Ferrari, a new film directed by Michael Mann, follows Enzo Ferrari (played by Adam Driver) during three months of the 1957 race season; though it focuses on the final running of the Mille Miglia, there’s still plenty of surprising facts to learn about one of the greatest icons in Formula 1 history.
Of course, any Hollywood film comes with some manipulation of the facts; in this case, that means introducing the prospective Ford/Fiat buyout years in advance, and presenting Ferrari as a struggling company despite winning the F1 World Championship with Juan Manuel Fangio.
But for all that, Michael Mann did an impeccable job nailing down some of the most critical details about Enzo Ferrari — and these are four of the best.
His Daily Routine
Ferrari is based on Brock Yates’ classic biography about the man of the same name, and it’s clear that director Mann and screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin were paying attention to the little details from the very first moments of the film.
Though Ferrari as a company is known for powerful sports and race cars, Enzo himself was quite dedicated to the small Peugeot 403 we see him driving in the opening of the movie. Further, every morning after the death of his legitimate son Dino, Ferrari would head to his local barbershop for a trim, then collect some flowers and visit his son’s tomb.
Those are small details, but they’re important ones; Enzo Ferrari went through those exact motions every day of his life, and it’s part of what defined his local legacy.
His Relationship with the Press
As reporters gather at Ferrari’s factory to cover the introduction of his squadra primavera, or “spring team,” of drivers set to compete in 1957’s racing events, Enzo Ferrari begins the announcement with a culling of the journalists present.
Ferrari attempted to rule his public presentation with an iron fist, and that included the prompt removal of any writer who had spoken out against him.
But Enzo Ferrari was also immensely savvy; if he could find a good journalist, he would find a way to keep them in his back pocket, leaking information that could benefit both his company and the journalist’s career.
Gino Rancanti was one such journalist; Ferrari shows Enzo pulling Rancanti aside to leak a “scoop” that Ford was interested in purchasing the car company. Of course, this little tidbit is taking place too early for the actual Ferrari company timeline, but it does a fantastic job illustrating just how Enzo could manipulate conversations; by leaking that information, he gets what he really wants: A phone call from Fiat expressing the Italian automaker’s interest in purchasing Ferrari.
While Enzo Ferrari was good at running a race team, he was even better at making enemies in the process. His battle against Maserati is a recurring element of the film right from the get-go, when Jean Behra arrives in town attempting to break Ferrari’s speed record and bring it over to Maserati instead. The rivalry continues throughout the Mille Miglia scenes that define the film.
But there’s one particular rivalry that is often forgotten. During the post-WWII period of racing, Enzo Ferrari was on very poor terms with the Vatican, the Pope, and the Catholic Church. Motorsport was viewed as unnecessarily violent, and many of the high-profile deaths of Italian drivers took place behind the wheel of Ferrari’s machines. Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano accused Ferrari as being like the god Saturn, devouring his own suns — a quote that makes it into the film.
While Ferrari did eventually make peace with the Vatican, Ferrari highlights the critical era where those two Italian entities butted heads.
His Car-Building Philosophies
Listen to the myth, and you may just believe that Enzo Ferrari was something of an engineering genius — but that was never exactly the case. Ferrari was a great businessman, and he had an immense talent for gathering and utilizing the best minds of his generation. Enzo himself, however, simply directed the team to success.
In Ferrari, I was pleased to find that sentiment come to life. As the 1950s drew to a close, it was becoming clear to car designers that front-engine vehicles were significantly lacking in performance as opposed to a mid-engined design.
Ferrari, however, adamantly denied that change in attitude, saying in both the movie and in real life that “the ox doesn’t push the cart” — meaning that a vehicle’s source of power should be located in front of the driver, not behind him.