I am writing this as I am being driven back to my hotel in Milan after a brilliant weekend at Monza for the 2011 Italian GP.
Monza is the home of motorsport. It is that simple. Not because I am Italian; it is because there is an enthusiasm and passion that you can honestly feel. The emotion of walking through the Parco to get to the circuit is mouthwatering. Each step as you get closer makes your heart beat because you are amongst thousands of others who are feeling exactly the same. The fans knowledge and appreciation of great achievements is also to be commended. They might have their favourites but they do acknowledge those who do well as well.
I have been lucky that every Monza race that I have been too I have witnessed a great race and a Ferrari on the podium. And no, it is not bias, it is just a different atmosphere when that happens. When Ferrari does well or win at Monza, the place goes mental. From firecrackers to air horns to singing; it is just so special to witness it.
My first Monza race was back in 1993 and I saw Alain Prost retire and hand a great victory to Damon Hill. One of my favourites, Jean Alesi finished second to my delight and the delight of the crowd. I remember that day like it was yesterday and it is nearly 20 years ago.
This year I had the opportunity of spending quite a lot of time at Pirelli HQ learning more about the tyres that have made this one of the most exciting racing seasons ever. I also managed to speak to their Head of motorsport to gain more insight to a technology that is rather difficult to understand. That was fun and informative but my experience was all about going back to Monza.
I have never been much of an autograph hunter in my life although I do have quite a few. Some of my favourites are of the late Elio de Angelis, Patrese, Schumacher and quite a few more. On Saturday when I arrived at the circuit I explained to my hosts that i wanted to cruise around as I knew the place quite well. I got so lucky that I was at the pit entry when Massa and Alonso arrived. I grabbed some guys koki and got both of them to sign my paddock pass lanyard. I felt like a teenager. I was texting my friends to tell them. Thereafter I was on a different cloud and just knew that I was for once in the right place at the right time..
I also could not believe how many South Africans bumped into me; so many enthusiastic fans coming to the great Monza circuit to watch their heroes. Most of them in their Bokke jerseys which was so great to see. We are very patriotic and it is great and wow at least we won the game. Phew.
Back to Monza, this was my ninth Italian GP and it was just as electric and just as dramatic..... well mostly. Take out the “wunderkind” Vettel and we had a brilliant race. Don’t get me wrong, Vettel is just brilliant. He gets better and better each race and the hunting pack are racing their tyres off to try and even stay within a straight of him. The crowd loved when Alonso passed Vettel at the start but that was short lived and once Sebastien got in front he just cruised away to his 2nd Italian GP Victory. I was there for his first as well in 2008 when he won for Toro Rosso.
Wasn’t it great to see Schumi fighting hard and driving impressively again ? if only Mercedes can give him a better handling car.
I will go back to Monza many more times as it is just amazing. All of it; ok it does help if you are sitting in the Paddock Club getting a neck massage whilst sipping some champagne ...oh and then having a 5 star lunch...i am off to Just Cavali now..... ciao ciao