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COLUMN - PUBLISHED ON JANUARY 13TH 2009
Jonathan Noble Jonathan Noble: Online
Jonathan Noble looks back at the Ferrari launch which, despite the usual restrictions and problems, is still a very special event

  By Jonathan Noble
 
 

He had pulled his red Ferrari woolly hat down as far over his face as possible, and his new shiny jacket was zipped up past his chin. Yet despite displaying the minimal number of features, that clear pale complexion and intense blue eyes could not hide the fact that here was Kimi Raikkonen. And he was stuck in the same boat as the rest of us.

Love them or loathe them, Formula One launches are always a step into the unknown. For teams it is the chance to show off their new wares; speak of new signings, fresh beginnings and that same desire to win.

Gilles Simon, Marc Gene, Felipe Massa, Stefano Domenicali, Kimi Raikkonen, Luca Badoer, Nikolas Tombazis, Aldo Costa
For the media, it is the same old drama: what will the access be like to team personnel? How much time will we get with the drivers? When will we get to see the car? And will the damn Internet work?

Mugello on Monday was no exception. Ice and snow at Fiorano had forced the Scuderia to up sticks to Mugello to unveil the new F60. And there we were, the early birds who had got there for when the press office opened, to find that the Internet had briefly tripped up.

And amid all the frantic arm waving from the track staff trying to sort the problem out, there was the hat-down, zipped-up Raikkonen. Sat impassively at one of the media desks, fiddling with his network cable, playing with his Internet settings and lost in a world of his own oblivious to all around him. It was so Kimi.

F1 launches can often be pretty terrible affairs for journalists. The days of champagne breakfasts, more champagne at lunches, glamorous backdrops and bags of freebies have long gone. Nowadays they are strictly business affairs, with the added complication of rarely getting enough access to the people you really want to speak to.

Afterwards, it is all too easy to slate the teams for their efforts because inevitably in trying to please all of the people, the outfits ultimately please very few. TV crews want one thing, the written press something else and photographers something totally unique. It's impossible to make everyone happy.

And Ferrari, like every launch, was no different. If you were so inclined you could dwell on the negatives the banning of photographers, the early Internet dramas, the zero opportunity to speak to Raikkonen, the limited chances to get up close to the car and the normal tame questions and responses that are so often the result of large formal press conferences.

Yet whatever gripes people wanted to have, a Ferrari launch still remains a totally special event and I wouldn't have missed Monday's event for the world.

Mugello may not quite have the same magic as an unveiling at Fiorano and Maranello, but driving through the rolling Tuscan hillsides brings a warm feeling that is so absent from a trek through deepest darkest industrial Britain to a cold, grey factory. You just know, from the people you speak to and the signs in shop window, that this is Ferrari land.

And then there are the little moments of colour that always come out whenever the Scuderia are involved.

Felipe Massa shakes down the Ferrari F60
En route to the track in our standard hatchback hire car, Ferrari's engine man Gilles Simon blasts past us in his Alfa Romeo keen to get to work to see the Ferrari's new baby.

Minutes later, walking through the paddock, team principal Stefano Domenicali leaves a Ferrari truck spots us through the blinding sun and stops for a handshake and a hello. His predecessor would not have done so; and the politeness tells you a lot about how much the atmosphere at Ferrari has changed for the better over the past 12 months.

It is such brief moments in time, like Raikkonen's Internet dramas, that offer you a real insight into the men whom we write about week in and week out. Quotes in F1 are copied, cut, pasted, and fly around the world in seconds these days but nothing will ever replace being there and seeing things first hand.

Wouldn't you agree, Kimi?

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  ABOUT JONATHAN NOBLE
Jonathan Noble is Group F1 Editor of AUTOSPORT. Having won the prestigious Sir Williams Lyons Award for young journalists in 1991, he started his career working for news agency Collings Sport.

Working across a number of sports, including motor racing, football and rugby, he was a contributor to a wide range of leading national and international publications including Reuters, the Press Association, the Daily Telegraph and The Independent.

He accepted a job at AUTOSPORT Special Projects at the start of 1999, and a year later became F1 Editor of AUTOSPORT magazine moving across to the website at the end of 2004.
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