On a sunny Halloween afternoon, there was something in Brooklyn that didn't quite belong. At a converted warehouse in a too-hip part of town, sat a shining Rosso Scuderia beacon of noise and anger—Michael Schumacher's 2001 championship-winning Ferrari. We were there to pore over the thing while a video crew captured beauty roll for Sotheby's, which is auctioning this car in a month.
New York's a weird place for a car like this. Jake Auerbach, a car specialist at RM Sotheby's, told me that if you fired up its 3.0-liter V10, it'd probably blow windows out. And if you did it on the street, the city's 311 line would be flooded with calls. But that's not why I thought it was a weird thing to see here.
There's something eerie about being around a machine designed to rip around the world's great circuits a speeds unfathomable to a most people just sitting, silently. It should be back at Monaco with Schumi himself, who drove this car, chassis #211, to victory at the famous street circuit. Instead, it's here in Brooklyn while Schumacher is still recovering from a catastrophic 2013 skiing accident, thousands of miles away.
But seeing this car so far from its natural environment allows you to look at it in a different light. You notice the details you'd never otherwise see—the real metal badge at the nose, the carbon-fiber honeycomb weave through the thin red paint, wings that look too delicate to sustain any downforce, the serial numbers on the suspension uprights, and so on. Maybe nostalgia clouds my judgement here, but I could've stared at this car for hours more.
Auerbach nervously let me hold the steering wheel too—I say nervously, since this is the only one, and Ferrari can't make any more.
First, I was struck by how light the all-carbon wheel felt in my hands. All its weight was at the sides, which were wrapped in rubber hand grips. Hand grips that Schumi once held driving #211 in full attack mode.
My colleague Sam Smith visited Schumacher's 2000 championship-winning Ferrari last year. About the experience, he said "a room never feels so empty as when a piece of it goes missing," and I get what he means now. In this cavernous warehouse, I couldn't help but feel that same sense of emptiness.
But I wonder what Schumacher would think if he was reunited with #211. Would he be as wistful as I am, or would he be disinterested? Legendary trumpeter Miles Davis never revisited his old records after they were released. You couldn't blame Schumacher—the seven-time world champ who changed the sport—for being as unsentimental.
Sotheby's will auction this car in a week at its , where it's expected to fetch at least $4 million. But just because it's at an art auction, don't think of F2001 #211 as a static display piece—thanks to Ferrari's Corse Clienti program, its future owner can actually take it out on track.
Hopefully, they'll take advantage. For the car's sake.