C’monza good thing

Grand Prix weekend #2! Wooo! I had no intentions of going to another Grand Prix for quite some time, it’s just too dam dear! However, as a birthday present, Leona got me general admission tickets for the Italian Grand Prix. She got tickets for Monza because, when booking tickets to Barcelona, I kept yacking on about wanting to go to Monza. She got general admission tickets as she couldn’t trust herself to book “the right” grandstand (I was very analytical when booking the Barcelona grandstand, taking into account view, big screen, possible overtaking etc). Either way, I just wanted a tuner pedal so this was a nice surprise.
Just like Barcelona we had to print a voucher and go to the track to get our proper tickets. Also there would be a pit walk in the evening. Last time we got temporarily lost in the Barcelona train network, patronised a Catalan railway worker, walked to the wrong place and had to (unnecessarily) run to the ticket place. This year we decided we should allow a bit more time to account for such hiccups.
After a decent sleep, compared to the previous night anyway, we went to the kitchen in the hostel and had some breakfast. It was great, if you got up early enough you could get freshly baked croissants. However, it was not just the usual continental fare there was free reign of the coffee machine, cereal, bread rolls, homebaked tart, and, bizarrely, hard boiled eggs. I could have done with an omelette but, for a free breakfast, it was quite good. There were also packets of ham and mozzarella slices in the fridge, which I thought would be useful for taking to the track with some rolls!
During breakfast I noticed two lads with English accents, one of which wearing a McLaren tee.
After breakfast, we went to a few shops, but quickly decided we could just go to Monza early and just loaf about. I’d forgotten my sun glasses so we went back to the hostel and met the two English lads outside. We chatted for a bit and talked about how to get to Monza. We said we were going to Centrale and getting the train to Monza. They said they were just told to get the red line and get a bus from there. We met them again a few minutes later and they were in the metro station looking lost. We showed them were to buy tickets and we went on (we still had our 24h pass from Wednesday). Leona then asked if we should have waited on them. Probably… (Thinks of a way to excuse rudeness) but we were going different ways.
We got to Centrale and went to the train station to find the Monza train. It’s a bloody amazing looking train station (as train stations go). No sign of a Monza train though. We retired to the metro/train network map to rethink our plans and noticed the train goes from Porta Garibaldi so we jumped back on the metro.
When buying our tickets at Garibaldi we were trying to find the station close to the track. Leona she wasn’t sure but she thought it was Lecco, the ticket machine informed that it took about an hour to get to Lecco but only around 20 minutes to get to Monza. That didn’t seem right so we just decided to go to Monza and walk/get bus/taxi (Spoiler alert: we walked… all 6km). Booking a return was strange too, in the fact we had to select a time to return. We didn’t bother and decided to get a ticket on the way back. Turns out, if I had bothered my arse to do any research I’d realise the train station at the Lesmo corner was called “Biassono-Lesmo”.  I suppose if I had intended to go to Lecco I would have heard Lesmo on the tannoy and the penny would have dropped. Or even I would have caught on to follow the people, wearing F1 gear, we had left on the train at Monza.

Walking in … Monza

Anyway, hindsight is a wonderful (or tedious) thing, but everyone loves a six kilometre walk in a warm Lombardian afternoon… ahem.


Actually, I didn’t mind, I got to see Monza town. It looks brilliant! If the hotel prices hadn’t been ridiculously extortionate we probably would have stayed there! Sadly, unlike Montmeló, there wasn’t a sign at the train station pointing in the direction of the track and more surprisingly there wasn’t a pile of stalls selling overpriced Formula One ™ tat (though this was only Thursday, there wasn’t even any sign of setting up!). The only F1 ™ related thing I could see in the town was Vettel’s car from last year beside some sort of promotional event.

Six kilometres later we got to the circuit and collected our tickets (the ticket office was at the entrance, not the other end of the circuit!), with complimentary lanyard and earplugs. We also go a map of the circuit (more detailed than the one I printed online) and weekend timetable (less detailed than the one I printed online). We then headed towards, what I think they call the GP Village. Basically it’s the area where you can buy overpriced Formula One ™ tat. Had a look around and had my eye on a Ferrari back pack at only €25. It would have been useful but in the end didn’t bother. There was also a Pirelli stand with games (and a ski machine?) but nothing was happening at that time so we went to get lunch and a nearby food van.


One of the strange things about Monza was the food vans. They didn’t have chips or burgers (I thought those things were universal). But they had hot dogs, paninis and some sort of cooked flat sausage panini. I can’t remember what it was called so I’ll call it a hot dog burger. I’ll also assume it’s a popular Italian thing so, y’know, when in Rome… or in this case Monza. They didn’t seem too concerned in cooking the meat too much but with fried peppers and onion it was tasty, especially with my cold beer! Leona had the same with a Pepsi and it somehow only came to €11! I have no idea how, bearing in mind a beer was at least €5, but I was not going to correct him… (Thinks of excuse)… language barrier.

Mr Pitiful

It was coming up to four o’clock so we made our way to the pit lane. Once again no one had the foresight to stick up a sign so we tried to follow the map provided/follow everyone else. We ended up walking under the main straight and ended up outside the paddock entrance. We continued to follow the crowd and we then found a bigger crowd behind the pit lane. We Assumed this was the right place.

So we waited and waited. It was now after four. The crowd got bigger. We just stared at a big gate that was slightly ajar. A few people in red wigs(Murussia fans maybe?) started chanting in Italian, paused, then chanted “Open! Open!”. We waited some more. The guys in wigs then started an Alonso chant.

One point, tedious to some but I find interesting, is that the Tifosi chant Alonso different to the Spanish fans. In Barcelona they chant “A-lonnnnnnnnnn-soooooooo, A-lonnnnnnnnnn-soooooooo” whereas the Tifosi chant “A-lon-so, A-lon-so” (in the same way you hear “U-S-A” chanted on WWF shows). I tried to start a “Fe-li-pe” chant. Nothing. (sad face).
We waited some more. The gate opened a wee bit to some excitement and closed again a few seconds later. This charade continued for a few minutes. I have a feeling what was happening that the stewards were scanning the bar codes on the tickets, a few people at a time. But it seems that they realised the enormity of their task (it was now 4.20pm and there were a few hundred people waiting) so they just opened the gates fully and everyone piled into the pitlane.
The pitlane was already packed when we got there. Bearing in mind we came through, what we thought, was the only entrance: Where did they come from? Compared to Barcelona, the pitlane walk was alot busier, and everyone decided to stand outside the Ferrari garage!

There was also a crowd outside McLaren’s garage as Hamilton and Button were doing signings. I tried to get close but to no joy. One guy beside me was shouting “Hamilton number two driver” at Lewis. I don’t know what he was referencing, but Hamilton just ignored it. I couldn’t see Jenson through the crowd. There was also some clown with a megaphone shouting “Hey Lewis, give us a wave!” in a broad English accent (spoiler alert: we were near that fool quite a bit over the weekend. Spoiler alert 2: We resisted the urge to hurt him!). I then tried to hang about outside the Ferrari garage for a bit, but got bored of waiting and bored of the crowd so went to have a look at the Red Bull garage, which was a bit quieter.
I left Leona hanging about outside the Red Bull garage, she was trying to steal Vettel, and I walked over to the pit wall to have a look at the track. When having a look Vettel, of all people, was doing some sort of naff PR photograph by lying on the finish line. (Edit: I hadn’t realised until after but I appear to have taken a photo of Martin Brundle filming a piece)


Went back to the garage and waited on Vettel and Webber to come out. We knew it wouldn’t be long as you could see Seb just ‘hanging about’ at the back of the garage. He then came out and handed out autographs (note, he had pre signed some cards), then a few minutes later Mark joined him (signing the cards live). I managed to get a Webber autograph but not a Vettel one. It was too busy to ask for a photo. The gobshite with the megaphone started shouting “Mark! Mark! Will you sign my helmet?” (he was wearing like a chrome helmet… possibly a McLaren mechanic one?). Webber looked confused at first, looking around for the voice, but fair dos to him, he signed it. The guy shouted something else, possibly a back story but I tuned it out.

Most of the time children are short, thick and bloody useless but one child did something adorable when Seb was walking back to his garage. The kid cautiously walked up to the World Champion and shyly asked for a photo. Vettel obviously did and posed with boy, when it was other the kid thanked Seb and giddily ran away…. awahhhhh!

The kid is only three years younger than the World Champ

At the same time as the Red Bull appearance was on, some bright spark thought it a good idea to send out the Ferrari drivers, so we missed them. So we decided to get some rest and sit under the podium for a bit and get some shade.

We headed back up the pitlane and there didn’t seem to be much happening. Passed by Daniel Ricciardo, who was smiling politely at people talking Italian at him, and got his autograph, I didn’t have anything for him to sign except a manky print out of an email so gave that to him to sign.

Went to ask Leona to take a photo but she had walked on. Dam!

Sweet Home AlabaMa Qinghua

After finding some discarded signed Ferrari photo’s (yoink!) we hung out at the HRT pit wall, which was obviously quieter than the Ferrari area! I noticed a crowd gathering at one of the “new team” garages and went to see who it was. It was someone at HRT and I had no idea who it was. Actually, I had seen him a few minutes earlier sitting in the car as the team practiced pit stops. I had assumed it was a mechanic embarrassed into signing autographs. Spoiler alert (though not really): It was Ma Qinghua who made his debut in one of the practice sessions. However, I didn’t find that it could have been him until I listened to a podcast on the flight home.

(F) One Hot Minute

Ah… here’s a handy link. Said Podcast was from Sidepodcast which have alot of good audio and articles (top tip: the Joe Saward shows are particularly brilliant!). They once gave away stickers for one of their shows. I got some stickers, and after sticking some on my basses, I saved them for an occasion like this! I kept some in a safe place and some in a not so safe place. Somehow the not so safe ones turned up and the safe place ones vanished. Grrr! I blame moving house!
Spoiler alert: I took this photo on Sunday
I also had promised to stick one on Rob Smedly’s chair. I’d even checked Google to find out that he sat on the left on the pit wall (thinking about it, that doesn’t make sense, Massa’s pit board was on the right…). Who’d have thought Ferrari were so popular in Italy and their area being so busy! I had to improvise.
Not as popular with the Tifosi
Hoping for an unsafe pit release
After all that it was about six o’clock. I had one more thing to do: go to the banking!

Mr Banker

I couldn’t fit in Fangio’s car
We walked out the pitlane and using my sense of direction headed towards where I thought the banking would be. Seeing it on TV, I knew the banking crossed the track just after the Lesmo corners, so I was heading in that direction. We arrived at an open bit of grass and I looked to the left and, by accident, there was the banking.
As we walked towards the banking, it just got bigger. When I stood at the bottom it struck me how high it was! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a grand prix ran on the banking, except the occasional clips. I’ve never even played it on a computer game. The closest I’ve seen to a race on it was in the movie Grand Prix… and that is harrowing! I was shocked to think anyone would be crazy enough to race that high!
I made the attempt to climb to the top, half way up is fine but then it gets more difficult, and by the top you have to do a lunge for the barrier to pull yourself up. It is so deceptively steep. On my second climb I lost my balance and ended up sliding down and couldn’t stop my momentum! The thought of driving, let alone racing, on it is crazy!

Bit of perspective

At the top, the people at the bottom looked tiny. The enormity of the banking is evident from that height. Getting down was less fun. Two choices, either slide down and wreck your trousers/get burns on your ass, or run down and run the risk of tripping over yourself. I chose the latter. I took baby steps at first but the steepness gave me extra momentum and ended up running full strides by the bottom. I used the grass entrance we came through to slow down, if I had climbed elsewhere I’d have ended up in weeds and nettles!

I sat on the banking for a bit and took it all in. It was quiet. I had only seen about 10-20 other people coming to see it. Maybe nobody else cared or maybe the local fans are here all the time so it’s no big deal to them. As I have no proper memories of watching races from here (except a movie) I could still appreciate the history of this giant old, dilapidated, weedy lump of concrete, and with the sun starting to set.. I could have sat there all day.
But I couldn’t sit much longer. I could hear an announcement from the pitlane. My Italian isn’t great (!) but I could guess it meant “get out!”.
My Sunday Hat sticker… shameless
We walked along the banking to where it crosses the track (if I could I would have walked the whole thing!) and found a gate (hole in fence) which brought us along the track. We walked along the track to the Lesmo corners, watching people were jogging/cycling past us on the track.
We walked past some ruined buildings, one looked like a church. I could yack on more about historical Monza and yada yada… but one think I loved there is one thing at Monza you wouldn’t find at any Tilke circuit… a geese farm! There were some goats knocking about too.
Actual geese!

Train in Vain

We found the exit and walked under the circuit again and we were right at the train station. The train the Milan just pulled away so we got to the station and learned the next train wasn’t for another hour. So we just waited. We didn’t learn where to buy tickets though, so asked around. The consensus was “you can probably buy tickets on the train…probably”. So we went with that.

Under the track. He certainly does.
We chatted to some Dutch fellas at the train station. Talked about me visiting Amsterdam a few months ago and one of them told me about their trip to Cork 20 odd years ago. He also talked about their “English” campsite (they had to pay in sterling) and how they saved up for years just to come to Monza and buy one of the expensive grandstand tickets (do it properly!). We also made the other guys day when he asked to see a timetable for the weekend. I had the ridiculously detailed one and gave it to him and he asked his mate to take a photo of it. I told him to keep it and he seemed so happy (I had a couple of copies).
Their train was going in the opposite  direction and it arrived first, so we waved goodbye to our new Dutch friends (didn’t get their names) and then our train arrived while later.
No one came to check/sell tickets so free train ride back to Milan. Yay. We took a wrong turn in the train station (no signs for the metro) and ended up outside. Thought, maybe the metro was around the corner. Walked 800m and arrived at a bridge. Checked Google maps and turns out the metro was around the other corner. We were 1km away from another metro so instead of walking back on ourselves we walked on.
It was now about 10pm when we got to the metro beside the hostel and the two English guys followed us out (I didn’t get their names – I really should have) and they regaled us with their adventures. Notably how they accidently ended up at the front when the Ferrari drivers were doing their signings. They also said how there was a bus to Monza waiting outside the Metro stop they went.
Being hungry Leona and I went to get food and had some focaccia. Yum.
Back to the hostel for a hot chocolate and to sleep off all that walking. Leona reckoned it was about 10km… but who’s counting?!

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