After a day spent pounding around the Fiorano test track, Michael and his engineers would decamp across the road to Ferrari’s sporting HQ – the Gestione Sportiva (GeS) – for increasingly thorough debriefs. Michael would then unload all the data he had memorized, recalling corner entry behavior, mid-corner conditions and exit speeds, all the while answering queries and suggesting solutions to engineers’ problems.
As midnight approached, he would leap into his 456GT road car and blast down the dark winding streets to the only Maranello pizzeria still open. The proprietor would be well-versed in the drill as Michael smilingly picked up a dozen boxes of pizza, tenderly strapped the wobbling tower into the passenger seat and blasted off back to the factory. He would then unload the late supper to his grateful crew and continue debriefing – often until three or four in the morning.
It was around this time that Ferrari bequeathed the use of Enzo Ferrari’s old whitewashed farmhouse to Michael. It was from this building, which sits squarely in the center of the Fiorano test track, that the Old Man had watched his cars. Now it was Michael’s home-from-home as his testing routine became so strenuous that he put his fitness regime on hold for 18 months in order to devote more time to the factory than the gym. This new living arrangement meant that he could finish his debriefs and turn in late yet still be back at the track by 8:00 a.m. for the first laps of the new day.
The pay-off: the Ferrari mechanics began to treat Michael like a member of the family. He had proved his commitment beyond the call of duty – and demanded that his colleagues prove theirs. You saw it after every victory, as he emotionally embraced his boys. You saw it, finally, at Suzuka in 2006, in the wake of defeat, as he consoled his troops – at that moment the superstar became their equal. And they loved him for it.
I do not know of any driver that would put that much effort into winning and i think we will never see someone like this again.