Enzo Ferrari rarely attended races; he would turn up on the Saturday of Monza to watch his cars qualify for the Italian Grand Prix and then return to Maranello and watch the race on television. He was passionate about F1, but he preferred to watch the races from Maranello.
Current Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo is keeping the tradition alive. He showed up at Monza on Saturday to watch his cars in action, and he did a lot else besides. After watching qualifying from the Ferrari pit garage, he paid a visit to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone; he then caught up with McLaren boss Ron Dennis, had a meeting with FIA president Jean Todt, signed a sponsorship agreement with Santander that lasts until 2017, held a press conference and was presented with a lifetime achievement award. All in a day’s work for Montezemolo, and in keeping with a longstanding Ferrari tradition.
“Ferrari is the only team that has contested every race in the world championship,” said Luca, “and Monza has staged more world championship races than any other circuit. Ferrari and Monza are interlinked in the history of this sport, and it is a pleasure for me to come to Monza to support Ferrari.”
For all the idiosyncrasies of the Italian Grand Prix, the whole F1 circus loves racing at Monza. The drivers love the high speed nature of the track and the passionate fans; the engineers love the technicalities of trying to marry straight-line speed with cornering grip; even the motorhome chefs love the local ingredients from the Milanese markets.
“I’ve put the Italian flag on my helmet this weekend,” said Lewis Hamilton. “I raced in Italy a lot between the ages of 13 and 16 and I learnt a lot during that time. I even learnt to speak a bit of Italian! Out of respect for the Italian people I thought I’d put the Italian flag on my helmet.”
Another man who spent a lot of his career racing in Italy is Robert Kubica. He was born in Krakow, Poland, but he has spent more of his life in Italy than in Poland, and on Sunday he made his return to competitive driving just up the road from Monza.
Kubica had a life threatening crash in a rally 18 months ago and as we went to press he was contesting the Ronde Gomitolo di Lana rally. He was 11s in the lead after the first special stage, which would suggest he’s lost none of his speed as a result of the accident…