On my visit to Maranello this week organised by Shell, I was lucky enough to have dinner at Montana restaurant, which is right next to the Fiorano test track and which is like a canteen to Ferrari’s drivers and management.
Montana is a key piece in Ferrari folklore – on the walls are helmets and signed sheets from all the key drivers in Ferrari’s history as well as others like Nelson Piquet. In the era of the Dream Team, it was a key part of the reason for the success as exiles like Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Jean Todt would eat together in there, underlining the principle that the family that eats together stays together.
Gilles Villeneuve loved the place so much he used to have an apartment upstairs.
When Michael Schumacher drove for the team he would eat dinner there every night, often in the private quarters of Rosella and Maurizio who run the place. When I wrote the biography of Schumacher in 2007, I spent two hours with Rosella getting background stories on how Schumacher came to view her like a second mother, especially after his own mother died.
When you walk into Montana today the image of Schumacher and Rosella is still there but on this visit it was very clear to me that imagery of Fernando Alonso is now taking centre stage in the restaurant. There are two large photos of Alonso, one on either side of the room, in an affectionate clinch with Rosella.
And to symbolise the change of idol, above the bar are Schumacher’s helmet and Alonso’s helmet facing each other.