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Behind the scenes at Ferrari – Alonso imagery takes over
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Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Jun 2011   |  10:50 am GMT  |  91 comments

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.

Alonso’s new five year contract with Ferrari is a massive vote of confidence in the team. He is the new idol and Montana symbolises that very clearly.

A signed set of Alonso overalls greets all diners at Montana

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  1. Dan says:

    No images of Massa? lol

  2. Stevooooo says:


    Is there anything with regard to Massa at Montana or are Ferrari fazing him out there too?

    1. James Allen says:

      He’s not so obvious there

      1. kevtich says:

        He’s not so obvious on the track either.

      2. UnocV says:

        Hamilton nearly drove right through him!

    2. F1 Kitteh says:

      Wow after I zoomed in the 2nd picture, besides the life sized Schumacher there is actually a tiny picture of Barrichello!! Maybe finding Massa is like finding Waldo.

  3. AlexD says:

    A piece of history….I just wonder…what will they achieve together in the coming 5 years. Will they win at least 1 championship? Alonso is there….but there isn’t any “Ross Brawn”, not “Jean Todt”, no “Rory Byrne”, etc
    Can he win alone?

    1. goferet says:

      @AlexD ”They will win at least one?”

      Are you sure about that???

      May I suggest you look through the F1 archives from 1980-2000

      1. Dan says:

        Had a look, 3 constructors titles won in that period.

      2. goferet says:

        @Dan Yeah but nobody cares about the Constructors Championship apart from the chaps back at the factory so those three WCC don’t mean a thing

      3. FaithHealer1 says:

        He does ask “Will they win at least one?” as a question.

      4. Alex says:

        He said ‘Will they’ not ‘they will’ but valid points in general. Ferrari may be the biggest team in F1 but up until the dream team era McLaren were by far the more successful team and have been consistently competitive from the 70′s onwards.

      5. Mislav says:

        Yes. McLaren was very competitive after Ayrton left the team. They were simply unbeataable in ’94 and ’95.

      6. Alex says:

        Oh, unbeatable bar the ferrari’s! Man those things were lightening pre Schumacher days, lord know how it was 21 years between championships for them!!

      7. Mislav says:


  4. Michael Grievson says:

    whats the food like?

    1. James Allen says:

      Really good. Too good actually..

      1. goferet says:

        Is the food like that at Google or does every member of the team have to pay for their meal ahem… No such thing as a free meal.

        Damn James, am so jealous, you all up at the Ferrari headquarters when the likes of me haven’t even seen a Ferrari live. I HATE YOU!!!

      2. Born 1950 says:

        You’d be hard pushed to find poor food anywhere in Italy. Even lorry drivers in their ‘greasy spoons’ eat fresh tomato and mozzarella with newly-baked bread dipped in olive oil for lunch. It’s bloody delicious.

  5. ElChiva says:

    A new messiah is born. Happy days.

  6. goferet says:

    I really don’t know the Tifosi think Alonso can fill Michael (my namesake)’s shoes – Oh Noooooooooooo, some people are about to have major eggs in their face.

    Schumi’s posters should be curved out in stone at Maranello for what he did & the way he dominated the sport, we shall never see again.

    As for the Montana restaurant, how did the name come about? Did Gilles name the place after his birth home or what?

    1. Joe says:

      A lot of non-Ferrari fans have this misconception that somehow Alonso has to
      repeat exactly what Schumacher did. They do not understand that it is not about the number of championships itself, as Gilles proved, or about winning races or championships as expected with the fastest car of the grid. It is all about the mystical experience
      of acomplishing what many consider impossible. Alonso started to become a
      legend among the Tifosi last year. After a difficult first half of the season and
      falling behind in 5th spot, Alonso radioed his team at Silverstone and told them they can win the Championship. Many laughed and ridiculed Alonso for it, but when the checkered flag fell at Korea skeptics became believers and the impossible became a prophecy. This is the kind passion the Tifosi live for. The book on Alonso at Ferrari is still to be written but as long as he continues to make strengths out of weaknesses he will be well respected by Ferrari fans.

      1. goferet says:

        @Joe Good points

        But what I know about the Tifosi, is they love somebody/anybody that brings in the trophies so as long as Alonso doesn’t bring in the silverware, he will be tossed to the rubbish bin like Kimi.

        Gilles was an exception with the Tifosi because of his Senna-esque driving style.

      2. F1Fan4Life says:

        I don’t agree…I lived in Italy for a year and did visit the Ferrari factory also. Italians are very up to date on issues and they love deep conversation, they don’t just assume a driver win’s a championship. To anyone with some knowledge of F1, we all know Schumacher didn’t win the titles on his own. He had the fastest or most reliable car during his winning stretch at Ferrari, and Brawn, Todt, and Byrne. The Tifosi know this…they aren’t casual fans. It’s also obvious to me that had Alonso been given a car that can compete with Red Bull, he’d have won last year and be at least matching vettel this year.

      3. For sure says:

        Nahh I think they only care about winning. If you dont win, you are a loser. Thats not me but thats them..

      4. Alectoris82 says:

        I’m sorry, but you are completely wrong. It doesen’t depend on winning. Look at Jean Alesi, he won just a race in 5 seasons but Tifosi have loved him. Pls check what happend when he got 2nd place in Monza in 1993.

      5. Krishchar says:

        @ Joe

        Excellent post Joe

        Fernando is the best ever in F1 thus far

        I have not seen any driver like alonso in grid for so many years

        He is pure genius and his hands are simply magical

        Schumacher may have good numbers and stats in favour of him, however people fail to remember how much dominant ferrari were in those days and poor/ lack of quality competition has helped schumi to add 7 titles to his name

        Alonso is simply the best, ferrari knows it

        Iam sure alonso will win mutiple titles with ferrari against the mighty Redbulls

        In 2010 he came close to proving it

        2010 Bahrain was just a start of new history (2010 Silverstone is a example of it ). Lot of great feats to be achieved. Fernando you will do it, no doubts whatsoever

        Vettel and ahmilton jibe are simply rubbish

        They are nowwhere near to alonso skill and talent.

        Massa – who is he ? Non-sense and rubbish driver one could ever see in F1

        Having his image in restaurant or factory will be a total disgrace to ferrari itself

  7. Wallbreaker says:

    Grande emozioni. It´s simply amazing to feel the emotions of the brand Ferrari when you just look at the pictures. Schumacher with Rosella, now Fernando… Now I understand what both meant when they said they consider Ferrari as their second family.

    And yeah, it´s funny to see no Massa there. Also no Kimi. Tells you something about how they feel about their drivers, past and present.

    Great article, James!

  8. gaston_pdu says:

    I wonder if the memorabilia all over the place is only for number 1 drivers.. maybe the second drivers has some memories there? like barichello, irvine, montoya, felipe….

    1. Yulinda says:

      i agree. Why do these teams actually have two drivers when in all teams there is clearly a favourite! Maybe if Ferrari hadn’t made so many mistakes in pit lane with Massa and Hamilton hadn’t tried to wipe him off the track, he might have scored more points by now. It is not just the driver that scores the points but the whole team. Go Massa, show them what you are made of!

      1. Rafael L says:

        Massa fan here as well :)

  9. Matt says:

    Nothing on the virgin / w research split?

  10. David says:

    Would you consider writing a book about Alonso in the future, James?

    1. James Allen says:

      Maybe, he’s an interesting character. But not very popular in UK/Anglo speaking countries. The Schumacher books were read by people wanting to find out more, as well as just by his fans. Would need to know that would happen again with Alonso

      1. Galapago555 says:

        As I’ve said before, you should write about what actually happened at McLaren in 2007… Maybe when you decide to retire…

      2. nando says:

        Think we’d all like to see this, although it should be expanded to look at what information Renault and Ferrari allegedly had.

      3. DonSimón says:

        Couldn’t agree more.

      4. David says:

        I wouldn’t say that it’s entirely a matter of nationality that divides opinion on Alonso, but I understand your point regarding viability. Perhaps a few more scandals would tip the balance!

      5. Tealeaf says:

        You said it James, to be honest I think the hatred towards Alonso should end, the brits and english speaking people might hate him and always say the same things like ‘throwing toys out of pram’ but then look at your boy Hamilton, his attitude is far worse and throwing toys out of the pram doesnt do his sulk any justice at all.

      6. Jason C says:

        Let’s see – if he wins any more championships that may change the equation.

        However, it’s strange – I find this lack of popularity odd considering some of his drives and achievements. Is he really that unpopular? Are you basing this on something?

      7. Peter Hermann says:

        Fernando not popular in the UK??? lol…maybe you should look into english forums? There are threads all over the place. [mod] But according to 2007, i would prefer a book about that from the man himself. We’ve heard quite a lot of that from the british side, more than enough actually. Fernando’s point of view- without being gagged by mutual agreements- would be a lot more interesting.

      8. F1Fan4Life says:

        Give him time James. Maybe if Alonso purposely crashes into Hamilton or Button at a title-deciding race, or hurriedly rushes up to DC after getting hit in the rear, the odds of this would go up :)

      9. Antoine says:

        I think if the British media had not done such a hatchet job on Alonso he might be more popular with causual observers of the sport, true F1 fans regardless of nationality respect his talent at least….

      10. For Sure says:

        Interesting view and it begs the question of why Senna is still so popular. I mean these guys were ruthless. Regarding the confrontation with DC, MS had every right to do that because it cost him the title.

        One thing for sure is that they never showed any fist to the team just because their teammate is doing a better job or another driver who was simply doing his job. If a guy like Lewis doesnt want to move over at qualifying, they would confront him and tell him off. Not sure which approach is right but I can see why MS/Senna kinda of drivers more popular.

  11. Stevie P says:

    Which kinda backs up the comments on the other Ferrari thread from yesterday (or the day before) where a lot of us were saying Fernando is top-dog and the Prancing Horse are seriously backing him. Oh so different from his time at Macca!

    I do feel sorry for Massa. Groomed as a successor to Schu, fought bravely alongside the ice-man, missed out on a WDC by the smallest of margins and then usurped as “the favourite son” by Fernando.

  12. snailtrail says:

    James it must be hard for Massa to see Alonso everywhere when he has been in the team for 5 mins compared to Massa.

    Whats the difference? Why is Alonso the favoured one?

    1. Laurence H says:

      There’s a really obvious answer to that question…

      1. Wallbreaker says:

        Because Alonso is faster than him? :D

      2. PaulL says:


    2. Anil says:

      It’s pretty obvious surely?

      Massa was outqualified by Schumacher in 06 in 51/54 quali sessions, with the average time between them at 0.5 seconds.

      he finished miles behind Kimi in 2007.

      In 2008 Ferrari took their car in an understeer direction and Kimi struggled massively on Saturdays and apparently lost motivation. yeah, massa almost won the title but 2008 was easily Lewis’ worst season so far and he didn’t take the title from him :/

      2010 he was abysmal in the first half of the season and by complete luck he ends up ahead of Alonso in germany, despite being a bit slower all weekend. The second half of Massa’s season was awful. 2011 has so far been even worse for him.

      And this is coming from a Massa fan.

  13. Dave Myers says:

    This is a really interesting insight into the culture inside Ferrari. Absolutely fascinating :)

  14. Dave P says:

    The problem with Alonso is the he either will achieve it all for Ferrai… much like schumacher… ot it will all end in tears after a spat… I think its a bit premature of Ferrari to worship like Schumacher before he has even won a title for them.. At least Kimi won a title for them….

    Really I feel it sumarises why Ferrari are were they are right now… Most teams in that position knuckle down, say very little work hard unitl they get there… it seems this is not the way for Ferrai and that may be part of the problem.

    1. GP says:

      So if they knuckle down in the kitchen they will get better results on track?

      Sorry, I couldn’t resist. ;-)

    2. Zac says:

      It’s not all about titles mate!

  15. Mike says:

    Don’t get me wrong fernando is a bloomin great driver but he effectively hasn’t achieved anything yet at Ferrari. So why is he held in such high regard.

    And I wonder if kimi spent much time there haha

    1. James Allen says:

      THere is lots of Kimi imagery in the race bays and in the museum interestingly

      1. Alex says:

        As a massive Kimi fan, that pleases me. Glad he hasn’t been given the cold shoulder.

  16. Nick Hipkin says:


    Did many around Ferrari express how they now feel about Schumacher’s comeback?

  17. Owen says:

    I will be very surprised and impressed, as I’m sure most people will be, if Alonso could ever achieve what Schumacher achieved with Ferrari.

    1. Steve JR says:

      …or indeed any racing driver in any team for that matter

  18. Aldo Costa says:

    Behind the scenes at Ferrari?
    It’s a restaurant :D

    It is fascinating to see how important Alonso has become to Ferrari. It seems as if Ferrari expect him to win many championships, and signing him until 2016 shows just how much confidence they have in his ability.

    James, how many titles do you expect Alonso to achieve with Ferrari?

    1. James Allen says:

      Depends how good a car they build him. He’s been in contention for four of the last six championships. This year looks tough and the opposition is very fierce. He should win at least one, but he’ll be hoping for a couple more I would think

      1. cbvena says:


        I agree totally, first he must have the car. And I think what makes Alonso unigue, among other things is that he has the talent to wring the most out any car he’s in, plus at this point his experience is a plus. That great hole shot in Spain was a wise guy letting the boys beat themselves while he rode away. Also, it’s my impression that Alonso has a work ethic similar to The Schu. For what it’s worth, given the cycle of team dominance, I think Alonso got win at least two more championships with Ferrari.

        Great website, thanks.

  19. RocK says:

    No Kimi? He did won for Ferrari..

  20. Mark R says:

    I was lucky enough to be invited on a guided tour of the factory in 2006 & staying at the Plant hotel right across the road from the famous gates. We went to Montana’s one evening & just by looking at all the different items collected over the years & the people associated with it just shows how important it is to Ferrari. Plus the food was very, very good.

  21. Kam says:

    What about Kimi? He is a WDC for them?

  22. Damian J says:


    How about a report from the new McLaren Production Centre to see the new MP4-12C come to life?

      1. Dan G says:

        James a bit off topic but how easy is it to actually transfer technology from the F1 cars onto a normal road car. Would be good to see how someone like Mclaren do it and also how it then filters down to a normal priced car.

      2. UnocV says:

        Or a walk through about how Red Bull have combined caffine, sugar and Xtreeame! events..

        But inall seriouness…

        @ Williams to go through the new Jaguar

        (Intesting that Jaguar is owned by Tata who have bought NK his HRT seat while Tata through Jaguar does business with another F1 team. Would have thought that Tata would hae found a different electric hybrid engineering business if they were all serious about connetions with F1 and hence the reaosnf or fudning NK a seat).

        @ Mercedes would also be nice… Something on the Saftey car maybe? Does it have TC/ABS, how modified is it? From Road car with logos painted on it to Race Spec racer

        @ Lotus with Caterham

        @ GL with the new Lotus’.. no matter how stupid they are

        @ Virgin with Marussia! Wouldn’t mind that!

  23. CraigB says:

    It’s a bit different to “The Otter” just up the road from the MTC in Woking ;)

  24. Jason says:

    Does Schumacher still maintain a relationship with the restaurant? Is it surprising his presence has been reduced considering how they were a second family to him?

  25. D. says:

    They have the driver. Now they need a car.

  26. Peter says:

    I think that despite not winning a championship for them as of yet, Ferrari have embraced Alonso because he has completely emerged himself into the team. Something that Kimi failed to do?
    Schumacher did the same, and perhaps they loved him because of that commitment more than the championships he brought to them. Though those were good too.
    Glory can be found in victory or defeat.

  27. Werner says:

    This is why i love Ferrari so much ! The people from Maranello do have that passion you do not find elsewhere. When Ferrari loose, they cry; when they win they become mad…
    Ferrari is beauty, passion, emotion, history and know how. An extremely mix you cannot find in other teams. Sometimes it works, somtimes it sucks but it always is interesting.
    I am a fan for more than 3O years and I always was a fan. Also in the bad days when f.ex. Alesi (one of my favourite drivers with Gilles Villeneuve; I remember the beautifull race in France with René Arnoux !) was driving the red car. Even in bad times this team was interesting. I remember Alesi taking pole at Monza (or racing for pole). That was racing !
    There is only one team that comes close to Ferrari and that is Mc Laren.

  28. Pedro Miguel says:

    Hi there James.
    Last year I bought the book Schumacher – The edge of greatness and I actually felt like I was reading something trully amazing for the in-depth of the stories in there. And, actually, as I went seeing the nowaday races from Schumacher I kind of start to understand all of that.
    I actually posted this comment because of the Rosella story here and the ones you relate in the book. It’s kind of amazing to see how that woman see (and saw) the drivers come and go. She must have really good stories about them…
    Cheers James!

  29. irish con says:

    i remember reading or hearing somewhere last year that the alonso is the most popular ferrari driver with the tifosi since gilles v away years ago before i was born. could have something to do with this.

  30. Ricardo Consulini says:

    I am not surprised Alonso is taking over. I am italian and have always loved Shumacher for the victories he brought home. But the guy didn’t even had the decency to learn how to speak our language. Alonso is the complete package. He is fast, committed and speaks italian.
    You’ve got to love him.
    Avanti Fer Avanti !!

    1. For Sure says:

      Every italion I met said exactly the same thing. And I was thinking come on guys he is an f1 driver, his job is to produce results. He could be doing a lot of better things for Ferrari than learning italion for the sake of popularity. Am I the only one who sees this logic?

      Alonso learned it in his early days.

      1. Ricardo Consulini says:

        Pointless to discuss that. Alonso is better than schumacher anyway. And in a growing english speaking world, it’s nice to see people taking their time to learn our language, which is classic and beatiful.

  31. Michael S says:

    Kimi is always passed over…. last time I checked he is the only title for Ferrari in 8 seasons…. he also saved them in ’09 from having a winless season in a car that felt like it rivaled todays HRT.

    I am glad Kimi won at a rare time at Ferrari where there were no favorites… it is clear they are back to the Schumacher type days with Alonso… just don’t see Alonso duplicating those feats

    1. F1Fan4Life says:

      Kimi would not win anything in an HRT let alone finish on the podium. I miss him too but lets not get carried away here…

      1. Michael S says:

        I said “felt like an HRT”

        I know it was not that bad of course….

    2. UnocV says:

      It didn’t rival the HRT. GP2 cars are ok rivals for the HRT. The Ferrari was slow and horrid but not that slow.

      Kimi I think will get similiar treatment as Prost in Ferrari… although Prost nearly won. Kimi did. Both were fired. Both not the most enegmatic guys, both bloody fast, both up against fast ‘latins-ish’ in a McLaren.

    3. Michel Edward says:

      Just so you know, Schumacer can speak Italian.

  32. nando says:

    Did you doa video of the restaurant James, it looks very tacky in the pictures.

  33. TheLegend says:

    ¿How many drivers in Ferrari history or even F1 history had achieved that amount of confidence from the team in his first year? It’s something amazing.

  34. CanadaGP says:

    With all the telemetry available, it would be very interesting to get some insight on data Ferrari have comparing their different drivers. F1 is data driven is an understatement. The 5 year deal for Alonso might also indicate that Ferrari have telemetry data that indicate FA is as good or better than Kimi or even the great MS in his prime. Certainly they were driving different cars for different rules/eras but they do have a baseline for comparison: Massa and test driver Marc Gene.

    Gene have recently said he thinks Alonso is even better than Schumi w/c of course a lot of people immediately discounted bec. Gene is Spanish. He might have access to telemetry data that we don’t.

    Macca’s data in 2007 probably showed that LH in his rookie season was just as good as FA. While these days, Ferrari’s data no doubt shows how much better FA is than Massa these days so the ominous, “Fernando is faster than you.” message to Felipe in last year’s German GP.

    Perhaps, Red Bull also has internal data showing just how much better Vettel is than Webber justifying that their decision to back Seb is more than Maketing driven.

  35. KK says:

    I’m happy to hear what James had revealed about him finding some Kimi imageries as well. Maybe the cold Iceman ain’t cold enough for the Tifosi?

    a fellow Kimi fan

  36. Andrew Simmons says:

    Id LOVE an Alonso book! I often feel like im the only British Alonso fan. I supported him when I was 11, and he was driving a black car (which black cars were my favourite). But as I grew older and fell more and more in love with his driving style, his abilities, his charisma and his overall actions. I’m 21 years of age now, and I support him more than I have ever done.

    out of every driver on track, I cannot remember a more faultless driver. He’s made mistakes, but less than anyone else. He has the perfect amount of controlled aggression. He can be so cool in the cockpit one second, but then he can be a demon the next.

    To me, he will always be better than the likes of Schumacher, Vettel, Hamilton or Button. He didnt need a dominant car of a second per lap like schumacher or vettel. He isnt as prone to accidents or getting penalties (rightfully) Like lewis, and unlike Jenson, he can drive around problems, he doesnt need a perfect set up to get every inch out of the car.

    People slate his 6 tenths comment, but you look at this and last year. Either massa is just downright rubbish, or Alonso genuinely is that half a second faster

  37. John says:

    I was lucky enough to eat at the Montana as the company I worked with had a logistics contract with Ferrari. Being a Ferrari fan I initially asked my hosts to take me to the famous Cavalino Restaurant (where Enzo Ferrari used to agree the deals with the drivers including Nigel Mansell). I was told that this was more of a tourist attraction now and the REAL Ferrari canteen was the Montana. They were spot on as we walked in and then went to queue for the Antipasti there were Ferrari technicians dressed in the usual red uniform on virtually every table. As to Massa not being in evidence in the Montana , in his defence I have to say they his “images” were also conspicious by their absence when he was Michael’s team mate , at the height of Michael’s domination. So , the fact that Alonso’s images are now slowly taking over and Massa’s are nowhere to be seen is no cause for concern or speculation.

    By the way , the food was superb.


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