Flashback: Enzo Ferrari presides over the signing of F1 Concorde Agreement
For two decades Maurice Hamilton reported from the F1 paddock with pen, notebook and Canon Sure Shot camera. This month we are at an FIA media scrum in 1987, with Enzo Ferrari in rare attendance
On Tuesday March 17, 1987 I was among eight members of the British media flown to Italy by the FIA to witness the signing of the latest Concorde Agreement. It turned out to be a long way to go for lunch.
The news value extracted from the day was zero. But as an indicator of the latest state of Formula 1 politics intermingled with Latin chaos, it was priceless. By eschewing the grand surroundings of its headquarters in Place de la Concorde and choosing Maranello, the sport’s governing body was not only paying deference to Enzo Ferrari’s 90th year but also the fact that, as ever, the Old Man was quietly calling the shots.
The culinary logic of using the Cavallino restaurant, opposite the main gates of the Ferrari factory, was immediately lost as 200 journalists and cameramen were crammed into an L-shaped room designed to hold 60 diners. Several of the ‘guests’ appeared to be without a valid invitation; a shortcoming elsewhere but, in Italy, an invisible order of merit.
I enjoy Italian food and the drama that usually accompanies its presentation at the table. But this multi-course meal was something else, as we perched cheek-by-jowl and watched starched-white waiters noisily bouncing off each other and tripping over television cables like some gastronomic juggling act.
The top table seating plan was a significant indication of F1’s power chain. With Enzo Ferrari in the middle (light jacket), to his right was Jean-Marie Balestre (FIA president) alongside Bernie Ecclestone (the FIA’s new vice president of promotional affairs) with, to Ecclestone’s right, Aleardo Buzzi (representing Marlboro). On Ferrari’s left, his son Piero Lardi Ferrari and Franco Gozzi, Ferrari press officer.
This rare public appearance by Enzo had the Italian photographers literally tripping over themselves. Predictably, ambition gradually overwhelmed decorum as the lensmen elbowed closer and forced a rebuke from the Commendatore. I don’t know what he said but it had a stunning effect. Cameras were lowered instantly and the place assumed a reverential silence as the Old Man began to speak.
The translated platitudes were never going to create headlines any more than Balestre’s flowery rhetoric or Ecclestone’s whispered and evasive answers to the few questions allowed from the floor. Then we had a fattening but delicious dessert and flew home.
It was an executive jet, but it must have been designed for small executives. Further discomfort on the two-hour flight was caused by a lavatory not being part of the aircraft’s spartan interior. Having fed and watered the enemy, it was tempting to think this was retribution plotted by new-found friends Balestre and Ecclestone, and the real reason for being asked to share celebration of the new agreement. Someone did say they caught sight of pen being put to paper at one stage – but we couldn’t be sure. As for witnessing a circus act of no equal, however, there was no doubt.