It’s the final short-haul trip of 2018 for our special correspondent @DieterRencken as Formula 1 heads to Monza for the last European race of the season: the Italian Grand Prix.
Breeze through airport formalities despite a surprising number of early birds, queue for boarding; then realise its amateur hour for Brussels Airlines: departure is scheduled for 620am, yet we board well after that time, which is beyond me given there’s no late incoming flight, but whatever.
Eventually the captain says, “We’re awaiting final bags to be loaded, then we’re underway”. Ten minutes later captain says, “We’re awaiting five late passengers.” Hmm… Ten minutes after they arrive, captain says, “Sorry, but can’t remove the steps to the aircraft, so we’ve asked for outside help.”
Yellow van arrives, much tugging and steps are free. Ten minutes later captain says, “Sorry, the man who removes the chocks has left, so we’ve called him back.” Eventually, at 7:40am we’re underway, 100 minutes lost due to sheer airline incompetence – and our eventual 8:45am landing time pitches us straight into Milan traffic, adding another 30 minutes delay to the commute.
I have no issue when flights are delayed due to weather, safety or security concerns, but sheer incompetence that costs folk thousands – arguably more than their combined airfares – should not go uncompensated.
In transit bus to terminal, and note a tractor transporting bags swerving sharply to avoid Air Berlin Boeing reversing across roadway. The swerving action causes two bags to fall off the trailer, which the aircraft narrowly misses. Whether tractor driver bothered to retrieve said baggage I do not know, but if your bags went missing at Malpensa yesterday (or have been crushed by large wheels), check out my photo.
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Given that I’ve been up and about for almost six hours with only swigs of tea to keep me going, I stop at the autostrada Yellow Arches and grab a burger – which means I can skip lunch. Thursdays the teams don’t offer full media hospitality, although most media centres now do offer a bite to eat – but I’m not taking chances.
Some years ago all Monza offered was luke warm water out of a (broken) fountain, with instructions to recycle our (plastic) cups. True, things improved after I complained to the circuit, but still…
All this means I arrive at the circuit, 40-odd miles away shortly before noon, just in time for the first interview, with Guenther Steiner – who confirms to me that Haas signed Force India’s “going concern” waiver and not the “new entry” document. The Pink Plot thickens.
Thereafter I chat to a mate with better-than-average knowledge of in-car camera stuff, who explains the devices have operating ranges of 50-120°C, and that cooling of these devices is vital on searing days when cars are on the grid – due to heat soak. They are activated when the ‘umbilical cord’ is removed – the final step before a car hits the track – and this resulted in a humorous incident at Ferrari, he said.
A Ferrari was in the garage with engine cover removed when a red-clad technician inadvertently removed the cord while FOM was running (supposedly) off-line checks, thus activating the cam and exposing the car’s rear innards to the paddock. Allegedly it took a while before the team’s competitors reported the breach…
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The FIA Head of Communications announces that a photographer colleague has had two cameras and lenses nicked off his table – par for the course at Monza. Every year we experience criminal activity at two venues – Catalunya and Monza – in their (very) poorly guarded parking areas and/or media centres. It’s frankly unacceptable – how would you feel going to work knowing that costly and vital your kit is likely to be nicked?
Afternoon interviews – once again these are scarce due to (a) Lewis Hamilton not pitching after pleading a pressing personal commitment, and b) the FIA’s decision to raise the number of delegates in its own media conferences to eight, so 40 per cent of the grid. The protocol is that drivers in the FIA presser don’t do “scrums”, so our pool is reduced to 60 per cent.
So if you’re tired of reading third-hand stuff taken from the TV pen, where drivers repeatedly answer the same two or three questions for various different stations, you know why.
At the press conference: Of course the Prancing Horse jockeys are called up – it’s Monza, after all – plus Charles Leclerc who represents Sauber sponsor Alfa Romeo, while Nico Hulkenberg is there to publicly atone for his first-lap Spa misjudgement, but one wonders what the rest brought to this presser given that no new questions were posed at them in this very public forum.
Its back to media scrums – I draw Daniel Ricciardo, who raises a few laughs as puts on a pukka Italian accent after I ask what Monza means to him given his Italian roots, followed by Max Verstappen. It’s fascinating to hear why the Red Bull duo have opposing views on Halo despite visuals showing that Fernando Alonso’s tyre left imprints on Leclerc’s device in Spa.
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Wrap up, catch up, pack up and head for my B&B in Cornate d’Adda, a village around 15 miles from the circuit. I’ve stayed at this family-run place for four years now, and find it hospitable, (fairly) cheap yet (very) cheerful, and, above, all, close to a number of good restaurants that don’t triple prices during GP weekend.
Dinner at a local griglia, where I have a 300g entrecote, accompanied by baked potato smothered with local olive oil. Oh, dessert consists of three balls of sorbet: passion fruit, peach and strawberry.
In bed, catching up on the day’s news, both F1 and other.
2018 Italian Grand Prix
- Ferrari suffering longest-ever home race victory drought
- 2018 Italian Grand Prix Star Performers
- Hamilton wins again as Mercedes break Ferrari hearts at home
- Paddock Diary: Italian Grand Prix day four
- Vote for your 2018 Italian Grand Prix Driver of the Weekend