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An interview with Umberto Zapelloni

In Collaboration with F1.Star.cup, Interviewed by Thomas Bergamo

A couple of weeks ago, our partners, the F1 Star Cup, interviewed the vice-director of Gazzetta dello Sport, the biggest italian journalism company, Umberto Zapelloni. Read on as Umberto answers questions posed by Thomas!

The most important question, how did you fall in love with motorsport and journalism?

My passion for journalism started when I was attending school, so when I was thirteen. In our school, we’ve done a scholastic journal. Seeing who I was so good at writing, my basketball trainer started to let me collaborate with some journals, and I wrote about the games that my team played. My passion for motorsport started with Niki Lauda, but I really started to watch it with Gilles Villeneuve.

Could you tell us something about your career as a journalist?

The first Grand Prix I watched as a journalist was the 1988 France GP. From that day, I started to broadcast the Formula1 races for “Il Giornale” until the 2000. Then I began to write for “Il Corriere della Sera” then I became the director of the sport section and, in the end, I became the vice-director of the “Gazzetta dello Sport”.

You talked to us about your first experience on the field, could you tell us how you lived it?

When I was younger, I had a passion for photography, so, when I watched my first grand prix live, I lived it more like a photographer than as a journalist.

Talking about something more modern, I think you watched “Drive to Survive”, may you tell how big was the Netflix impact on Formula 1 in this collaboration?

Netflix had a big impact on the Formula1 world, overall in the USA, where by the passing of the years the amount of people who followed Formula1 has increased a lot. So I’m expecting that a lot of people will attend the Miami GP. It will be something special, even if Netflix doesn’t show the real Formula One. Indeed, when I watched the first season, I wasn’t so impressed. But, if I have to impersonate myself to a person who has never watched it, that’s a good way to approach it. Even because Netflix talks about some drivers that sometimes we forgot, like Grosjean or Magnussen. Therefore I think the collaboration Formula1 has done with Netflix, and vice versa, is good for both parties.

Reconnecting with the Netflix topic, what do you think about the fact Max Verstappen will not take part of the serie because, citing his words, “they tell is as a romance and not the realty”

Verstappen doesn't need Netflix to gain fans. I mean, if you watch what Zandvoort was, we have seen how much passion he brought with him, it’s just incredible. Anyways, as I said before, Netflix doesn’t tell you how things are in Formula1, but it’s also real that the way they come into your house, in your daily routine, makes this show more true. So I’ll consider it a lie, but made well.

What do you think about the crash coverages in Formula1, and why, in your opinion, in these last years Liberty Media shared more accidents on our TV screens?

I remember, when the boss was Bernie Ecclestone, that most of the accidents weren’t coveraged. In recent years, Liberty Media has shown more incidents because, in my opinion, the entire Formula 1 has worked on car security, so as to transform it as an important part of the sport. This has had repercussions on the show we’ve seen on Netflix, because the crashes make the people more entertained.

What do you think about the teams’ work on social media, like Instagram or twitter?

I think that the work the teams are doing is fantastic. They are working very well in this field. Formula 1 has also learnt a lot from Formula E, that used social media in order to make the young people passionate about their sport. Formula 1 also used social media so as to show some images, or some clips, that people were able to see only if they signed up to a subscribed payment plan. In other words, they found a way to “bypass” the system.

Talking about the “rising stars”, which driver, in your opinion, has surprised you more, in terms of talent and course?

The first name that comes to my mind is Charles Leclerc. He presents a big quality and a large improvement room, because he has to review his race management, meanwhile in qualifyings he’s phenomenal. There is only one problem: he mustn’t make mistakes, because he drives a Ferrari, and this involves a lot of pressure. Even Verstappen is a big talent, but he permitted himself to make some mistakes. At the moment he doesn’t make them, but just remembers about his first years in Formula 1. I’m really curious to see the “new Max”, because, now that he has won a championship, he will surely be a littlemore free. Then you have Russell, Norris…

A driver I would not underrate is Carlos Sainz because he had a surprising season the previous year, and he is one of the best about the racecraft. He didn’t come to be Leclerc's winger. So, these are my rising stars.

We thank mister Umberto Zapelloni for his time and insight.

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