Ahead of a crucial weekend for Ferrari at Monza, @DieterRencken stops off at Lamborghini to catch up with its former team principal Stefano Domencali.
I’m in Italy a day earlier than usual, having flown down on Wednesday to take up a long-standing invitation from Stefano Domenicali to visit Lamborghini in Sant’Agata Bolognese, situated on the border between Bologna and Modena in Italy’s ‘Supercar Valley’.
The former Ferrari team principal is now CEO of Volkswagen Group-owned, Audi-controlled Lamborghini. We’d established a solid relationship during his F1 career, and it’s always a pleasure to catch up with him at a handful of grands prix he visits each season, and at motor shows.Felipe Massa – to the premier non-F1 category.
It was an incredible honour to be personally hosted by the CEO of a car brand that posts record sales year after year, with the Urus being his latest success story. The next chapter, the mild hybrid 800bhp-plus Sian, uniquely energised by a supercapacitor rather than batteries, will be launched in Frankfurt next week.
For Monza I stay in a family-run (modest) former castle-turned-restaurant/B&B situated at the base of the Alps, being both rural and a short 30-minute run from the circuit on non-business days. Comfortable, charming, cheap(ish) and very cheery in typically Italian style.
As I approach the circuit, a familiar buzz develops. Monza is a very special place, being the (accurately) self-styled Temple of Speed, and I’m extremely pleased that agreement to race here until 2024 was reached the evening before. Drop Baku or Shanghai, but never sacrifice Monza.
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I head for the media centre, which, unlike at an increasing number of circuits, actually offers a view across the track. In addition to the ubiquitous Heineken corner, the paddock features a pizza bar operating out of a converted delivery scooter. I’ll stop off there later in the weekend – I’ve been invited to dinner today.
Ferrari’s hospitality has a new façade, being a mural featuring its drivers over the ages. While I admire the artwork, out pops Jody Scheckter, South Africa’s 1979 Ferrari world champion and a man with whom I’d worked during his son Tomas’s F3 days.
He’s at Monza to celebrate 40 years since winning the title at this circuit, and will be putting in some demonstration laps during the weekend. He’s promised a catch-up at some stage during the weekend.
Interviews start, and although an understandable heaviness still lingers after the tragic events of Spa, it’s very much back to business for the sport. Most questions centre on preparations for the fastest track on the calendar. No Guenther Steiner session is complete without the usual discussion of his driver choices for the 2020 F1 season, but he will not be drawn on the topic, save to say that the choice will be made regardless of any history between potential pairings. A hint at a Kevin Magnussen/’Nico Hulkenberg pairing next year?
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The afternoon has passed in a flash, what with a non-stop string of interviews, and this I start packing up and preparing for the drive to Arese and the Alfa Romeo Museo for a presentation – the team trumpets a modestly retouched livery now incorporating the Italian tricolour – and dinner.
As I’d forsaken lunch in anticipation of dinner I’m absolutely starving, and the chefs do not disappoint, serving tomato and cheese pasta, turbot and an incredibly light lemon-based dessert, after which I am more than full.
Head outside to depart – and it’s absolutely pouring. My return journey takes around 40 minutes due to poor visibility, and then I’m ready for bed, but not before paging though the museum catalogue Alfa Romeo have kindly given us as parting gift. A full day, but a very fulfilling one at the oldest track on the calendar.
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