Nomen omen is a Latin expression used in order to refer to people whose destiny is somehow suggested by their name. It may apply also to the story of Andrea Ferrari, a 33-year-old Tuscan guy who works as an athletic trainer for the Ferrari Driver Academy, an initiative set up by the homonym Maranello-based racing team in 2009 to develop future drivers.
Andrea was born in Viareggio, a seaside resort in Tuscany, a region in which Ferrari is a quite popular family name. Once he graduated in Physical Education and Sports Sciences, he started working in a local training centre exclusively conceived for Formula One drivers. “It was my first approach with races. The likes of David Coulthard, Giancarlo Fisichella, Marc Gené, Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa used to come here for training”, he recalls.
“I had experiences in other fields, though. I served as an athletic trainer for a tennis club in Forte dei Marmi, helping the team to reach the Italian top tier. I also worked with a cycling team and with Lupi Santa Croce, a second-division women’s volleyball club. I’ve been lucky, since I have always worked with great professionals.”
Despite this wide range of sports, his destiny was written in the stars or, better to say, on his identity card. Four years ago, he received an unexpected phone call from Maranello. “I had some acquaintances inside the motorsports movement, for I had already collaborated with the Scuderia Ferrari”, he maintains. “They were about to launch this project and they asked whether I was available to work with them.”
The Ferrari Driver Academy is a really unique programme, which may be compared to the cantera of Barcelona in football. In this case, Ferrari signs young talents through long-term contracts with the aim of making them future drivers of the Cavallino Rampante. Andrea is the guy delegated to care about their athletic training. “From Monday to Thursday I’m in Maranello, but sometimes it happens that I have to go with the senior team to a Grand Prix”, he says.
“My job is to plan an all-year-long athletic training for five youngsters – Frenchmen Jules Bianchi (aged 23) and Brandon Maisano (19), Switzerland-originated Raffaele Marciello (17), Canadian Lance Stroll (13)and Mexican Sergio Pérez (22). It is a really engaging and stimulating role, as the guys have different ages and drive very different cars. Our categories include go-karts, vehicles with 280 and 520 horsepower engines and, of course, Formula One single-seater cars.
“This implies that each driver has his own constitution and different cars mean different speeds and different energetic expenditures both for the mind and the body. They all do cycling, running or swimming, but not with the same physical effort.”
Andrea has been keeping this job for four years. “I started as an external collaborator, then I’ve become a permanent member of the staff. Obviously I’m accountable to some supervisors for what I do, but I’ve to admit they have given me carte blanche. It’s me who plans and decides the activities and the training for the entire year.”
The five Academy drivers receive a complete preparation. “Not only do they have sessions of driving technique with specific machines and classes of food and nutrition education, they also have the so-called ‘mind room’. This means they have classes of English language, which will help them in future interviews and public relations, for instance. But they also learn how to overcome anxiety , build teamwork and cooperate with the équipe who stays on runway edge.”
Andrea recognises in Fabrizio Borra a key figure. “He’s one of the two Fernando Alonso’s physiotherapists, and has a multi-year experience in sports, for he was the personal trainer of cyclists Ivan Basso and Mario Cipollini. His experience is fundamental in doing my job properly.”
The opportunities of dealing with Alonso and Massa are occasional but significant, according to his accounts. “When Fernando comes to Maranello he has some training sessions with us. We often go for a bike ride in a group of 5-6 people and, needless to say, Fernando always wants to win”, Andrea states.
“In addition, I’ve to say he’s a very sociable person. He creates a very friendly environment when we go out for a dinner or five-a-side matches among Ferrari staff members.
“I can’t state with certainty that he’ll b World Champion this year. But I can tell you he’s a very gifted and mature driver. He’s a natural-born leader. He gives confidence to the team and knows how to manage his energetic expenditure during races.”
Andrea has unquestionably peaked from a professional perspective. Yet, as a Viareggio-born man, the Ferrari job is not the most emotional. “In summertime I also work as an athletic trainer for Viareggio Beach Soccer, the beach soccer team from my hometown who takes part in the national league.
“The club is run by some friends of mine and all the players are from Viareggio and nearby. This is a relevant element, for all other clubs are accustomed to sign foreign players.
“This year we had an extraordinary season, as we won the Coppa Italia and we reached the playoffs final. We lost it, so we are not national champions. Yet, we have created something unique. Achieving this goal with only Viareggio-originated people was a great personal satisfaction.”
The heart leads Andrea to pick beach soccer, but the mind says something else. “Yes, I could not desire anything better. First, I’m doing a job I really love and, as I said, I’m totally free in planning the activities.
“More importantly, I’m working for Ferrari, which is the best you could expect in Formula One. It’s like doing the same job for Barcelona in football.”
Perhaps, Andrea has the basics to prepare a team ahead of a crucial Champions League match or a World Cup. But with such a surname it was almost unavoidable to see him sitting in a box next to a race circuit, rather than on a bench along a football ground.