On Friday you can go on most of the grandstands. Though we have free reign of where to sit, and therefore find a decent viewing spot for practice, we still had to suss out the general admission areas and find somewhere decent to sit for Saturday and Sunday. The plan was: for the F1 practices watch from a grandstand, figure out which one when we got there, and then explore the general admission areas for GP2/GP3/Porsche Supercup.
As you don’t have to be there really early and find a decent spot you could have a lie in… well, sort of. We were still up, washed, breakfast-ed and out of the hostel not long after eight. Jumped on the metro and took the two “Englsian” guys advice and travelled to the end of the red line and board the awaiting shuttle bus.
When we got to Rho Fiera, there was no awaiting bus… just some people standing at a bus stop, wearing F1 gear and looking confused. After some awkward conversation, with possible mistranslation, I ran over to the ticket office and got two tickets to Monza. Ran back to the bus stop as a bus was arriving, only to find, despite what the sign on the top said, it wasn’t for us and another one would arrive soon.
One did arrive soon and I got on, but the driver wasn’t bothered with my freshly purchased ticket. It seemed that all I needed to do was validate my metro ticket! The bus was pretty full already so I gave Leona a seat and I stood. Just after 9am the bus left the station and we headed to Monza, with an hour to the first practice session.
Very soon I realised that this wasn’t a special shuttle bus direct to the circuit but just a standard commuter bus. Soon enough, a seat was free so I took it, and just in time, because we were approaching Monza town and the bus began to get more crowded. Then the road started getting busier, but we were still moving. We came to a stop and there were about 100 people waiting for the bus. Bear in mind the bus could probably hold at most 50 sitting or standing and there were about 40 on the bus already. Still this didn’t stop people getting on until we were crammed. I had even squeezed up to let someone share my seat.
The bus was overflowing, going slowly and getting ridiculously warm and stuffy! Soon we got to into the centre of Monza town and started travelling along the road we had walked the previous day and by this point it was bumper to bumper. I had checked my phone and it was beyond 10am. I had missed the start of the session and was getting annoyed. Eventually, we had passed the worst of the traffic but were still only going at walking pace (as per the pedestrians walking beside us). Soon after I recognised an entrance to the park from Thursday and decided to cut our losses and make the rest of the journey on foot (as did most of the bus passengers).
It was probably about half ten by this point, I can’t exactly remember, but, like a bear who missed the start of the session, we walked through the park towards the noise of the cars. Eventually we ended up at the entrance at the Parabolica, walked under the banking and found a grandstand, on the outside Parabolica, to catch the last 14 minutes of practice.
Before we went in there was a Fanvision booth. I had printed out a voucher for free rental on theFriday. Leona asked me if I remembered it. Nope. Argh!!!!
From what I remember Kimi went air born and Alonso broke down… neither of these things happened near me, but I seen it on the big screen.
By this point I’d realised I’d lost a pair of ear plugs. Luckily had I a spare pair in my wallet (occasionally used for rehearsing). Just as well, as we seemed closer to the track than in Barcelona.. like right on top of it!
After our brief exposure to FP1 we started to explore. Left the grandstand (ticket scanned again. This was a consistent thing all weekend) to start exploring. I had my eye on the inside of Parabolica, so went to check it out, so after purchasing some overpriced fizzy pop, we headed towards the “Pirelli” bridge on the main straight to gain access to the inside of the track. Scanned in (!) and beside the bridge noticed some concrete seating. The GP2 cars were leaving the paddock via the back straight so we sat there and caught the start of the session.
If I thought we were close to the track at the first grandstand, we were probably close enough here to hi five a driver. Well, it’d be a stretch, and the driver would have to stretch too… and I’d probably rip my arm off, but you get the idea! Stayed there for about 10 or so minutes of the GP2 practice and then crossed the bridge and walked up towards the Parabolica. We sat at the general admission area, just before the entry to Parabolica (beside the DRS detection line… I think) and caught the end of GP2 practice. Here, unlike at other points, they had set up, what I could only describe as bleachers, usually 3-4 steps high. Not much but a bit better than lumps of concrete and could give you a decent view.
I felt this was a good place for possibly viewing the race, as there was a big screen adjacent (though part of the view blocked due to a pesky grandstand), decent view of the straight and entry to the corner.
After the GP2 session was over, we had an hour and a half to spare until FP2. We used our time wisely by checking out some more vantage points inside the Parabolica… except for one (empty) section, with bleachers, which was sectioned off, for local government people or something and (inexplicably) guarded by the polizia. N.B. it’s not like it was guarded by Storm Troopers outside a forest moon power station; the police were just sitting there, in the sun, chilling out. Plus they wouldn’t have an issue if distracted by an Ewok and therefore allowing the
rebels spectators in, because it was a Friday and you could go on the good grandstands, as opposed to this rubbish one! Duh!
We walked along the inside of the Parabolica. There were no bleachers but they had a few rows of the concrete benches, then tree’s and grass. There wasn’t really much room for anything else, what with the trees and and a carpark. As we continued around the inside of Parabolica, at the very centre of the corner there was a gate which lead straight to the track (as opposed to a few feet of “no mans land”), which was there, presumably, to take broken down cars or something. But I also noted, that a crowd of people could fit through, say, if the gates were opened, for some reason, maybe… (convenient plot point)
More bleachers and all that started to appear at the exit of Parabolica, and the whole “general admission” area started to open up. There were still a lot of trees though, and a car park. We had a look at around the area for possibly somewhere to sit for the rest of the weekend. There were decent enough views and a big screen across the track. Though as it was the exit of a long corner, it would be doubtful there would be much action to see on race day.
As Free Practice 2 was coming up, we decided to sit on the main grandstand in front of the pit lane. The sun was very hot so sitting in the shade would be good! We would have to cut under the track again, which meant passing the ‘Paddock Club’ entrance and the actual paddock entrance. While passing through the car park, mentioned earlier, a car was driving past and we stood aside to let them through. As it drove past I looked at the driver and thought to myself “Huh, there’s Damon Hill…”, I let my brain process that subconscious thought then I realised, actually, that it was Damon Hill, and his silly beard, looking for a parking space! To which I reacted by gorping, pointing and saying “Look Leona! It’s Damon Hill”, to which she replied “stop pointing!”.
I was shocked by my own cretinious reaction. Though, I was impressed that an Ex-Driver had just showed up to a Grand Prix (that wasn’t in Silverstone!). Then I remembered he worked for Sky now… so I was less impressed. But still seeing Damon Hill looking for a parking space, driving slower than he did in ’99, was pretty cool. I didn’t stay to judge his parking. I could have even stayed and offered to parallel park for him.
That was the only famous person I seen doing something “normal” that weekend. Normal as in not doing something within the F1 ™ bubble ™.
After cutting under the track we hung around the F1 Tat selling zone ™. There was a bit more happening than was the previous day. The Pirelli stand was full of games, including a Tyre Changing challenge. Sadly I didn’t get to have a go. Plus the ski machine was going beside it. It somehow advertised tyres. Yeah, I don’t know either!
We hit the main grandstand in time for FP2. The thinking being we’ll be in the shade, we can see what’s going on in the pitlane and there will be a big screen opposite.
We couldn’t see much in the pitlane and the big screen was off the whole session (annoyingly coming on a few minutes after the session ended). Though, the shade was nice.
After practice, we tried to scope out the rest of the general admission areas. But behind the main grandstand was full of stuff we had to walk around (Tat selling/broadcasters). Eventually, we ended up behind a grandstand beside the entry to first chicane, so we got a hot dog and sat in the grass, as we listened to the GP2 cars do their qualifying. Another random Monza quirk, there was an emptied out swimming pool beside us.
We tried to walk to the outside of Curva Grande but more obstacles rerouted us, this time in the form of a campsite. When we got to the exit of the first chicane (which seemed like ages to get to) we got to an area behind the grandstand, which at the time I noticed we didn’t actually need to be scanned in to get to this area, the stewards were scanning for people to get into the grandstand. Beside the grandstand was an embankment where you had a pretty good view of the first chicane and the entry into Curva Grande, and it appeared you didn’t need a ticket to get here. I’m pretty sure I can’t be right, there may have been a mistake, or nobody bothered checking since the F1 sessions were over. But if I’m right then there’s a top tip (don’t do that. That’s a stupid idea!)
We walked along the outside of Curva Grande through, what I would describe as, a forest path. Still pretty close to the track. There were no sessions on yet. We were trying to get to the second chicane, then the Lesmos, for the Porsche Supercup practice session. But the forest path guided us away from the track and then took us outside the park wall. Dam! The Porsches had started and we could hear them as we walked along the road. We decided to just go back to Milan as it was the last session of the day.
We hit the train station just as the Milan train was pulling in. There was a guy on the platform, who I thought worked for the train station (now I’m not so sure), he just told us to get on. The whole way back to Milan I was bricking it, worried an irate Italian conductor would give off to me for not having a ticket, but it wasn’t to be. For the rest of the weekend I would chicken out and get a return… y’know … just in case. (the trains were far too full for a conductor to check tickets to be feasible, but I am ever the eternal pessimist)
Due to lack of seating, Leona and I got separated, so I sat with to Kiwi’s and an Australian. Started chatting about where we sat that day etc, then I asked them if New Zealanders and Australians *actually* hate each other (answer: yes, but they unite to take on the rest of the world) and weather New Zealand was anything like Flight of the Conchords. They informed me that a lot of the Irish emigrants are idiots (I agreed) but most are dead on.
We got back to Milan and dropped our stuff at the hostel. We then went for dinner. Resisting the charms of “Chicken Chicken” we went to a nice restaurant across the square. I had tagatelli, it was ace. We had some sort of pastry desert cake with custard in it. It was also ace!
After dinner we went to the supermarket to buy some cheap cartoned wine, beer, cider and bread rolls (classy). Went back to the hostel and drank some cheap wine before heading to sleep.
As seating wasn’t guaranteed for Saturday we had to get up early. I’d set my alarm for 6 in order to get the 715 train from (station). Yep. That definitely, definitely was going to happen!