Even the teams that do not have an Italian connection reckon the Italian Grand Prix is one of the craziest weekends of the year, crazy in a good sense that is. It was definitely a busy one for us and especially for our drivers, with Pierre Gasly starting off the race week with a photo shoot on Wednesday in Milan, before being joined by Daniil Kvyat for an evening event and Q and A, organised by our Official HR Partner, Randstad.
While the Formula 1 paddock at some venues can look a little empty and quiet, the famous Autodromo di Monza is always jam packed with people and there’s hardly room to swing a cat! And the grid was overflowing with VIPs and celebrities as well, including legendary footballer Didier Drogba who has added his name to the FIA Road Safety campaign.
However, what really makes the atmosphere special at Monza is the crowd. It doesn’t really matter that a quick look at the sea of red in the grandstands and public viewing areas makes it clear that Scuderia Ferrari is more of a religion than a racing team here in Italy, the enthusiasm and good nature of the tifosi is truly unique and appreciated by all the teams.
Not even torrential rain on race morning could keep them away and by the afternoon, it was obvious we had not seen such a big crowd since the days of Michael Schumacher’s dominance for the Prancing Horse.
There was a sad side to the weekend as well, because of the tragic death of Anthoine Hubert in the Formula 2 race a week earlier at Spa-Francorchamps. People were still on edge and, at this high speed Monza circuit, the Safety Car was deployed at the slightest hint of trouble during sessions for all categories racing this weekend. Plus there was a heart-stopping moment in Saturday’s F3 race, when Alex Peroni’s car was launched incredibly high in the air, rolling several times, fortunately landing wheels down on a tyre wall His car had hit what’s called a “sausage” kerb on the outside of the very high speed Parabolica corner. The offending kerb was removed before the F1 cars went out for their final practice on Saturday.
In the race, Pierre, who had a grid penalty as we upgraded him to the Spec 4 Honda engine, made incredible progress, going from 17 on the grid to 13th in the space of a couple of laps, but he was pushed off track by Stroll after the Canadian himself was hit by a spinning Vettel. As for Daniil, he did what we expect from him now, put his head down and got on with it, moving up to 9th in the first quarter of the race. He moved even higher up the order, but shortly after his tyre stop on lap 29, he had to park the car at the side of the track, with smoke pouring from the back end. At the time of writing, we are still investigating the exact cause of the failure. The fact that the Renault team had a good day means they have got ahead of us in the Constructors’ championship so that we now lie sixth. But we plan to start fighting back, right from the next round in Singapore in a fortnight’s time.
A disappointing weekend for us therefore, especially as we always have an extra reason to want to do well at our home race, as it is the main opportunity for our Faenza factory-based staff to see the result of their efforts at first hand. Around 125 of them came to Monza over the weekend, the majority on race day and our marketing crew brought them into the paddock in small groups so they could see what goes on in an F1 trackside garage.
There was a time when packing away the cars and equipment in Monza on Sunday night meant not only saying farewell to the trucks and motorhomes for another year, but also looking forward to the final two races of the year in Suzuka and Adelaide. Today, we still have seven more Grands Prix between now and 1st December: plenty of time to make progress and plenty of points up for grabs.