This article first appeared in Texas Lifestyle Magazine on November 26, 2019.
What is a winnow and what is its mission, you might wonder?
As a part of Philip Morris International (PMI), Mission Winnow’s goal is to drive change by constantly searching for better ways of doing things—”winnowing.” With a focus on science, technology and innovation for the future, Scuderia Ferrari and Mission Winnow’s collaboration is a marriage made in Formula One (F1) heaven. In a sport where a car’s paint impacts speed and performance, it’s good to have world-leading engineers and scientists on your side.
Mission Winnow has been the title partner of Scuderia Ferrari, one of the world’s most decorated and innovative teams in F1 history, since October 2018 when their name first appeared on Ferrari livery at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. However, they had forged a long-standing relationship dating back to the 1970s.
I was one of the lucky ones asked to spend an exciting United States Grand Prix weekend with the Mission Winnow team. As a self-proclaimed F1 and Ferrari superfan, I jumped on the chance to catch a behind-the-scenes peek.
At the Hotel Zaza in Downtown Austin, I attended a live Q&A with legendary NBA star Dominique Wilkins. Similar to Mission Winnow’s platform, Wilkins’s “The Dominant One” web series revolves around collaboration, human-powered progress and improvements through conversations.
Our caravan then made its way to Circuit of the Americas where the unmistakable sounds of power, speed and maybe event hints of testosterone, filtered through the tiny town of Elroy. We drove past security guards, the flocks of international fans, and directly to the exclusive Paddock Club.
The Paddock has four levels with one side overlooking the track and the other housing the teams’ transporters and motorhomes. Alain Prost, a retired four-time F1 champion, was casually chatting and paying no mind to the fans above him capturing his picture.
We were whisked away to Turn 3 as we had a sideline seat for Practice 3. Before we could get too comfortable, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc’s SF90 began having engine problems and he’s forced to retire. As quickly as we came, we left, to be taken to the COTA grounds to join Wilkins for a friendly game of basketball.
Mission Winnow hosted a basketball hoop competition with Wilkins to benefit The Bob Woodruff Foundation, which helps veterans and service members throughout the nation. It was quite an experience watching the 6’8” basketball phenom in person scoring countless consecutive three-pointers.
Back in the Paddock, the Mission Winnow lounge was directly over the Ferrari garage where mechanics are just below prepping the crimson cars for the Qualifying Race.
The spectators could feel the seats rumble from the intense power emanating from the 1,631 pound machine in the garage below. Quicker than a blink, the Ferrari duo of four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc were on their way to tangle with the other 18 perfectly built machines. Ultimately, the prancing horses settled for second and fourth positions on the grid to start the Grand Prix the next day.
The Mission Winnow team made certain Sunday’s Grand Prix was an event to remember, beginning with a Pit Lane Walk where we came up-close and personal with the F1 cars. With cutting-edge technology infused into every facet of a car, the dynamics and strategies of the mechanics and the teams must be equally cutting-edge in their pursuit of excellence.
In the end, Vettel retired during Lap 5 and Leclerc narrowly missed third place, but for this F1, Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel fan, the memories will stay with me for a lifetime.