Paddock Diary: 2022 Italian Grand Prix

2022 Italian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

While Monza’s Ferrari-mad tifosi remain as passionate as ever, the Italian Grand Prix organisers also paid fitting tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II.


Monza, 2022Despite a ferocious storm overnight, with golf ball-sized hail battering down on the roof of the cars outside my hotel, I felt surprisingly well-rested ahead of press day. Having opted to stay by the lake in Como, I made the pleasant 40-minute journey into the track alongside a colleague who was staying at the same hotel.

Ferrari fans were already lining up outside of the circuit, but nowhere near the crowds we have seen at other tracks. Had the championship battle been closer – Charles Leclerc was already over 100 points behind Max Verstappen – perhaps more might have made their way down earlier.

Verstappen was my first port of call in the blistering Italian afternoon sunshine. Foolishly believing the weather forecast of rain, I melted in the heat in a long-sleeve dress awaiting the world champion.

Opening the barrier to allow his press officer Gemma Lusty first entrance to the media area, Verstappen followed quickly behind and stood directly in front of me, immediately being surrounded by phones and voice recorders. Sometimes there is a brief moment at the start of media roundtables where everyone waits for another journalist to ask a question, and a strange silence descends. Never one to miss an opportunity I opened the interview to a smiling Verstappen and soon the questions started flowing.

The main FIA press conference followed, with Pierre Gasly notably missing as he was unwell. Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton arrived early for their session, which is particularly unusual for the seven-times world champion who often likes to be the last driver to sit down. Tying his hair back whilst chewing the fat with Ricciardo, they finally took their seats.

While this was going on I noticed a breaking news alert on my phone. Reports Queen Elizabeth II was unwell had surfaced earlier, but this notification that the Royal family had been summoned to her side indicated something more serious was likely developing.

After a quick pit stop at Mercedes to speak to George Russell, I was caught up on the contingency plans unfold in the paddock around the anticipated news.

Lando Norris was my final interviewee of the day, who seemed to have three fake tattoos on his body. I took a quick snap of the Daniel Ricciardo one on his hand and a badger on his neck before he tugged down his shirt to show us his favourite, some sort of flame, which was placed just above his collarbone.

But the mood changed as the sun began to set at around 19:30. Standing in the middle of the paddock I watched my phone as the BBC’s Huw Edwards solemnly relayed the news of the queen’s death. Suddenly, and entirely by coincidence, a dramatic piece of music by Vivaldi blasted out around the circuit.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Minute of silence for Queen Elizabeth II, Monza, 2022

There was no question the Formula 1 race weekend would continue in Italy, despite other sports in the UK choosing to call off their matches. With F1 being an international sport, it was the right choice with the sport under no obligation to abandon the schedule, and teams were in agreement.

Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Principal, Silverstone, 2022The cars were on display for us Friday morning. Some teams were already applying freshly-printed stickers bearing tribute to the late monarch, others were awaiting their decals. A black band wrapped around the air intake on the Mercedes. A minute’s silence was held before practice began – a second preceded the race two days later.

Friday morning began with Porsche’s announcement it would not go ahead with its much-discussed tie-up with Red Bull in 2026. In the evening, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner held court to field our questions over why the deal hadn’t materialised.

After that, I popped down to speak to the F1 press officer about the weekend’s schedule changes. Unexpectedly, I was approached by F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, who had recognised me from a previous chat in Austria. Sitting down to briefly discuss the sport and how I was enjoying my time, he disappeared as quickly as he arrived after a firm handshake.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Red Bull, Monza, 2022

The sun shone again on Saturday morning, despite another impressive storm overnight. Qualifying took place at 16:00, but already many were dreading the thought of sorting out the grid as nine drivers had been handed penalties.

As the parade of drivers began to filter through as each was eliminated from the session, Pierre Gasly approached us. After suffering from an illness all weekend, the Frenchman explained how driving the car felt like a “slap in the face” when he got back behind the wheel.

Gasly was one of several drivers who admitted to the media he was confused over his grid position and even asked his social media followers later where he would start. He also stopped to congratulate Nyck de Vries on his debut F1 qualifying that eventually put him eighth on the grid.

Later we had a session with the McLaren drivers, who had unexpectedly out-qualified the Alpines. Daniel Ricciardo’s smile was as wide as a Cheshire Cat’s as he proceeded to tell us he hoped to reach his goal of three pizzas in one day in Italy. The day ended with a media drinks reception at Aston Martin.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Circuit atmosphere, Monza, 2022

We arrived at the circuit early due to traffic concerns but breezed through the gates into the circuit with relative ease. The paddock was filling up already, with VIPs and guests loitering to catch a glimpse of the drivers arriving. Diving into the media centre to finish off some work, I saw grandstands filling with what looked like thousands of Ferrari fans.

The grid was packed. Sylvester Stallone walked past me, I bumped into the actor Hugh Grant who was being ushered through the hoards, occasionally stopping for selfies, French footballer Olivier Giroud towered over many with his tufts of blonde hair glimmering in the sunshine. It was star-studded, and incredibly hard to navigate around. After some kind of technical hitch with the performance of the national anthem, the weekend’s second minute of silence was observed.

Circuit atmosphere, Monza, 2022I briefly stopped to speak to Pirelli’s Mario Isola about tyre strategies before making my way off the grid. I was forced to do a double take however as I spotted Fernando Alonso sitting at the entrance to the pit lane, jiggling his leg. With his sunglasses on, it seemed he had no interest in the hustle and bustle of the grid.

The race ended in controversy as the race director left the Safety Car out until the finish after Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren came to a stop. Denied a Ferrari win, or even a fight to the flag, the crowds booed Verstappen as he climbed out of his car, something no one likes to hear.

Waiting patiently for drivers, a huge crowd formed around De Vries who had impressed in the Williams, finishing in a remarkable ninth place. The day ended with a trip to Toto Wolff at Mercedes before a final stop at Aston Martin to speak to Mike Krack, who already had his backpack ready to leave.

After a tough triple-header, the paddock seemed to be packing up far quicker than usual as people desperately scrambled to head to the airport to get home. Leaving on Monday, I was then informed of a 24-hour strike at Milan-Malpensa, which was sure to affect me. Travel in 2022 is no doubt tough, but I wouldn’t change it for the world, despite some trying conditions over the past few races. I packed my bags and headed out for a beer and a pizza.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 Italian Grand Prix

Browse all 2022 Italian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

4 comments on “Paddock Diary: 2022 Italian Grand Prix”

  1. Thanks, Claire-love to read your diary entries. Great flavor of the event. Staying in Como-good for you!

  2. Ricciardo’s smile was as wide as a Cheshire Cat’s as he proceeded to tell us he hoped to reach his goal of three pizzas in one day

    I see DR is already relaxing into his enforced retirement – good for him. He’s had a great career and it’d be sad to see him try to prolong it at this stage.

  3. Somewhat unrelated – but I wonder how teams are able to produce decals so quickly whilst at the track? I don’t know how stickers are made to be honest, maybe it’s a simple printer with a plastic sheet? Either that of they’ve had these all along waiting for the right time. Or maybe it was somebody’s job to fly over from the factory with them?

    Enjoyed the article – didn’t expect it to get me thinking about sticker production.

  4. F1, beer & pizza – what a weekend it must have been! Shame about the damp squib ending.

Comments are closed.