The Italian Job
F1 Racing joins technical director James Key, an Englishman abroad, for an Italian lunch at his team’s favourite local restaurant to find out what’s cooking at Scuderia Toro Rosso…
The road is unmistakably Roman, arrow-straight for much of its length between Milan and Rimini, spearing through Parma, Modena, Bologna, Imola and Faenza. The olive groves bake in the autumn sunshine as you cruise south along the humbly named SS9, now bypassed by the A1 autostrada.
La Tana Del Lupo is located by the side of this road on the outskirts of Faenza. At the time of writing, the notoriously picky denizens of TripAdvisor rate it the 33rd best restaurant out of 107 in the area; but what you won’t learn by Googling this place is that it’s the favoured lunchtime bolthole for members of Scuderia Toro Rosso, one of the locality’s proudest assets. In its main serving area – formerly a courtyard, now roofed and lled with many tables, mirroring the recent growth of the Toro Rosso factory – you’ll nd memorabilia galore: a signed poster of Sebastian Vettel after his breakthrough victory at Monza in 2008; earthenware riservato slabs hand-painted with the STR logo; and most of the bodyshell of a 2008 STR3 mounted on the wall.
It’s here that we’ve arranged to meet James Key, formerly technical director of Force India and Sauber, and architect of the C31 with which Sergio Pérez almost won the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix. He’d already bid the Swiss orderliness of Hinwil farewell by then, though, remaining under the radar for much of that season before replacing Giorgio Ascanelli at Toro Rosso, a team in the grip of severe growing pains as they made the transition from Red Bull client team to constructors in their own right.
Daniele, the establishment’s proprietor, is very excited. “Jaaaaaaaaames!” he cries, with a beaming smile. “I know you like sh – today we have the spaghetti vongole. Perfetto!”
Toro Rosso’s technical director nods assent and gives the menu no further regard. F1 Racing opts for the wild mushroom tagliolini. Surveying the various chattels on the table – large bottles of acqua minerale, both frizzante and naturale, olive oil, and ne balsamic vinegar from just up the road in Modena – you naturally begin to ponder what manner of cultural Rubicon James