The spiritual home of Ferrari and one of only four circuits remaining from the sport’s inaugural season in 1950.
One race here, in 1988, itself encapsulates why Bernie Ecclestone would be making a terrible mistake in removing the Autodromo’ from the F1 circus after next year. F1 can only sustain so many ‘Tilke-rings’ before it loses its soul.
That season, Mclaren-Honda, Prost and Senna dominated; winning all eleven rounds prior to round twelve in Italy – leaving Ferrari, and the rest, well in their wake. A month prior to the race meeting, Enzo passed away leaving Italy and the tifosi stunned. Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto enacted the most glowing tribute, steering the Prancing Horses over the line in a stunning 1-2 following Alain Prost’s unlikely engine fault and Ayrton Senna’s penultimate-lap collision with backmarker Jean-Louis Schlesser.
1999 saw Mika Hakkinen drop the ball in uncharacteristic fashion, selecting the wrong gear at the second chicane whilst comfortably out in the lead. The championship was edging towards a close conclusion. Hakkinen knew this and his unforced error drew out emotion the like of which has not been witnessed before or since from a Finn. Mika curled up and sobbed at the Variante del Roggia as Irvine’s sixth proved enough at the time to put him level in the driver’s standings.
Gerhard Berger, then team principle at Toro Rosso, was there twenty years after his famous win in 1988 to oversee Sebastian Vettel’s unlikely maiden win in F1. Vettel stuck his Toro Rosso on pole in changeable conditions and followed it through in the race, leading from the front to become the youngest winner in the sport’s history aged 21. Berger utilised his excellent crystal ball that day, saying of Vettel: “He’s bloody good… He can win races, but he’s going to win world championships.”
The weekend so far
Fernando Alonso acted the ‘ambassador for peace’ in the driver’s press conference yesterday with Hamilton defusing the awkward atmosphere in his own way prior to the questions.
FP1 went the way of the Mercedes powered teams, predictably given how Monza’s pretty much a drag strip with chicanes and all – suiting the still-evident power unit advantage Merc hold. Hamilton led the way, eight tenths up on his team-mate who took third behind Button. Williams were surprisingly down the order as the early blows were dealt.
FP2 saw Ferrari clamber into the reckoning with Raikkonen and Alonso third and fourth behind the two Mercedes. Hamilton would have set the fastest time, for all its worth on a Friday, had he not encountered Max Chilton at the Parabolica.
Mercedes elected to rebuild Hamilton’s Hungary engine to use here. It didn’t want to start in FP2 thanks to an electrical fault which looks now to be solved, but this is Lewis Hamilton of course…