There is no more storied race track in Formula 1 racing than the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza, Italy. Construction of the track was completed in 1922, and it has been the site of the Italian Grand Prix since the introduction of the Formula 1 championship series in 1950. This years’ Formula 1 Championship has featured a fierce battle between Lewis Hamilton of Team Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel of Team Ferrari. After 12 races this season, Sebastian Vettel had a slight lead over Lewis Hamilton, setting the stage for an epic battle at Monza, the home track of Ferrari.
While Formula 1 racing is not extremely popular in the US, the annual global television audience for Formula 1 races is in excess of 420,000,000 viewers. The Formula 1 cars are the fastest and most technically advanced race cars in the world, with development of a car costing $130 million or more. Lewis Hamilton told Jimmy Kimmel in an interview that 1300 people worked on his car. The Grand Prix races are held on purpose built road courses around the globe, as well as on a few courses set up along city streets, the most famous of which is in Monte Carlo. In short, a Formula 1 race represents the pinnacle of global auto racing.
My stepson Chad, rather inexplicably, has a long-held passion for Formula 1 racing. He is a student of the sport, which requires learning highly technical rules and waking up in the middle of the night to watch Grand Prix races in every corner of the globe. He is an ardent fan of Lewis Hamilton, perhaps the most charismatic driver in all of auto racing. I admire his passion for the sport and his global outlook in general. After his mom passed away last November, I decided that he should realize his dream of attending a Formula 1 race, and so it was, that we found ourselves on Labor Day Weekend at the 2017 Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Italy.
We attended all three days of the weekend at Monza. Day one was only a practice session, but the atmosphere was electric. We went to the Formula 1 Fan Village and walked around the track, viewing the cars practicing from various vantage points. On the second day, there was a cold steady rain for most of the day, which delayed qualifying for two and a half hours. Just as it was looking like qualifications would be cancelled, there was a break in the weather, and the drivers were allowed to qualify on a wet track, with plumes of water spraying behind their cars. During the three rounds of qualifying, there was intense competition for the pole position, with the lead driver constantly changing. As time was winding down, Lewis Hamilton came in for a last-minute tire change, and on the very last lap of qualifying recorded the fast time and took the pole position. This was an historic moment indeed, as Lewis Hamilton claimed his 69th Formula 1 pole position, breaking the all-time record, and moving him in front of Formula 1 racing legends, Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna.
When race day arrived, the weather magically cleared, and it was a spectacular 75-degree blue sky day, like a post card painted to order. There was much pageantry and a reported 93,000 plus fans in attendance. This was the 70th anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari, the racing division of Ferrari, which is an Italian national institution; and, the Ferrari fans have a passion like no racing fans on earth. There was no story book ending to this race for the Italians, however, as Lewis Hamilton delivered a tour de force performance, winning the race and leading all but one lap. Sebastian Vettel finished third, which vaulted Lewis Hamilton into first place in the Formula 1 championship race, with seven races left in the seasons. At Monza, they allow all of the fans to storm the track following the race; and, the Ferrari fans delivered a celebration to remember, despite their disappointing third place finish.
Memorable does not even begin to describe our weekend at Monza!
A Rainy Qualifying Day at the Track