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Pick and mix - Paddock guests wave goodbye to European leg - The historic Monza track provides nostalgia and great racing

Published by Christine

Say goodbye to the motorhome for another season
Credit: Force India F1

Where it went down Alongside the historic banking of the old Monza circuit, in the depths of Tifosi countryside. The last race of the European leg of the season.

Top takeaway Mercedes regain control of their drivers and take a firm grip on any racing that favours power units – but a resurgent Williams are the one to watch.

The consensus of opinion I’ve heard about the Italian Grand Prix is that no one was particularly expecting much from it – it’s a one-stop race with only a handful of overtaking spots that is more about the engine and less about the driver. However, it turns out the afternoon spent at Monza was more exciting than anticipated, if not quite as good as some other entries in the 2014 season. With news breaking all over the place, there was a lot to keep track of as the weekend drew to a close.

Podium fever

I remain absolutely conflicted about the podium interviews. When they first arrived, out of nowhere, and a random F1 face took a microphone up to the fabled steps to hear first-hand what the driver’s made of their running, I wasn’t convinced. Where was the easier to hear and understand press conference, with the drivers nicely miked up and an audience waiting to hear their sound bytes.

Gradually, I thawed on the podium chatter. It’s very nice for the fans who have actually made the effort to be there, and as much as the post-race track invasions freak me out, those standing underneath the podium when the interviews begin can get a good show before their eyes. It also makes the media questions even closer to the end of the race, meaning heat of the battle responses are more likely, and stock PR answers have yet to infiltrate the drivers’ speech.

And yet, it all depends on who is asking the questions. Benedict Cumberbatch was an oddball choice, and his questions were a little wordy, but you could tell he was a genuine fan and he got good responses from those standing by the trophies. Martin Brundle is well versed in asking awkward questions to drivers, and holds his own on stage – if getting a little preachy about it while he’s there. When you start throwing Eddie Jordan into the mix, or poor Jean Alesi on an out of control podium, then there’s a problem.

I’m still not sure. The flood of Italian on the podium must have been great for those listening, but the chaotic mix of languages, cheering and boos, along with the drip-drip-drip of sprayed champagne, was quite an affront on the senses. And it’s impossible to Factbyte Factbox too.

Resurfacing works

The new asphalt run off at the Parabolica upset a lot of traditionalist fans before the race unfolded. As someone who can’t recognise a track until I’ve walked around it for two years running (and then never again once they move the start/finish straight), a tweak to a run off is barely going to attract my attention. However, it didn’t seem to affect the race too much and was almost forgotten by the end of the weekend.

Eventually you’re just looking at some crumbling concrete buried in a forest

There was also some upset about the resurfacing of the old banking. A Sky Sports F1 piece saw Ted Kravitz attempting to walk backwards on the gradient, presenting a piece to camera, hoping to ensure his cameraman didn’t trip over, and doing it all in sandals. He wasn’t sure why the new concrete had been put in place, whether as a preservative or in preparation for some future racing.

Either way, it can’t be a bad thing they’ve done it. Nostalgia is fine for a while, but eventually you’re just looking at some crumbling concrete buried in a forest. This way, the banking lives on, it’s enticing and hey, it may even get used again.

Paddock visitors

There were two headline guests in the Formula One paddock this weekend, with former Red Bull racer Mark Webber wandering about, and a surprise visit from IndyCar star Juan-Pablo Montoya. Webber was a very handy person to have around, particularly for the waiting media who couldn’t wait to pounce on him as someone with experience of “tempestuous teammate relationships.”

Let me tell you, when they get to the track, they'll only be thinking about each other. There's no-one else really in the race. They are really only focused on beating each other and that's what happens when you have a car that is so dominant.

- Mark Webber

We’re also starting to wonder if Mark Webber’s bad luck/poor performance didn’t unduly flatter Sebastian Vettel, who has only just managed to get himself comfortable in the new-style F1 cars. Red Bull attempted to use his discomfort as an excuse for lacklustre performance from the four-times world champion in the early part of the season but that doesn’t really wash at this point. He qualified ahead of his teammate, but finished behind him despite Daniel Ricciardo’s drop down the order in the early stages.

It was fun to see Montoya back in the F1 paddock, one of the sport’s more outspoken figures – particularly in this day and age of corporate drones. It didn’t take long for JPM to entertain us, either, whilst discussing which team principals and old friends he had paid a visit to. One of them, “Roger… er, Ron Dennis.” The idea of calling Ron Roger entertained me for hours afterwards.

The pair, of course, didn’t part on good terms when Montoya held his own press conference confirming he was going to drive in the NASCAR series instead. Contractual wranglings duly followed. You would think that the team boss you ditched mid-season effectively ending your F1 career would be a name you might remember!

Statistic to savour

Many were disappointed when Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari crawled to a halt midway through the afternoon, forcing the Spaniard to retire from the race. Many statistics emerged as well, confusing and contradicting each other, but all emphasising the fact that retiring is something Alonso tends to steer clear of.

His last retirement was in Malaysia 2013, since when he finished in the points in all but one of the races, until now. The Sepang DNF was down to collision damage, and thus the statisticians were keen to see when his last mechanical failure was – Hungary 2009.

That’s more than four years without a technical problem, which shows that a) Alonso is somehow kind on his car despite wringing the absolute maximum from it and b) the Ferrari is tank-like in both its durability and speed, with handling probably thrown in there as well.

In summary

Highlight Many, many cheers for Felipe Massa scoring a podium. The former Ferrari driver remains popular with crowds both old and new.

Lowlight A second post-race penalty for Kevin Magnussen with harsh position changing qualities.

In a tweet The midfield make it a Monza to remember while relations remain frosty up front.

We have some problems with the aerodynamic consistency of the car. It's something we certainly cannot 100 per cent solve for this year. We are on next year's car. There is no more development for this year's car - Romain Grosjean

All content in the series Italy 2014