My Italian Grand Prix Experience
After three previous experiences of the Italian Grand Prix, I booked my fourth trip there at the beginning of the year. This time and for the first time, with my parents. My fianceé was attending once more after joining me in 2011.
An evening and a day preceding the Grand Prix were spent in Milan, taking in the sights, shops and Nigerian blokes selling bracelets. When I say selling, I mean tying them on you before you can say no. It’s an interesting technique I guess.
I took my fourth trip to the top of the Duomo, having climbed the 250 steps to the top in 2008, 2009 and 2011. More importantly, I re-visited the place I proposed to Hayley last year on the roof. The shops never disappoint, though the prices of everything in La Rinascente means I come away with very little. Usually the latest Ferrari t-shirt, as was the case again this year.
The weather was astonishingly hot, as it is every year – aside from 2008 – so drinking litres of water remained essential. Visiting McDonalds less so. Though, it happened while I sported a disgusted look on my face. It’s just dirty to eat McDonalds when you’re in Italy, surrounded my some of the best food in the World.
Thursday morning marked the beginning of my next Formula One adventure. I’d met lots of drivers, team personnel and journalists in 2011, so now it was time to repeat that and step it up a notch. This year, I had my Dad as designated camera man. Which would mean my efforts to intercept these usually in-accessible stars would be far easier.
We got there early after skipping the five mile or so walk from Monza station, instead taking a taxi. And yes, I did do it all in Italian. As it turned out, getting there slightly earlier was a good decision, as pretty quickly we started getting photographs and autographs from the best drivers on the planet. Last year, we missed Heikki Kovalainen while we fumbled in the rucksack for the camera and then chased a tube of Pringles around the floor when they deliberately rolled out.
I had the privilege of meeting all but six drivers, a handful of team personnel, an array of GP2 drivers, a Sky TV pundit….and Martin Brundle. Just like the previous year, most were very accommodating. Actually, most is an understatement. All of them were accommodating. Bar two. Petrov remained incredibly rude and pushed through everyone without signing one thing and Kobayashi snuck in and rushed through before anyone could catch him. Davide Valsecchi, who currently leads the F1 feeder series Championship was brilliant, a nice guy. I had a nice laugh with Kovalainen but best of all was the conversation with Martin Brundle.
He drove up in his E-Type Jag, the one he drove around the old Spa Francorchamps the week before in a feature for Sky. I walked straight up to him, nobody else recognising him (most aren’t familiar with foreign commentators) at the start. I said good morning and asked for a quick photograph and an autograph. He was happy to do both and so I asked him who his tip was for the weekend. Unfortunately, he said “the Macca’s look strong don’t they?” which caused me to reply and tell him it ought to be a red victory. During this time, he was signing for other people who had now realised he was someone famous while continuing his conversation with me.
Just like he does during his grid walk, where he walks and talks with various drivers, he did that with me too. Though, I think I was the one in his usual position! In the 40 metres to the paddock entrance, he continued chatting with me about what we should expect for the weekend. Amazing. He certainly did not have to do that and I’m sure he doesn’t always. But that was a nice surprise early on Thursday morning.
I can’t say whether it beat what we got in 2011 but it was certainly as good. We met different drivers and missed ones we had previously met, we had more conversation with everyone this year. Daniel Ricciardo being another who was super nice. If I see Valsecchi again next year though, I may suggest he gets his hair cut.
Friday and Saturday were days of slight disappointment as problem after problem hindered Fernando Alonso. Qualifying was a nightmare, a huge surprise to see him end up P10. Everyone looking confused. A cheeky check at Twitter revealed the problem and also cost me about £2. Thankfully, the race turned out to be brilliant. Alonso ending up P3 after starting P10 was a near miracle. Massa in fourth, another (just kidding!). Sergio Pérez was once again incredible but unfortunately passed both the red cars near the end. Some luck was on our side as both Vettel and Button retired. And yet more, after we found out our car was very badly damaged following the 180mph excursion through the gravel trap.
Aside from winning, which was a sure possibility, we couldn’t have hoped for more from the weekend. Is Massa’s performance enough for him to keep his seat? It remains to be seen, but his performance in Monza was fantastic. Alonso extended his Championship lead, thanks in part to the mis-fortune of others. Combined with his brilliance, our closest rival now sits 37 points behind. A nicer cushion than ‘just’ 24.
The Tifosi were on fire yet again. Lots camped overnight in the general admission mini grandstands. Complete with bubble wrap, tarpaulin, sleeping bags, stoves and presumably every tool under the Monza sun, they drank and sang their way through three days of racing. Always polite, friendly, funny and tidy unlike a lot of the supporters you’ll find at Silverstone, it was a pleasure to be in their company again. Chants for Alonso and Massa were sung throughout the weekend along with the sound of air horns. Some boo’s were heard while Hamilton was interviewed on the podium but to the various journalists who were slating the Tifosi, take a look at the British fans in Silverstone who boo Alonso for no apparent reason, before taking shots at the most passionate fans in the World. Nobody booed when he won, nobody booed when he celebrated on the cool down lap, everyone clapped. The fans were more interested in Alonso finishing third than Hamilton winning.
There were lots of cheers when both Button and Vettel retired, obviously. It meant another place forward for the Ferrari drivers. It’s not meant nastily, everyone was just happy to see our guys move forward. Though, I have to say to the couple of people ‘giving the bird’ to Button on his retirement should bugger off elsewhere. This isn’t football. We aren’t football fans.
Exiting the circuit, Red Bull were doing their usual self promotion on every exit of the circuit. We passed three or four cars giving away free cans of Red Bull. I took one and drank it before getting another from one of the other girls further down the road. Then I grabbed a free Coke and a final Red Bull as I decided the up and down of drinking far too much stimulant would probably be hitting me fairly soon. Thankfully, no up or even a down came, somehow. Something in the Red Bull was 142% of your RDA so I had 426% of whatever it was. Not the best idea I’ve ever had.
So, my fourth time in Monza and my eighth in total was utterly brilliant yet again. Whether meeting drivers, watching cars enter Ascari at nearly 200mph, being deaf after 53 laps of racing or just sitting in the blazing heat for hours, it was all epic.
See you again soon, Monza.