Can Ferrari still win? Absolutely yes. The disastrous 2023 campaign in Formula 1 had fueled more than one stereotype about a Red car unable to achieve success for too long. To dispel the rumors of a team that has lost itself in internal struggles, the 499P stepped in, a car designed for a new beginning in the WEC category after fifty years of absence but that, in the dreams and minds of its designers, could return to winning immediately.
And so it happened. The stage for this historic triumph was not just any race but the Race (with a capital R) of the year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, celebrating its hundredth edition.
To be honest, doubts hung over the Ferrari 499P, as they have accompanied every new sporting project from Maranello for some time now. Half a century of absence and Toyota’s dominance in the category since 2018 suggested, at least in this first year, a supporting role for the red car.
However, President Elkann‘s gamble turned out to be a resounding success. It was John himself who believed in the return to the endurance category, reviving a project abandoned by Enzo Ferrari to focus solely on Formula 1.
“This victory should be an example for all of us. It is dedicated to all those who work at Ferrari. We are proud to have placed Italy on the highest step of the podium,” said the President.
Antonio Giovinazzi’s redemption, Alessandro Pier Guidi’s composure, and Charles Leclerc dreams…
342 extremely long laps, filled with difficulties, fear, and anxiety for the problems that, in a twenty-four-hour race, are just around the corner. The fact that a debut car won at Le Mans had never been seen before, and even the formidable Toyota did not expect it, convinced that the Red car would eventually pay for its youthful flaws.
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Instead, it was the members of the #51 crew, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi, who let themselves go in a liberating cry while their teammate Pier Guidi passed under the checkered flag.
Antonio Giovinazzi had unfinished business with racing. Formula 1 proved to be a challenging phase in his career, being relegated to the role of reserve driver for Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. However, the victory at Le Mans was liberating for him: “I cried. After so many years of sacrifices, disappointments. In life, though, if you keep believing, sooner or later you make it.” – the former Alfa Romeo driver admitted.
Behind the wheel in the crucial final stint was Alessandro Pier Guidi, the one who brought the 499P to triumph. It was he who was driving during the two incidents that could have changed the fate of the race: “When I was in the gravel, I thought the dream was over. Instead, I managed to get going again. From that moment on, I didn’t think about anything else but catching up.”
Another thrill came when the Red car stalled in the pit lane, erasing the significant advantage it had built over Toyota. “In these moments, you need to stay cool. I followed the restart procedure, and luckily, it started. But we all had confidence; this is Ferrari.”
Exactly, this is Ferrari. Charles Leclerc knows it well too, as he carries the Red car in his heart and was determined to be there at Le Mans at all costs, also dreaming of a success like this someday.
The Formula 1 department can only learn from the achievement of the endurance team, led by the masterful Antonio Coletta, a veteran of Maranello who never hid behind the titanic feat. “I love taking risks,” he recalled at the beginning of the season. This victory is also his.