Motor racing-From Trento to the podium, the Ferrari putting fizz into F1


FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Miami Grand Prix - Miami International Autodrome, Miami, Florida, United States - May 5, 2024 McLaren's Lando Norris celebrates winning the Miami Grand Prix on the podium alongside second placed Red Bull's Max Verstappen and third placed Ferrari's Charles Leclerc REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

TRENTO, Italy (Reuters) - Charles Leclerc hopes to win his home Monaco Grand Prix this weekend but the only Ferrari sure to be represented on the most glamorous of podiums is the sparkling wine sprayed after every race.

Italian winemaker Ferrari Trento is the 'Official toast of Formula One', which for a global television audience largely translates as jubilant drivers celebrating by drenching each other in fizz.

Based in the Alpine city of Trento in north-east Italy, the brand is unrelated to the team of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz and traces its roots to the dawn of the automobile era and long before Enzo Ferrari built his first racing car.

The family-owned Villa Margon, above the vineyards and on a wooded hillside overlooking the Adige valley, is a Renaissance jewel open to the public and with frescoes painted in the 16th century that remain as vibrant today.

Far from any racetrack, and up a stony road, the silence is broken by birdsong.

The modern winery down in the valley, with traffic thundering past on the A22 motorway to the Brenner Pass and Austria, can store 20 million bottles with more than six million sold last year.

Founded in 1902 by Giulio Ferrari, the business was sold to Trento wineshop owner Bruno Lunelli in 1952 with the third generation now at the helm.

"My uncle and Enzo Ferrari were very good friends," Ferrari Trento vice-president Camilla Lunelli told Reuters over lunch at the company's Michelin-starred Locanda Margon restaurant, where chef Edoardo Fumagalli creates miniature culinary masterpieces.

"Enzo Ferrari also asked my uncle Gino (if he could) enter the equity of our company because he said ‘I’m really not into wine, I don’t understand anything about wine but I like the idea of Ferrari wine'.

"But we are a family company so we had no interest in that. We thanked him very nicely."

AMERICAN MARKET

The United States is now the company's biggest export market, with the sport's growth there coinciding with the Formula One partnership and the hugely-successful Netflix 'Drive to Survive' docu-series.

"I think Formula One has helped us a lot, because we started in 2021 when in the U.S. they just had the Austin Grand Prix but then Miami came up in 2022 and Florida is today our main market within the U.S.," said Lunelli.

The Ferrari name also helps by association.

"Outside of Italy it’s always one of the first questions we’re asked, and if we’re not asked one of the first things we say is to make clear what the relationship (with Ferrari) is," added Lunelli.

"For sure it helps us because it’s a very easy name to remember."

The current contract runs to the end of 2025 and while Ferrari Trento would be keen to extend, they could face competition as the sport's reach grows.

"We would like to (continue) but it's not easy. We’ll see what happens," said Lunelli.

Motorsport's Champagne tradition started at Le Mans in 1966 when Swiss driver Jo Siffert accidentally sprayed spectators after the cork shot out of a bottle warmed by the sunshine.

American winner Dan Gurney recreated the moment a year later and deliberately shook the bottle.

McLaren's Lando Norris, an F1 podium regular and winner in Miami this year, likes to thump the bottle on the floor to release the cork. In Hungary, that resulted in the porcelain trophy being broken.

"It makes us a bit afraid," smiled Lunelli. "On one side it’s amazing, it’s really a show, it’s fun. We are responsible for what’s inside the bottle, not for the glass. But I really hope he doesn’t go any harder than that."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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