Autodromo Nazionale di Monza 1994
There are different opinions whether the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza circuit is a good racing circuit, talking about the layout with long straights and chicanes, or not. But no one would deny that the home of the annual Formula One Grand Prix of Italy is a historic place. You can feel that as soon as you enter the circuit site...
The 1988 Italian Grand Prix
The first Italian Grand Prix I remember was in 1988, short after the death of Enzo Ferrari. McLaren looked unbeatable that year and won all races of the season, except one. After Alain Prost retired with a broken engine, teammate Ayrton Senna was leading the race. It seemed to be another easy victory for McLaren.
But when Senna intended to lap Schlesser in the first chicane both vehicles collided and where out of the race. Both Ferrari drivers took over the lead. Gerhard Berger won the race before his teammate Michele Alboreto. It was like a miracle that the Italian Grand Prix was won by Ferrari in a season that was dominated by McLaren. At the end of the broadcast they showed a portrait of Enzo Ferrari.
The aftermath of Imola 1994
During my summer vacation in Northern Italy in 1994 I made a short (way to short) visit at Monza. The tragedies earlier that year at another Italian circuit, Imola, still overshadowed that season. During the season the safety requirements for the circuits where increased, especially Gerhard Berger strived for more safety, and it was not sure if the Italian Grand Prix would take place.
Monza is motorsport history!
Arrived at the circuit, I immediately felt that this was not an ordinary circuit. Everything there breathed motorsport history. The old main grand stand, the old pitboxes at the end of the modern pit lane, and off course the old banking. In an office they gave me a brochure with the history of the circuit in Italian. I still have this brochure.
Excited I took pictures from the stands and around the paddock. Near the Ascari chicane someone had sprayed a text on the crash barriers: Ayrton Senna per sempre in nostro cuore (Ayrton Senna forever in our hearts). It was an expression of the shock that had came over all motorsport fans that year.
After looking around for over an hour it was time to move on. If I had more time I would have searched for an entrance to the banking. But this time I had to settle for a few photos from a distance. I say “this time” because the circuit is still on my wish list for a longer visit.
When I would leave the circuit site, I saw a group of Italians discuss something. Because I was curious whether a decision had been made on cancellation of the Grand Prix, I stepped up to them and asked in my best Italian if the Italian Grand Prix would go ahead. One of them mentioned that there was still no decision. "Non buono Berger," he said. The Grand Prix of that year passed through, albeit with a slower (read screwed) version of the second Lesmo Corner.
Variante del Rettifilo
After that visit, I would see many races at Monza on TV. Because of my knowledge of the Italian language I always have to laugh when reporters shorten the name of the firs chicane, called "Variante del Rettifilo", to Rettifilo. I still hear good old Murray Walker yell at his typical manner: "And there they go, into the Rettifilo!".
Many people will now be wondering what it is so funny about that. For those who don’t speak Italian here a short lesson. Variante = chicane. Rettifilo = straight. "Variante del Rettifilo" means chicane of the straight.
So, Murray Walker said in fact, "And there they go, into the straight!", while you saw the cars going into a chicane! “Oh look at them, braking very late for the straight” :)
For Sunday I look forward to an exciting Italian Grand Prix on a particular circuit. And I wonder how often the reporters will call the first chicane a straight ;)
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