A dream of mine is to someday say I have been lucky enough to visit all the Grand Prix on the FIA Formula 1 calendar. That’s a tough ask for anyone, particularly anyone living outside of Europe. So to even consider such a goal living in Australia is even more ridiculous. Recently I got to cross another Grand Prix off my list.
When a friend explained to me he was planning to attend the Italian Grand Prix I became immediately envious. You see, earlier this year, my beautiful wife and I welcomed our first son, Max, into the world. Anyone with kids will understand the joy and emotion they bring is irreplaceable, but to suggest I wasn’t interested in leaving loved ones behind for several weeks making my way to the other side of the world to attend would be a lie.
It was with amazement that I heard my wife say; “Go on… you cant miss out on this!” Four weeks later my bags were packed and we headed off on the 23-hour flight to Milan.
It was 30c+ (90f) and humid. Really humid. A dusty haze covered an otherwise clear skyline. We stood bunched in the crowded line, bustling to make our way through the gates. Once we were in the track precinct, it was quickly apparent that the fans here (or the Tifosi as they are referred to in their mother tongue) are a sight to behold. A sea of red; flags, shirts, and hats – proclaiming each individual’s commitment to the Scuderia. Vettel, Raikkonen, Ferrari emblazoned everywhere. The crowd was all there in hope of seeing a red resurgence, rather than the recent silver precession of Mercedes. Meanwhile we were there to cheer on our hometown hero; Aussie Daniel Ricciardo. Donning hats, flags and our cheap, Chinese-made “Australia” T Shirts, there was no doubting where our allegiance lied.
Having been to several modern Grand Prix several times (Melbourne and Singapore), it was great to notice the differences associated with one of the original races. First held in 1950, the Italian Grand Prix has been on the Formula 1 calendar every year since. The track was built way back in 1921 and walking around trackside, you could immediately feel the character and sense its history. The infrastructure, the grandstands and the old banked Autodromo circuit that still remains – You appreciate the reason the race is so special to the Tifosi, and Formula 1 purists alike.
The race itself was an enjoyable event – Qualifying saw a predictable front-row lock out by Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton grabbing P1 ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg, however a poor start from Hamilton saw Rosberg lead into turn one, Hamilton dropping down to sixth. To the delight of the fans, both the Ferrari’s were off to a flying start with Sebastian Vettel leading Kimi Raikkonen in second and third respectively. As the race drew on, Hamilton would fight back, aided by the pace of the Mercedes to second place. Rosberg lead from start to finish, with Hamilton second, and Vettel claiming the final step on the podium, with Ferrari stable mate Raikkonen claiming fourth. Our Aussie, “Danny Ric” went on to make the overtake of the race on the penultimate lap to steal fifth place away from the Williams of Finish driver, Valtteri Bottas.
As is tradition, the crowd (fuelled by Heineken) stormed the track post race, climbing fences, gates and barriers to make their way on to the front straight to witness the podium celebrations. It was a truly memorable event, and worthy of the long flight and inevitable jet lag.
Upon returning home, I now wonder – What Grand Prix next?