I love coming to Monza: I always have, I always will. I still think of it as my home race despite leaving Milan many years ago now, and I always feel at home here. I guess it’s the consistency of the place: the weather is always nice, the food is always good, we always have our annual football match here, and the crowd is always spectacularly bonkers.
Which is probably why I was so gutted about dinner with Will Buxton last night.
Okay, maybe I should rephrase that. I’m always delighted to catch up with Will, who’s been a close friend and colleague for almost as long as I’ve been involved in racing and since day one of GP2, and I was thrilled when he suggested we grab dinner last night after machete-ing a gap through the crowd at the pit entrance at the end of the day, but he really must have tried hard to find the worst restaurant in the country for the meal. Although I know he didn’t, because it’s less than 100 metres from his hotel.
In retrospect, it should have been easy to predict disappoint in a chain faux-Mexican restaurant inside a shopping centre.
Surprisingly Campos turned up as well, to celebrate their success in their first attendance at the long traditional football match between the teams (established 2011). ART were excited to arrive, being the reigning (and only) champions and keen to hang onto another trophy, but the three new teams for this year (Arden, Rapax and Campos) were all looking forward to putting on a strong performance, along with this year’s special guest team from SkyF1.
Arden started in blinding form, storming to an early lead in the championship with an easy victory over Trident due to a startling lack of form, and appearance, by the Italian squad. To be fair to them, the Trident guys told Alexa quite a while ago that they wouldn’t be able to turn up this year, but she forgot and put them on the list anyway. “Yes!” laughed Matteo Frolino, Arden’s Performance Engineer, when he heard the news. “Everyone is scared of us…”
Campos turned up late: whether this was due to getting lost on the way to the ground or some latent manana-ish cliched attitude is not known, but what is known is that they made up for lost time when they finally arrived by beating everyone they played on the way to victory in the tournament, prompting epic quantities of shrugging and pfft noises from the ART corner of the stand before they skulked off in a huff.
Although Campos celebrated by eating substantial quantities of deep fried … somethings at the restaurant Will and I were at, so ART can at least consider themselves the moral victors.
As for the other teams, GP2 had its usual ritual humiliation (“it’s not fair,” Marco sulked petulantly afterwards, by way of explanation for their customary drubbing: “we don’t get to train, and all the others get to play together all the time”) in the group of death (“we always get ART,” Marco huffed, “and they always kill us”), and MP eventually played after running around to draft in some players from the other teams, but were happy just to have a kickabout.
Rapax were also excited to play, and especially so when they did quite well, albeit not as well as they thought: they went home thinking they were second, but actually finished fourth. Team manager Marco Galuppi found out almost as soon as he’d machine-gunned his way through the crowd into the paddock this morning. “We’re going to appeal!” he laughed to Alexa, who smirked in reply “but Marco, you know that there are no appeals in GP2…”, while Campos team coordinator Javier Bono had one simple question: “is it on the website that we are the champions yet?”
I guess this blog means the answer is yes, Javier.
Unfortunately the weather was a bit rubbish today - hot, but overcast with a splash of rain later in the day - but no one was more disappointed by it than the gelato man, who mysteriously appeared in the hospitality unit to the delight of everyone, with most people asking if he was going to be at all rounds now (the answer, predictably but unfortunately, is no).
Rumours that he was installed as a part of the celebrations around hospitality boss Christian Staurenghi’s 300th grand prix go so far unconfirmed, but the champagne, cake and family and friends were certainly a part of the party.
Kevin Ceccon was making solid use of the gelato venditore, popping over every couple of hours for another scoop, but Mitch Evans wasn’t going near him, due to a sore neck which plagued him all morning as he waited for the physio to arrive before qualifying: “it’s the too-hard beds everyone seems to love over here: I would rather sleep in one like a marshmallow!” He did admit he will reward himself with an ice cream on Sunday, but only if he gets a win this weekend.
That’s assuming there’s any left by then. We’re watching you, Kevin.
So plenty of surprises for this year’s Monza event. Still, I thought to myself as I called in a drone strike so we could break through the crowd to escape the paddock this evening, it’s nice that some things don’t change, no matter how trying they may be.