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F1 History 14

Why Monza is a must-visit

It’s time for Monza. What a delicious prospect. Passion, pasta, Peroni and the Prancing Horse. Then there’s the traffic, the tifosi and the double-booking of grandstand seats…

The Italian Grand Prix has been held every year since 1950 and, along with the British race, is the only round to have been on the calendar for so many consecutive years. One of the truly great things about this race is that it is held at the Autodromo di Monza – a true Grand Prix circuit situated in parkland just outside Milan.

history  Why Monza is a must visit

I had my first experience of this place back in 1969. And what a race it was. We had seats in the huge grandstand opposite the pits – when I say seats, in those days you perched on bare concrete steps that reached skyward from the edge of that everlasting straight from Parabolica to Curva Grande. No silly chicanes, just a highly dangerous, slipstreaming blast from corner to corner. That year the Italians had double-booked our seats, so we were jammed into a long row of very excitable Ferrari fans. They stood and cheered every time the red cars went by. Fantastic. The man selling bags of nuts and drinks was unable to make his way up the steps.

This was one of the closest races in the history of the sport. Less than a second covered the first four cars as they came out of Parabolica in formation before ducking and weaving over the line. But there wasn’t much for the tifosi to cheer. Amon and Rodréguez struggled with an uncompetitive car, the Mexican finally finishing sixth, two laps down, while Jackie Stewart won the slipstreaming contest by mere feet from Rindt, Beltoise and McLaren. That secured his first World Championship and the Constructors’ title for Matra. By the end of this thrilling encounter we had a little more room, many of the locals having long ago walked away.

history  Why Monza is a must visit

Two years later we were back, having again driven from Sussex, over the Alps and down to Lake Como – a good place to stay to make the most of an Italian GP weekend. Milan is easier, but not in Sunday traffic. Again we were treated to a classic Monza experience. This time Peter Gethin was the last man to duck out of the slipstream and cross the line in the lead, less than a second ahead of Peterson, Cevert, Hailwood and Ganley. It could have been any one of them, but it was Gethin in the BRM, and he still talks about it. The red cars, now raced by Ickx and Regazzoni, retired. The traffic started early.

Of course we no longer have four cars abreast, and nor do we have the same daunting circuit. But Monza is Monza, and you have to go there at least once in your life. Like Silverstone, Spa, Monte Carlo and Interlagos, it’s a pilgrimage for which you must put aside the pennies and go.

It’s not just Monza, it’s Ferrari, it’s the passion, it’s the blinding speed and noise, the flashes of colour in the trees through the Lesmos, the whole wonder of Italy. Ah, Forza Ferrari.

No, I am not biased – I simply believe that Ferrari and Italy are vital ingredients of Grand Prix racing. I don’t like team orders, and I very much hope that the stupid rule (Article 39.1) introduced by Max Mosley to outlaw the practice will be banished, and that Ferrari will not be singled out.

Meanwhile, Monza goes ahead as it always must. OK, the place has been emasculated in the interests of safety, but this is still one of the great sporting arenas. The atmosphere remains intact – the people have seen to that.

Add your comments

14 comments on Why Monza is a must-visit

  1. Pete H, 8 September 2010 21:48

    I don’t care for ferrari. As far as I’m concerned the stomping donkey can burn in hell.

  2. Tony Geran, 8 September 2010 23:09

    Rob

    Well we now know the result of the FIA World Council and FIA still means Ferrari’s Internal Attorneys after all.

    Monza certainly conjures up some images both triumphant and tragic. Unfortunately I will be travelling to Europe this weekend and will miss it live but I have set up the recorder to record it all and will still watch it when I return in a few weeks. I’m not going to even bother about Singapore, that track makes even lawn bowls look exciting by comparison.

    Rob,when’s the next Podcast going to air?

  3. John Saviano, 8 September 2010 23:09

    We attended the Italian GP in 1997. What a great area, with a great track. I walked around the old banked area (still there at the time) and marveled at the bravery to race on that. Rob’s right, the passion of the Italians, especially the Ferrari fans, is amazing. I also recommend staying in Como.

  4. Rich Ambroson, 9 September 2010 01:42

    Great reading this, Rob. Thanks, as always.

    Pete H, maybe your comment would be more suited for another thread, or maybe another forum?

    Tony, really. What a funny, funny bit of wordplay there. Original too…

    Think of all the nasty things that could be said of a team that enacted team orders in 1998 in the first race of the season. And was found in possession of stolen IP in 2007… And so on, and on and on…

  5. James, 9 September 2010 07:24

    Nice article, Rob.

    I’m not a Ferrari fan, either, but I cannot imagine motor racing without red cars, the tifosi, and Monza.

  6. rob widdows, 9 September 2010 12:57

    Thanks everyone for your comments and for joining in another of our Motor Sport website ‘debates’, or is that ‘arguments’? I much prefer to debate.
    Of course Ferrari has always had, does have, and will always have its detractors. It’s that kind of team, that kind of company, even more so in Enzo’s day. Even now, though, they attract an extraordinary amount of controversy and polarise opinions like no other racing team. This is fine with me, it is Ferrari, and life on the circuits would not be the same without them. They can never be accused of sitting on the fence, of being just another team.
    So, you will have guessed, I applaud the decision made in Paris yesterday. No, I repeat, I do not like or condone the use of team orders, but this season – in particular – will see this practice used by all the teams incontention for the titles. Whether we like it or not, they all apply team orders at some stage, and the current rule is not enforceable. The recent case of Alonso/Massa was clumsy to say the least, but that is not the point. Until the rule is changed, we are where we are.
    Ferrari fan? No, not really, I’m a motor racing fan and for me Ferrari is a vital ingredient.
    Anyway, onward. Nearly time for the wonderful Goodwood Revival and that is where we will be recording our next podcast. Yes, we will be in the Drivers Mess during the lunch break and there we will record a special Revival podcast with as many drivers as we can persuade to sit down with us!
    Before al that, practice at Monza tomorrow morning. Ah, the sense of anticipation! It will be close, very close, at the front. The usual suspects will be to the fore, along with Sutil in the very slippery Force India.
    And, to return to where we started, the red cars will gain a tenth or two from the Milanese air.
    RW

  7. dave cubbedge, 9 September 2010 16:05

    Sometimes it upsets me that Ferrari gets involved in this political area of racing, but I have motor racing passion in my blood and it simply would not be the same without Ferrari. Long may they be the ones everybody wants to beat! A great part of being an F1 fan is to see just who can get it better than them, and this I have enjoyed for over 40 years of watching. But, there have been times when I have wanted nothing more than big Ferrari success – the 70′s and 80′s from Ickx, Andretti, Lauda, Villeneuve and then Alboreto – I rooted for them all.

    I would dearly love to be at Monza this weekend – you Europeans have it made as it is a bit of a trip for this Ohio boy. I will be watching with great interest in the early morning hours from my home.

  8. Northern Hugo, 9 September 2010 21:58

    Easiest way to eliminate the perceived “problem” of team orders would be to make public every F1 driver’s contract (and engine supply contract for that matter). That way no-one could say they had lost wagers or whatever due to confidential contracts. Won’t ever happen but thought I’d mention it!!!

  9. Rich Ambroson, 10 September 2010 04:25

    Ferrari fan I may be, but I am also a big fan of that most English of teams, Williams. When my beloved red cars were at their very worst in the early 90s, I still thoroughly enjoyed Williams successes with Mansell and Patrese, as well as Prost and Hill.

    Monza though, along with Spa, Le Mans for the Big One, and Goodwood, is a major racing pilgrimage I hope to make someday.

  10. rob widdows, 10 September 2010 16:30

    We Europeans have it made do we? Well, possibly.
    But what about Indianapolis, Laguna Seca, Sebring, Daytona, the Milwaukee Mile, the night-time NASCAR and the midget ovals? Oh, and historic cars at Watkins Glen. And those high-speed ovals.
    Yeah, America has some good stuff too.
    But yes, the weather at Monza is beautiful, the first six cars after Friday practice are separated – well, by nothing really. And guess what, all the chatter surrounds Ferrari. Not much changes.
    Make public drivers contracts and engine supply deals? Possibly, if pigs were flying and Ferraris were painted green. Not a bad plan though, and they would make fascinating reading. If they were in fact the real thing, and not drafts………………..!
    Tomorrow will be tense. Alonso has win if he’s to have a sniff of the title, and Vettel has to make amends. Meanwhile McLaren look strong. But then you know about my predictions……………………
    RW

  11. Dave Cubbedge, 10 September 2010 20:26

    Thanks Rob for reminding me that the grass often seems greener…..I do have it made living here in the Midwest. I get a lump in my throat every time I walk through the gates at Indy and I absolutely love USAC open wheel racing, especially on the dirt bull rings strewn all across my home state and its’ neighbors. Michigan Speedway is another unique experience, although I wish the Indycars would come back. In three weeks’ time I will be in the grandstand at Eldora Speedway for the USAC 4-Crown, one of the biggest weekends on the calendar. I will rub shoulders in the pits with the great sprint car drivers of this era and maybe see Tony Stewart or Kasey Kahne hanging about. And one of these days I will do Europe and see the great tracks and museums that have been such a part of my life since the mid-60s. Cheers, have a great weekend at the home of the tifosi! Hope they save you a seat!

  12. DS, 11 September 2010 08:25

    Rob and Dave, i also hold US circuits in the highest esteem and on the list of races i intend to watch live are daytona- that atmosphere just looks wow- i wanna see the MotoGp at laguna and go to the sebring race, one of my fave photos is Jimmy winning the 6 hours race there in the Lotus Cortina- i have been so so sooo fortunate that i went to Indy in 95 to see the last real race there and wow was i blown away –

    ferrari- italian, machivelian – no – surely not – and that is said with respect- i love that country but ferrari sorry no – loathe – but, in saying that when at hungary last year and again silverstone this year – they do have some sort of aura – i cannot deny that – just don’t like then but then, from the early 60′s i was a lotus fan on track and road and had always hoped that colin’s genius would have grown – sadly not-

    looking forward to monza – another on the list – maybe next year- jens in top six on a friday mmm here’s hoping-

  13. Rich Ambroson, 12 September 2010 03:31

    Yes, Laguna Seca is a great track for viewing. I’ve been lucky to see many events there, from MotoGP, IndyCars when Mansell was racing with Andretti, to several great Monterey Historics. Some day I plan on going to Road America, a great track in the classic tradition.

    But for sure, Monza is at the top of my racing pilgrimage list.

  14. rob widdows, 13 September 2010 12:18

    Well, what an intriguing race that was. Alonso had to win and he did. Hamilton had to get some points and he did not. Button, as ever, kept his head and stayed in the hunt. Webber may have salvaged just enough.
    But…………..why on earth did McLaren broadcast their intention to bring Button in? That was a very valuable piece of information down the pitlane at the Scuderia and they made the most of it. As you’d expect.
    As an aside, for those of us lucky enough to receive the BBC coverage, it just gets better and better, especially if you have the red button aftter the race itself. They won’t know this, but I’d like to congratulate them on the best ever Grand Prix coverage since the sport came to be broadcast on television.
    Now we look forward to Goodwood where the TT race looks like being a cracker this autumn. To mention just one highlight, Gerhard Berger racing. And Martin Brundle will be out there too. Now I’d love to hear his commentary on that!
    2010 will go down as one of the best seasons ever in my view.
    RW

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