Sunday, Sept. 12:
Hi again! I'm reflecting on a tremendous weekend in Monza having just witnessed a Ferrari win the Italian Grand Prix to the obvious delight of the tifosi
It's safe to say Fernando Alonso had a pretty clear run following his pit stop, but the same couldn't be said for us as we tried to get into the track this morning. The traffic was crazy almost all the way from our hotel to the track at Monza. That said, we took the Testarossa again and it certainly opened a few blocked roads for us, as most policemen directing traffic were happy to wave us by and aid us on our journey.
We made our way to the Renault F1 team's hospitality unit for our obligatory breakfast where they serve quite possibly the best coffee in the F1 paddock. I didn't get too much of a chance to relax though as TW Steel, who I'm a guest of this weekend, had set up a few more media interviews for me with various international media.
With those done, though, I did get a chance to sneak out to the Monza bookshop I mentioned in Friday's blog. I was duly armed with credit card and boosted my Jim Clark collection with a great selection of images that have never been published. There's a good mix of pictures of Jim flat-out in the Lotus and with the likes of Jackie Stewart and Colin Chapman. I'm pleased to have found this hidden treasure and it's another great memento from the weekend.
I was fortunate enough to have received access to the grid before the start of the race so I duly took the opportunity to take it all in for myself. I was hanging out where Robert Kubica had qualified (ninth) with some of the Renault F1 crew.
I have to say the atmosphere and energy on the grid really reminded me of being on the grid at the Indy 500. It was pretty packed with the usual mix of team, family, the odd celebrity, and, of course, the media. Will Buxton from SPEED Channel interviewed me there and he caught up with me again mid-race to get my thoughts on the action for the live broadcast.
After that, it was go time and we settled down to catch the race. Jenson Button made a great start off the line to keep the Ferrari's at bay but it wasn't the same for Lewis Hamilton. Jenson did a good job but, unfortunately for him, Alonso's pit stop was the difference and Fernando took off from there for the win.
Fernando had been at the same restaurant as us on Saturday night and it's safe to say he was proving to be pretty popular with all the Italians in there, having taken the pole earlier in the day. The crowd obviously went nuts when he won so as I said at the start, it was a bit special to see a Ferrari winning the Italian Grand Prix and soak up the atmosphere.
The Renault F1 boys had a mixed day with Robert (Kubica) finishing in the points in eighth and Vitaly (Petrov) managed to race his way back up from his grid penalty to 13th at the checkered flag. It was great to meet them the day before and I'd like to say a thank you to everyone at the Renault F1 team for their hospitality. I was certainly made to feel very welcome.
We didn't waste too much time trying to escape the circuit after the race, not least with the Italian party going into full swing after the podium celebrations. We headed back to our hotel, picked up the bags and hopped on the Autostrada to make our way back to Monaco for the night.
We took a different route back this time, not intentionally but more due to a temperamental GPS system. It obviously wasn't a Tom Tom! That said it was a stunning drive with amazing scenery and some classic Italian winding roads over and down the mountains.
Marino and I checked back into the Columbus Hotel, had a quick bite to eat and now it's a case of getting ready to head out to Japan and this Sunday's race at Motegi. I'm headed back to Scotland quickly before going there so all in all it's been a pretty busy few days for me but I'm looking forward to getting back into the No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car and hopefully closing that gap even further to Will Power.
Big thanks to TW Steel for inviting me to the Italian Grand Prix and to Mr. Ecclestone and Pasquale at FOM for facilitating with the appropriate passes. I've had a blast and, hopefully, if the dates work, there could be a return visit next season!