I admit it, I was completely on Stefano Coletti’s mother’s side of the argument. Maybe it’s the new additions in the Cameron household (2 girls to add to the existing boy, for those keeping count) that have made me side with the parent of a racing driver, maybe it’s my advanced years, or maybe, just maybe, it’s that Stefano just got it wrong.
Perhaps I should roll back a bit.
So, I’m back in the paddock for the first time this year, and in Monza to boot: who wouldn’t be happy? I turned up despite the airline’s best efforts to keep me in London, grabbed a taxi to the circuit and a coffee in hospitality, then did the rounds to say hello to everyone. You forget, just a little, how much of a family the paddock is when you’re away for a while.
Alexa had just got back from the Spa winners photoshoot, minus James Calado who was, perhaps understandably, a little busy ahead of his first Friday free practice session with Force India. That said, Sam Bird was there early, and he’s the Mercedes third driver. Maybe he’s better, or simply more experienced, at juggling the two roles.
But he was genuinely excited about doing the shoot at the famous Fangio statue, an idea he’d put forward in Belgium. You’ll see the joy in his eyes when the photos are released, and the way that he was careful not to defer to Fangio, even though in statue form. “Well, he’s simply legendary…”
Somehow, time got away from us - it always does - and we didn’t end up going for dinner until 8.30 or so. By the time we got to the venue, a fantastic, family run restaurant nearby, Stefano, his parents and team were already eating at the next table over, and he couldn’t help but bring us into the conversation/argument. “So I’ve got my next tattoo planned. I’ve got a photo of it on my phone: do you want to look?” Who says no to that?
You may be aware that, after his home win earlier this year, he got a tattoo on his right foot which says “This foot won Monaco”. To be honest, I think it’s pretty funny (“but why is it in English?” “because it sounds stupid in French!”), although not as funny as the ‘tattoo’ he got earlier in the day.
“I fell asleep in the back of the truck after exercise, and my engineer has always teased me about my tattoo. So when I was asleep, he wrote “Push” on the top of my foot…”
Alexa looked at his phone, screwed her nose up and said “no, definitely no!” Marco also pulled a face, leaving Stefano looking crestfallen, quietly noting that his mother hates it too (as she nodded vigorously behind him). When I got a glimpse of the design, two chequered flags crossed above the famous Steve McQueen quote (“life is racing, the rest is just waiting”).
“I’m with you mother on this one: just imagine what that will look like when you’re old…”
“Who cares what I look like when I’m old? It looks cool now!”
“Well no, it doesn’t. And also, there’s your dad: imagine him with that tattoo.”
With that, my work was done.
This morning Marcus Ericsson came around as we were going through emails to say hello, and we told him about a new competition planned: I won’t go into the details now, but basically it involves getting fans to vote for the best helmet design. “I am totally going to win that one,” he laughed, “my fans vote for me in everything!” Sure, but there are more Indonesians than Swedes. “That’s right: please don’t tell Rio about the contest!”
Just then, Al walked in looking slightly confused. “Someone just asked for my autograph,” he stated flatly. “I had no idea what was happening, so I just kept walking: she grabbed my arm and stuck the GP2 book in front of me, and it was actually one of my photos on the page there.”
So what did you do? “What could I do? I signed it. It was pretty weird. And she was pretty too: I should have put my phone number on there!”
Rosana, all faux outrage, chimed in: “What? But you’re a future … married … to be!”
“Yeah,” I noted, “if only there was a simply word for that, something easy to remember, such as engaged...”
But honestly, the real outrage was that they went to a photographer for the autograph. Where was the love for the real stars of the show, the geniuses who wrote the thing? Kids of today, they’ve got no respect. Bah humbug.
Still, at least they all turned up for the press conference, which is still stuck behind the pizza oven in a side section of the hospitality area, to keep us warm in the cold Italian climate. “Which seat is P2 again?” Fabio Leimer asked, for about the 20th time ever, despite it never changing (and being the same as the podium). But the real star of the show was Luca Filippi, now working for Sky Italia between racing gigs and watching the show from the other side of the table.
“Any questions from the floor?” I asked, as always, when it was finished. “Come on Luca, I’ve always wanted to get a driver to ask a question: it must be your turn.” Cheekily he asked a question about discussions with the race stewards and their rivals after an incident, and smiled as Fabio replied “well, we better not name any names…"
Unfortunately my batteries died well before that, so I didn’t get to record any of it. But I’ve replaced them now and, if Stefano gets himself onto the podium tomorrow, the first thing I’m doing before the press conference is to fetch his mother.