Our plan for Italian Grand Prix Friday was to be at Autodromo di Monza for first free practice at 10am. Bizarrely, at Stazionale Centrale none seemed to know where to buy the 3-day €8 train and shuttle bus combo ticket so we had to buy them individually.
For one day only on the Friday all the grandstands were opened up so we wandered the whole circuit exploring various vantage points.
We watched FP1 from the inside of Prima Variente and saw several drivers go straight on at the chicane. After that we watched the GP2 practice session from the inside of Curva Biassono, where the cars are going faster and closer to the spectators than anywhere I’ve witnessed before.
Seconda Variente was where we watched the end of the session from before strolling along the leafy trackside path by Curve di Lesmo and Curva del Serraglio. We grabbed a grandstand at Variente Ascari for FP2, when the sun came out and the cars glistened magnificently. After buying my girlfriend a tshirt at the shops, my brother Will and I completed our lap of the circuit by watching from the inside of the mighty Curva Parabolica.
The old banking is never far from view at Monza and never fails to be dramatic. It was right underneath us at the first chicane and crosses the circuit spectacularly on the run down to Variante Ascari.
On the way out the circuit we took a wrong turn and ended up walking miles through Italian parklands to get to the shuttle bus! From Monza station there seemed to be trains to Stazione Porta Garibaldi more regularly than to Stazionale Centrale so we ant to the latter via the former. At Stazionale Centrale we again tried to enquire about Monza bus/train combo tickets but to no avail ail so we grabbed a McDonald’s, bought some postcards and headed home. Yet again we were too busy jibber-jabbering and took a wrong turn but eventually we made it back!
On the train to the circuit the next day we got chatting to some other Brits and explained the shuttle bus system to them. When we arrived at our grandstand at 9am it was already sweltering and our view from directly opposite the podium was superb. We could see the cars from when they exited Parabolica all the way down the pit straight towards the first chicane. We also had prime position for watching pit stops and the ultra-arty photo shots of the cars reflected in the glass angled over the pit lane.
We watched GP3 qualifying and third practice for the F1 cars before the main event – F1 qualifying at 2pm. During the preceding lunch break it was so hot that Will and I just led under a tree for the best part of an hour in the infield.
When qualifying got underway the track temperature was a blistering 45 degrees. All morning an awesome band, Miró, had been performing impressively energetic sets given the heat, behind our grandstand. I bought their CD for €5 as they were so good.
Meanwhile qualifying was fantastic. Lewis Hamilton put in a blinding lap to top the timesheets, prompting the hilariously excitable Italian commentator Gigi to scream POOOOLLLEEE!!! He would often exclaim Forza Fernando! Forza Ferrari! and scream drivers’ names repeatedly if they were on a hot lap. The juxtaposition of Gigi with regular English commentator Bob Constanduros was hilarious but the two worked well together in what must have been a challenging situation of needing to simultaneously inform the same information in two languages. We were in the Ferrari stand – they gave out free flags and there was a massive Ferrari heart shaped flag covering almost the whole section of the stand next to us.
After quali’ we saw the GP2 feature race, won by Stefan Vandoorne, and the first GP3 race, won by Jimmy Eriksson. We met Dad and Di for a beer before getting the shuttle bus back to town (which took a lot longer as the circuit was far busier for qualifying than it had been on the Friday). From Monza we again got the train to Porta Garibaldi and changed to go to Centrale. After a failed mission to find francobollos (stamps – I learnt that at In The Woods festival) we had a lovely salad in a great little takeaway and headed back to Hotel Ideale.