Mauro Forghieri – Chapter 4

Drivers and Victory

From Forghieri’s tale we can see through the lines of a life which wasn’t only “lived in the field” and scanned by adventures and unforeseen events, but also an “internal” point of view, which enables you to re-read the figure of the auto engineer from a new perspective, where there is very little which is “grounded”. The engineer is especially this: a creative talent. A dreamer used to get his hands dirty. In the light of this, I’m not surprised that one of the great gentlemen from Formula 1 works in areas which have very little to do with engines: drawing furniture, jewellery and by personally refurbishing Villa Clementina. Proud and paternally, Forghieri tells me about his son, Alessandro, who is an engineer like him but is also a musician. “For him” he says “being an engineer was mainly a way to be able to enjoy music in peace and I understand him.”
Seen through the years of this man who’s still Fury, which used to be his nickname at Ferrari, but a kind “fury”, who’s sensitive to beauty, the world of cars and engines emerges like a universe weaved with different factors. They’re both rational and irrational at the same time. Which is the reason why, when I ask him to what extent does luck matter in the racing world, Forghieri has no doubts.
– Yes, luck helps. Somewhat. But it’s difficult to say what it is. Lucky is a mix of things, situations and timings, therefore – nearly by miracle – you find yourself at the right place in the right moment. I don’t know whether it’s right to call this concomitance of factors luck though. Maybe, it would be best to talk about chance. Statistics say that, in the law of large numbers, there is an area where it’s most likely for a specific phenomenon to occur… however, these are statistics. They’re numbers.


Things work differently in life. For example, when I was young, I used to go with a friend of mine to see the biennial exhibition in Venice. One day, we went for a swim near the Grand Hotel and we lay on the beach. At a certain point, my friend shook my arm. “Look!”, Bridgitte Bardot was lying down there, just fifty metres away from us. At the time, she used to go out with Sacha Distel, famous French guitarist and artist, and I remember that my friend told me that, according to the law of great numbers, he could have been the lucky one who had her as a girlfriend. Years later, one day, when I was in America, I saw my friend again and I reminded him of that afternoon and our conversation about Brigitte Bardot and the law of great numbers. “So, how did it go?” I asked him. And he replied: “Shut up, if you saw my wife you will be shocked!” So in his case, the law of great numbers hadn’t worked.


– Luck aside, what matters the most in a racing car driver?
– It’s very difficult to say, I can only tell you my opinion. In my opinion, the most important thing is the sensitivity that the driver reveals when he brings the car “to the limit”. You need to think that bringing the car to the limit isn’t easy, especially because, as soon as you go a little further, you risk to end up off the road. At that precise moment, the driver needs to have the sensitivity to focus on the car’s response and tell you what are the defects. For example: “The car’s behind took off, but half-way through the swerve, regardless of what I was doing, it changed its behaviour completely.” Something like this is very important: it means that the car has problems, therefore it decides what to do. The driver needs to be able to “separate” things and tell you: “I wasn’t braking, I held the wheel like this… the left rear wheel is the first that took off because at a certain point I felt that it started to spin off…” If someone is driving at the limit of the curves and can give you information like this, they’re not simply a good driver: they’re a prodigy… And they are few prodigies around. Today, we have apparently infallible equipment, but I don’t think that a machine will ever be able to tell you what the driver is able to tell you.
– I was just about to ask you one last question: what is worth more, the driver or the car?


old but still nice


– The answer is quite simple. You will smile, everybody will smile, but I’m convinced about what I’m saying. The answer is: the driver… if the car is good, that was thanks to the driver. We engineers design the car, but who tells us what the car’s defects are? You need a driver who is capable to take it to the limit of what we made and who may tell us with clear words, without distractions nor thinking about something else, what are the positives and the negatives. When you see a good driver who wins, that’s because he was able “to make the car grow”… For example, I’ll tell you one thing – and maybe many people will dislike me for this! – Schumacher won a number of races which will hardly be beaten. He raced and he was able to seize all of those victories. He’s great! But if I need to judge Schumacher, rather than as a driver strictly speaking (probably Senna or Piqué would have won as he did) I would judge him from a different point of view. Schumacher had something outstanding: he was a super professional! He was the one who was able to inspire the method of work that the Ferrari team acquired. Spending time with the mechanics, with method and patience, Schumacher was able to create a technical atmosphere that others could not. I always admired him especially because of that and I’m certain that even a less talented driver who had his same professionalism, would have been able to win an extraordinary number of races.


Formula 1


Mauro Forghieri gets up. The interview is finished. He walks me to the door, walking through the large rooms in Villa Clementina. He talks about the woodpeckers, who ruined the parks, of the jewellery and furniture that he designed. His creative energy cannot be tamed, despite the years, despite the cliché describing engineers as “grounded people”. Under the ashes of experience and of a life drunk all in one go, he still harbours the spark which made him a myth. Fire may be tamed, but not extinguished. Especially when your fighting name is Fury.


By International Classic, written by Martina Fragale


Read also:
Mauro Forghieri – Chapter 1
Mauro Forghieri – Chapter 2
Mauro Forghieri – Chapter 3

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