Are you Alonso, tonight?

Train in Vein 

Unlike the previous day we managed to wake up with out hassle. We thought getting the 8.15am train and arriving for about 9am (like the day before) would be fine. Had breakfast, packed our lunch and got the metro with no problems. Got to the Garbidaldi, had about 15minutes to spare, all good, walked to the ticket machine, searched for the next train to Biassono Lesmo, next train was a few hours away. Ah…hmm…
Turns out, like most other places in the world, there was a reduced timetable on a Sunday. I didn’t think to check the night before… dam! Searched for Monza and there was a train leaving soon. Picked it and got the train. Didn’t know how we were going to get to the circuit when we arrived there. Didn’t fancy a walk and I assumed, like Friday, the traffic would be mental.
Outside Monza station there were shuttle buses leaving, so we jumped on one and moved quite slow through the traffic. Thankfully, around the park, the police closed the road to general traffic and the bus cruised towards circuit. The bus dropped us off in the middle of park. We had no idea where we where, we just followed the crowd and walked towards the circuit.
We soon found the road that we had walked down on the Thursday and walked along the footpath. It was a traffic jam, with everyone important enough to be allowed to drive in. I looked into the cars and mini buses to see if there was anyone interesting. Nope – but I gave some lads in Lotus gear (I assume they were mechanics) a big thumbs up. They seemed bemused.
Race day seemed a little busier and marshalling was a bit tighter. This meant we somehow got sent towards the entrance which let us into the GP Village area, but when we got into the grounds we knew where we were going and immediately turned right and took the path which led us under the circuit. We had to pass the obstacle of a load of “hangers on” waiting outside the paddock entrance and Paddock Club entrance, but once we manoeuvred them we went about our plan of finding a decent spot.
The plan was simple; I would go straight to the same place on the bleachers at the entrance of the Parabolica, whilst Leona walked along the inside of Parabolica to look for somewhere better, if available.
It was a bit busier than the day before, and wasn’t there too long until I got a text from Leona, saying she had found a decent viewing spot, only problem was that we would have to stand.. No problem.

She found a spot right at the first apex of the Parbolica, beside one of the stands, a few metres from the track. It was a cracking view!

Race Relations 

Caught the end of the GP3 race. Listened to the podium interview. Can’t remember much.

Retired GP3 Car

Next up was the GP2 race. A Lotus livery car locked up in front of us and got beached in the gravel (reading up on it, turns out it was Guiterrez). You could smell the smoke from the tyres for quite a while afterwards. Cant remember much detail of the race (it was six months ago now!) but it was very entertaining.

Lock Up
Hang up

Then the Porsche Supercup race. It was also very good! I also remember a wee bit of it, I think. The championship was on the line and the potential winner changed a few times. One of the contenders was knocked of the road. I think. Sounds familiar though.

Eddie?

Waited for a bit for the drivers parade. Sadly this was the only real downfall of Monza. They were stuck on the back of a truck and chatted to each other, with some interviews on the big screen. Bah! Barcelona managed to find some classic cars, you’d think there’d be some decent convertibles knocking about Italy.

Parade

There was a bit of a wait for the F1 race. Leona had a nap. A marshall brushed the track.. with an actual broom.

Usual stuff started happening. Safety car did a few laps. Cars started coming out to do instillation laps. The usual. Yada yada. Formation Lap and then the race was about to start.

As it wouldn’t be another minute until the cars came to where we were, the whole crowd was glued to the big screen. We could hear the engines behind us. The lights went red and… some idiot blocks my view, a woman behind me shouted at him and he moved… then the race started! Massa had a great start and goes into second. There was a huge cheer. Massa then makes a move on Hamilton for the lead and the cheer gets louder. He is then wheel to wheel with Hamilton into the corner and the cheers become a unanimous gasp! Massa didn’t overtake him and there was a big “awh”.

A minute and a bit later the cars come round, and a few seconds later they were gone.

I can’t remember lap for lap what happened. We continued to watch the big screen, and watch the track as the pack passed us. We would collectively cheer when Alonso overtook Schumacher, or gasped when Vergne had a spin and went temporally airborne. Alonso was having a blinder but was getting stuck behind Vettel. We watched on the big screen as Alsono attempted a pass and held our breaths as he was forced onto the grass. Collectively sighed relief as he made it onto a track and rang out some “boos” for Vettel’s trick. We cheered when he finally made it passed and cheered again when Vettel got his penalty!

Felipe Baby!

We were pretty up to date with what was going on. Then we could hear a roar of cheering from further down the back straight. I had no idea what was going on as nothing was on the screen, but it then cut to Button slowing down and pulling of the track (he was ahead of Massa at this point). Despite Button being cheered out, he received applause as, in order to get back to the pits, he had to walk passed the stands. People were cramming forward to get a photo, but I had the advantage of being tall and got a snap as he dejectedly walked passed.

Button

Perez was beginning to make up positions, so we watched as he passed Massa right in front of us. He then took Alsono and started to try and catch Hamilton.

There was a big cheer as Vettel retired from the race and gasps, followed by applause when Webber had a big spin and continued driving straight away.

It was now the final few laps and looked like a definite Hamilton win, we decided to make our way to the gates in the middle of the Parabolica for the traditional Monza track invasion. Turns out some people already had this idea.

At the gate

Invasion

We couldn’t see much of what was going in the race but hear the cars going passed very fast then very slow, so we knew the race was finished. When the crowd sensed all the cars had gone passed and we started to chant “open! open!”. The marshals then opened the gates, it got a bit dodgy for a second. with alot of people going through a gate, but we made it on the track and started to run towards the podium.

RUN!!!

As I was running I glanced behind me and Leona was a fair bit away, I considered waiting, for like a second, but decided to keep running.. she’d be fine.. probably.

I made it just in time as the drivers were coming up and they played the anthem. Thankfully it wasn’t an Ferrari win, because I think, if it was, I would blubber like a school girl with a bruised knee when they played the Italian anthem.

From where I was standing Alonso was the only driver I could see, and he was looking around him waving to the crowd. He appeared to be looking at my general direction so I gave him a thumbs up, and he gave a thumbs up back!! Awesome!

They started handing out the trophies and Alonso obviously got the biggest cheer! Then the champagne spraying happened and the place went mental! It seemed to get more crowded and everyone was chanting “A-lon-so! A-lon-so!” over and over! Champagne was sprayed into the crowd, ticker tape was dispersed and Alonso chucked his cap out.

Leona’s view

This continued for the podium interviews, with Niki Lauda, then a little bit of obligatory boo-ing for Hamilton. He said something about Italy having great fans which got a cheer, and back to chanting for Alonso.

It was bloody insane, yet absolutely brilliant. Those podium interviews are silly on TV but are made for things like this. It was a lot better than in Barcelona, when we got to see the press conference from the grandstand on a big screen.. and in silence!

The crowd started to disperse and as I had abandoned Leona earlier I texted her something like “I’m under the podium” and as I waited I had some of my carton of wine… yum!

A few minutes later Leona turned up. I was expecting a “you abandoned me you ball bag!” or something similar, but no. Suprisingly she was in good spirits despite being in the middle a mini crush underneath the podium, being soaked with champagne and having pieces of gold ticker tape stuck onto her. There was a camera man infront of her and she reckons she got on TV, sadly didn’t spot her when watching it back.
We decided to stick around for a bit, to see what, and who, we could see, and even try and get ourselves on TV (and for bonus points make fun of Eddie Jordan on TV, preferably by starting a chant).

So we waited, stuck our heads over the wall, but none of the BBC folks appeared. Met another Irish guy who wanted to give grief to EJ because “he’s a massive lick!”, which is a phrase I hadn’t heard in years!

Sadly I didn’t get to make my BBC TV début (I mean BBC F1, my da spotted me at a comedy gig on BBC NI once), though I quite possibly ended up on Sky Sports… F1… HD…

When hanging out around under the podium Damon Hill and Jake Simon Lazenby came out with a camera guy. By this point we were surrounded by a load of English people (including the burk from Thursday with the megaphone!). I tried to start the crowd in “You’re just a shit Jake Humphrey” at Lazenby, but the crowd didn’t join in. They just cheered while Lazenby gave a fist and mouthing “come on”. Trying to whip up a bit of noise so there would be a nice backdrop for their conversation.

I noticed them looking down to the pits and I look to my left, and there was Johnny Herbert looking up. So Hill and Lazenby were on the podium chatting to Herbert a few metres below them, just for the sake of it. Eugh, that’s such a Sky thing to do…

I can’t remember at what point the crowd started chanting “B-B-C!” but it happened – the megaphone guy started it..

They wrapped up their conversation and the Lazenby pointed the camera our direction. The crowd started cheering and waved their flegs and I waved my tricolour. The camera man was right above me so it is quite likely I ended up on TV. Someone from work said they remember watching that bit on TV but didn’t see me. I’ve yet to source a video of it.

Hello Damon!

The Sky people then left the podium. I presume they went to talk to Johnny Herbert some more, but face to face…

They started a samba train.

I walked up and down the pit straight a few times to see if I could see. The guy with the megaphone spotted Rob Smedley and shouted “Oi” Rob! Over here!”. Smedley was looking over the pit wall, not amused and disappeared before I could  get a snap.

The megaphone idiot then gave abuse to someone looking down from the Paddock Club balcony.

FYI – It wasn’t nice.

Walked back down to the Red Bull garage. Spotted Mark Webber’s physio (I remember seeing him on TV holding Webber’s pit board), I thought he was called Rocky but it was Roger Cleary (I got my RBR back room staff confused, Rocky being Vettel’s engineer…). I shouted Rocky but tried to make it look like it wasn’t me.. he didn’t seem to notice but he handed out some cans of Red Bull left over from the pit wall.

Pole Position.

Took a few more photos and hung around some more but the pit straight was full of  people, cars and lorries so at 5 o’clock we started getting chucked out (1hr40min after the race – the time flew!).

Sad to see you go

Hung around the GP Village area and Leona promised to buy me a T-shirt or something (as this was an extension of my birthday and because the hat wouldn’t fit my giant head!), but everything was too dear (€60 for a tee?!) or tacky looking (were would I wear it, bar another grand prix). So I decided not to get anything, preferring to spend the money on dinner.

Went to get a tasty (and cold) beverage. While Leona went to buy them, I had a sit down. Shared a table with some Finnish lads in Kimi gear (and with Keke moustaches). Chatted to them for a bit and they were quite hammered, but in good spirits and stated singing “Kimi-me, Kimi-you… ah-ha!”, and when Leona arrived back with drinks started crooning “Are you Alonso… tonight?!”.

We started to head back towards the bus when I had a depressing realisation. I wasn’t going to Monza the next day. This made me a bit sad. I’d always wanted to go there, and now I’ve been, I may never be back*. However, this was offset with the massive smile I had on my face from the afternoons activities. We got crammed into a bus and as we travelled back to the train station I reminisced to myself on all the fun I had that afternoon.

We got back to a crammed train station, then walked onto the crammed platform and got onto a crammed train. Chatted to some English guys who had to catch a plane that evening! I’m glad we didn’t, I just wanted dinner and sleep!

We later met the English lads who were staying in the same hostel as us. Somehow, they were only getting back to Milan. Turns out they decided to walk the circuit (missing the stewards chucking out) and by the time they got back to the pit straight it was practicably deserted (bar people packing up) and dark! They then said how they decided to hang out in the back of a Force India truck. Apparently they were there ages and nobody noticed them.

Conclusions?

That was the end of Grand Prix weekend #2. Last time I had made a list of things I would do differently.

  • Try and not do it on the cheap. Though I still insist the grandstand seats were a bargin! I mean food and hotel wise.
  • Bring a radio.. or something!
  • Avoid a commute! Maybe go camping on site. Or at least stay in a hotel close to the circuit. Also, It is probably cheaper than going to a music festival like Oxegen.
  • Both Silverstone and Spa were an option I considered, but I was dubious because of the rain. Barcelona has reminded me that I am not good with warm weather
  • Silverstone and Spa are also options as I could drive there (via ferry) and bring a tent!
  • The dream is still Monza!
  • I will bring my own beer. And a big cooler box.

We did it on the cheap again! Though we saved alot by i) bringing our own drink, in a cooler bag and ii) the hostel provided a bigger free breakfast, we took alot of bread rolls, ham and cheese which did our lunches. Plus the hostel provided free bottled water so we took full advantage of that!

The commute wasn’t as bad. Monza is closer to Milan than Montmello is to Barcelona. Plus the train station right beside the circuit was handy.

I brought a radio. There was no station, or at least an English speaking one. I forgot my Kangaroo voucher too, so I didn’t get to try it on the Friday.

The camping still looks good fun, but I liked staying in Milan.

The weather wasn’t as warm as Barcelona. It was nice. Though we didn’t factor Mosquitoes and got a few bites, which annoyingly kept itching for over a week after we came home!

*At some point, I’ll definitely come back to Monza!

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