt so surreal. I didn’t want to believe it. Nobody wanted to believe it. My dad was shocked and he wanted to just shut the television for good. He knew. I didn’t. I held on to all the hope I could with all my heart; I prayed, yes, for the first time I summoned any god or anything above to do something and… please don’t take him, please don’t. I spent my day glued at the TV in search for news, any news. In the evening, Ayrton was declared dead. I cried like a baby in my dad’s arms. My dad just kept hugging me in silence. Ayrton was gone and with him, the fairy tale died as well.
Ok, before I burst into tears, let’s bring the mood of this post to a fun one, shall we?
As I said, my passion for Formula 1 is still alive and strong. Even though we don’t have our Sunday ritual anymore, my dad and I are still as crazy as ever. Even though he is in Italy and I’m in the UK, we make it work but furiously texting each other constantly during qualifying session and, most importantly, during the race. We don’t have filters, and most our conversation is made by an endless list of swearing words, curses thrown at random drivers, F-bombs (or, V words, as we go VAFFANCULO in Italy) and so on. Yeah, we would make sailors blush.
However, I missed sharing this crazy passion of mine on a daily basis with someone, and guess who is now at the receiving end of my Formula 1 love? My dear colleague Shary!
I know you are reading this my friend, and I want to use this space to personally thank you for being an awesome friend and Ferrari fan. You are da best in da world!
Shary and I are on a constant stream of Formula 1 talks and updates. We live and breathe BBC Sport Formula 1 Gossip. On a Monday, depending on how the race went, we don’t even have to talk: we just look at each other and we instantly know what the other one is thinking… and then we start debating like two Formula 1 pundits, much for the “pleasure” of the other colleagues surrounding us!
Over the last 2 years I’ve worked hard to get the rest of my office not only into the racing spirit, but also into supporting Ferrari, and to do so, I have used the most powerful resource after “money bribery”: FOOD. Everyone knows that, if Ferrari
wins, I will bake a cake and bring it over to celebrate. They may not watch the race and be truly Ferrari fanatics like Shary and I, but they WILL check the race results and they will text me “so…. How about Lemon Drizzle?” “is it going to be Red Velvet tomorrow?” “can we have cake even though Vettel arrived second?”
I’m telling you, should Sebastian Vettel win the Driver’s championship, I’ll bake a cake so big I’ll need to come to the office in a truck to carry it!!!!!