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My Experience of Monza 2011

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#1 Rajdeep

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 21:24

I just came back from Monza and had an amazing experience. I travelled solo and went on a general admission ticket. I spent more than 20 hours in and around the Autodromo on Saturday-Sunday and wanted to share my thoughts and tips if it might be of help to anyone.

1. Travel and Stay

The best place to stay during the weekend is Milan. Trains go to Monza from both Stazione Centrale (less frequent, but more convenient) and Stazione Garibaldi (more frequent, less convenient). From the Monza train stop (on platform 6 side), there's a free bus to the park. The bus runs from 6 AM to 8 PM on both Saturday and Sunday. But it stops about 1.5 kms from the Vedano entrance that you've to walk. The ticket collection point is about 1 km from where the bus stops. Milan-Monza-Milan is €4 return.

On Sunday, the free train (every 30 mins, 7 AM first departure, 7 PM last return) runs from Stazione Centrale to Monza and then continues up to Lesmo. Unless you need to pick up tickets from the Vedano entrance, it's best to get off at Lesmo. From Monza to get to the main entrance is about 35-40 mins (waiting+bus+walk), while you'll save at least 10 mins by getting off at Lesmo even if you're going to sit at Parabolica.

If you're going GA, I strongly suggest to get the first train on Sunday to get the preferred spots (more later). If you're there after 10 am, you won't get any place to sit at all. Actually, you won't get the best spots as people camp overnight for those. But I hope you at least want to sit down on a temporary stand or on a good spot of grass. There're support races to keep you entertained, but sleep deprivation does hit you in the gap between the GP2 and the F1 race. People with Tribuna tickets can off course take it easy.

I arrived in Milan Malpensa on Friday night and came back to London on Monday. If you're planning to fly back on Sunday night itself, get the last possible flight. The Ryanair flight from Bergamo at 10:30 PM is a good bet. I guess Bergamo is a better bet than Malpensa in fact. If you're really squeezed for time, you can do the Saturday 6:40 AM flight to Bergamo on the way in and the Sunday 10:30 PM flight on the way back, both Ryanair.

2. Fanvision (Kangaroo TV)

GET IT!!! It costs €70 for the weekend and you're not limited by the GA areas which have screen views (there're only a few) to keep up with the races. The thing shows all the support races and have BBC 5Live commentary during FP3, quali and the race. It also helps to make friends. I had to do running commentary for them :) More than anything, if you sit down by 8 AM on Sunday to reserve your spot and reach the limit of hunger, thirst and the need to go to the WC, you can ask the strangers around you to keep your spot. When I asked, I was immediately offered 3 backpacks – it's not a huge guess why...

3. GA Areas with Screen Views

Variante della Roggia, Curve di Lesmo (2nd), Variante Ascari entry (you've to stretch your neck), Curva Parabolica entry (on your back – so you either watch the track or the screen), Pit entry (again, you've to stretch your neck). The Lesmo area didn't have good reception for the Fanvision, so I didn't stay there.

4. Proximity to the Cars

Curva Grande, Variante della Roggia exit to Curve di Lesmo entry, Lesmo exit to Variante Ascari entry, Ascari exit all the way through to Pit entry. I'm talking only about GA areas here. Ascari is a nice place to sit in the Tribuna, but the cars are a bit far away.

5. The Saturday

I took the train from Centrale at 8:20 AM and arrived at the circuit by about 9:20 AM (after collecting my ticket, the Fanvision and a Ferrari cap). I first went to the outside of the back straight after the Pirelli bridge. But there's only grass to sit there. So, I moved to the inside of the Parabolica entry for the FP3, which with hindsight was a bad choice. I was hoping to see somebody go off (a la Webber in the race), but nobody did. And you get to hear the aweful off-throttle blown diffusers in full flow. I couldn't imagine how bad it sounds! While if I had stayed where I first arrived, I would've seen loads of slip-streaming and weaving. I think weaving is one more thing which looks so innocuous on TV, but mighty impressive live. The cars weave at about 250 km/h and it looks very dramatic!

Then I walked over to the Cruva Grande. You can watch FPs/Quali from there if you've a foldable chair as there's no place to sit there, but the grass is raised and the cars are just 5 meters from you. I walked on to the Variante della Roggia. The entry is an awesome place to sit for Sunday, but people slept overnight for this stand, even for Saturday. The exit didn't look that interesting, so I walked on to the Lesmo.

I think the second Lesmo might be a good spot for Quali especially, since there's a screen in front as well. But the Fanvision didn't have good reception. So I thought about going to the Ascari entry, which I previously had aimed to get for Sunday. But even on Saturday, it was full (again, people slept overnight for this stand). Since Quali was about to start, I just stood next to the fence to the left of the GA stand and it was a pretty good spot. I didn't get to see the big screen, but the cars went from 320 km/h to about 150 km/h in front of my eyes – so I was pretty happy. And with the Fanvision, the screen didn't really matter that much.

For the GP2 race, I went back to the Variante della Roggia, which had few spots vacant by then and there're something happening every lap. Either the drivers made clean overtake, messy attempt, went straight on or whatever. In terms of watching “racing”, I guess this must be the best GA spot in Monza. If anyone plans to camp there, this is it. Probably beats the official camping spot on the main straight and definitely beats the F1 village.

I thought about getting to the exit of Parabolica for the GP3 race. However, I found an absolute gem of a GA stand between Tribuna 25 and 26c. It felt a bit too good to be true especially since I've never read about anyone mentioning this stand. It basically has a view from mid-corner of Parabolica all the way to about the midfields' starting grids, with a screen in front. The checkered flag was directly opposite and the podium was about 50 meters to the left. I double checked before leaving the place that this is indeed a GA stand (number 95). Then I walked around a bit inside the track, hoping to see somebody. But apart from the hostesses (worth seeing) and some wannabe celebs, I didn't see anyone worth noting. So left the Autodromo at around 7 PM, dreaming about the next day in stand 95.

6. The Sunday

I took the first train at 7 AM and dashed straight to my dream spot. Alas, it was really too good to be true! The Carabinieri reserved the whole stand for themselves. I pleaded with the guy, but no luck. I guess it happens every year and that's why nobody writes about it.

Then off to my second choice at Ascari. But not a spot to stand even. And it was just around 8:30. I had already given up on the Variante della Roggia spot from previous day's experience. Even the inside of the Parabolica was getting full. I wished I had a foldable chair so that I could just sit in the forest next to the fence.

However, I could see that there were some spaces on a stand at the exit of Variante Ascari on the outside, opposite Tribuna 18. I decided not to try my luck anymore and ran straight for this. Its actually not a bad place. You get to see the cars from the exit of Ascari to the first Pirelli bridge – about 500 meters on an acceleration zone. And if someone gets a bad exit or someone is close enough to get a tow, you can assume that they'll stay close through Parabolica and overtake on the main straight. So in way, you can see the beginning of the move, at least this is what I told myself...

Then there's a long wait until the GP3 race, another long wait until the GP2 race, then a Porsche Mobil race and finally the F1. One more advantage of the stand where I was is that there're trees at the back. So we didn't get the sun until about 12:30 PM. In Parabolica, I'd have been baked given the temperature and the direct sun. However, there're no screens in view and people didn't even hear the public commentary. Which was actually not too bad for me. With the Fanvision, I could get sort of privileged treatment :)

The race then started and I announced that Alonso was P1 when he went on the grass and everyone went completely crazy!! Our stand actually erupted before the Tribuna 18, who watched the big screen and waited until the Variante del Rettifilo ;) The rest didn't go as I or the crowd expected. But still it was a good race and everyone was more than happy with Alonso's podium. He really seem to have the status of God among the Tifosi. The crowd was very sporting and clapped for everyone, bar none during the slow down lap.

7. Track Invasion and Podium Ceremony

I left my seat with about 2 laps to go as I wanted to get to the podium and was told that the bridges and tunnels would be jammed if I waited until the end. There's a gate in the middle of the circuit, which is roughly in line with pit exit, which is opened once the cars go into the pitlane. Then it's a mad dash to the podium, which is about 400 meters from the point where you get on to the track. I could get to about 20 meters from the podium after running, ducking and pushing. Great celebration and the chants for Alonso didn't stop from the point he got the trophy until they all left!

If you're running from Parabolica on the track, the track will be full by the time you reach the podium and you'll end up behind it. While if you're running from the pit exit, you'll probably end up a bit further away but in front. I guess it's better to be 20 meters in front than 5 meters behind. Unless you're on one of the Tribune 26, you won't get to be just below the podium and taste the champagne. As for anyone coming from Variante della Roggia or Lesmo, you've get to the gate before the end of the race as I did.

The track was still full of people 30 mins after the last team personnel could be seen. By then, I was nearly dead from exhaustion, lack of sleep, not enough food and too much heat. I decided to sit down on the grass for a while and caught a brief nap. Then as people were thinning out by about 5 PM, I went to return the Fanvision.

8. Visiting the Alta Velocita

I was determined to visit the old banked circuit during the trip and Sunday afternoon was the time to climb some fences. But I had a chat with a volunteer on Saturday evening and he told me a much easier route. You need to walk through the main road that passes under the circuit (between Tribuna 25 and 26), past the heliport (a crowd of people were trying to get glimpses of celebrities leaving the circuit) until you arrive at the car park number 14. The car park is the straight of the old circuit. If you turn right there, you go to Curva Sud and if you turn left, you get to Curva Nord. By then, all the security guards who prevented people from getting on that track had left and you could go wherever you wanted.

I suggest to go to Curva Sud first as there's no exit at the end. You've to come back to the car park. I did the opposite way and turned to the forest at the end and thought I was lost for a bit. You can see the present circuit, but there's no way to get in through the fence. Finally, I found an unlocked gate to the Parabolica.

Anyway, what I did was to go to the Curva Nord first. There were quite a few people (~100) that I met on the way. It is relatively well maintained as it seems more people visit this part than the south part. Some dude wanted to drive his BMW on the banked circuit, but gave up after less than 20 meters :D The steepness of the banks can't be described by any photos. When Monza is called the temple of speed, it really means this old track. I can't imagine how anyone dared to drive there. Any mistake and either you'll fly away through the top or hit a tree at the bottom. And the marshall posts were at the top, hardly a meter above the single guardrail and totally exposed. The posts really looks like just a table-top and nothing more. Climbing the bank seem to be a sport for those who were there.

When you arrive at the end of the Curva Nord, there's a fence. If you climb the track using the fence, there's Variante del Rettifilo on the other side. I took a photo of the current circuit going left and the old circuit going right in one frame from the top of the bank. That's why I think you should come here after visiting the Curva Sud as you can just jump on to the Variante del Rettifilo – no need to walk all the way back to the car park.

The Curva Sud is in a greater state of disrepair and there're far fewer people walking there. Somehow that makes it even more historic and fearsome. When I was there, some Pirelli guys came in a van to do the favourite sport. I think all but one were able to climb... At the end, after a little trouble, I got on to the Parabolica, exactly where Webber hit the tyre barriers. By then, it was past 6 PM and there're only a few hardy souls walking the track. The marshalls were closing the gates and the rubbish trucks were picking up all that was left by the crowd. But as I had thought I had done everything I wanted to do on this trip, it suddenly got even better. This was probably the best icing on the cake I could've imagined...

9. Best Part of the Weekend

When I was coming out of the Parabolica looking for an exit to get out, I saw a family cycle down in to the pitlane. So I decided to follow them. However, just a few meters in, I saw all the cars in the parc ferme. There're a couple of marshalls who were taking some photos. I thought I'd take some photos too and went on to lean on the gate to do that. But the gate was unlocked and it opened up just as I leaned on it. The marshalls told me to come in and take photos close up. A few other people joined in as well. It was pure fun! I could've gotten into the cars if I wanted. But I guess that'd have been too much  ;) It was almost 10 mins before someone from the FIA came and told us to GET OUT NOW. But those 10 mins were amazing!

Very happy, it was time to explore the pitlane. It was full of trucks as the teams were packing up. I went straight to the Ferrari garage hoping to find someone. And the atmosphere was so relaxed that I just wandered inside the garage. This time I was asked to leave in more polite terms. But I could linger on in the place where they do the pit stop. I saw Andrea Stella there talking on his mobile. I wanted to have a chat, but he was busy. So we just shook hands, wished him better luck next year and moved on. Other garages were in various states of dismantling. Mclaren was almost done. Mercedes was blocked by the trucks. I had a good look inside Sauber where they're inspecting the cars.

It was past 7 and the last bus from the park to the Monza train station was at 8 PM. I just dreaded the thought of having to walk to the train stop and decided to leave. It was a bit difficult to find an exit as all the gates were locked up by then. Finally, someone showed me how to get out. By then, my legs had given up on me. Those 1.5 kms to to bus stop took me about 45 mins.

On the way back, I fell asleep on the train and had to be woken up in Milan. When I got to the hotel, I had just enough strength to take a shower and crashed out hungry, but very happy!!

Finally, I must thank my wife who bailed out of the trip at the last moment. I guess with her around (not a F1 fan), I'd have missed 80% of what I saw :D

10. Other Tips

Get a foldable chair if you can. Also, take something like plastic to sit on. The seats in the GA stands were wet and newspapers were not enough. The knowledgeable ones took nice comfy pads, which was a matter of great envy after the bums started to ache.

Take toilet tissues. There're numerous WCs around, but they run out of tissues by 9 AM, never to be refilled. Food is plentiful, good and relatively inexpensive - sandwich, small bottle of water and beer would be about €12. You can take anything and everything to the track. I think it's the only such place in the world where there're no metal detectors, security sensors and stuff. I saw people carrying from a simple bottle of water, through picnic case, camping gear to full barbeque set inside the circuit.

There were tickets available on the race day to buy at the circuit this year. However, if the economy improves and the Tifosi expects a Ferrari victory, I guess it'd be sold out long before the race weekend. If you need any help (e.g. suggestion about where to sit, how to get to the podium after the race, how to get out at 7 PM when everything is locked out etc.), talk to the marshalls for the best tips. At least someone will know enough English to get the point across and they're very happy to pass on their years of experience at the track!

I'm relatively new to F1 (started following it in '05-'06) and it was my first live race. And what a weekend! I'll treasure the memories long after I lose interest in F1, if I ever do so.

PS - I'll post some pictures in a few days. And if anyone has any question, I'd be happy to answer.


#2 Disco

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 13:19


What a report! Good Man!! Certainly seemed like you had a good day!!

Have you been to Barca by any chance.. Would love to see your write-up from earlier in the year if you have!? Will you be visiting Barca in May!?

#3 Rajdeep

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 22:15


What a report! Good Man!! Certainly seemed like you had a good day!!

Have you been to Barca by any chance.. Would love to see your write-up from earlier in the year if you have!? Will you be visiting Barca in May!?

Thanks! Good to know that you liked it! Not really planning for Barca next year. Would like to go to Silverstone, Spa and Monza again. But if Ferrari builds a RB7 type monster, I guess it'd be good to experience Alonso's home victory. Depends on how the flyaway races go.

But I highly recommend a visit to Monza if you haven't been there!

Btw, I've posted a few photos in the "Racing Comments" forum, where I had posted the report as well:

#4 fazz

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 22:49

Thanks! Good to know that you liked it! Not really planning for Barca next year. Would like to go to Silverstone, Spa and Monza again. But if Ferrari builds a RB7 type monster, I guess it'd be good to experience Alonso's home victory. Depends on how the flyaway races go.

But I highly recommend a visit to Monza if you haven't been there!

Btw, I've posted a few photos in the "Racing Comments" forum, where I had posted the report as well:

Hi I thought I would share with you a visit I and a friend made to Monza a couple of years ago, I did exactly the same to visit the old track we went over to stay with friends and we visited the park which at the time wast hosting a track day, this was ideal as we could get to all the areas we wanted without massive security. Having watched the film Grand Prix when I was very young I always wanted to have a look at the old banking.

It is awesome I could not walk up the banking normally, I had to turn round and try to walk up backwards and still could not do it. The concrete plinths which are the base of the old marshalls post are still there. That must have been some experience being in the marshal towers as they are on top of the armco on the top of the banking. The feeling of being stood on the historic tarmac was awesome. My mate kicked a couple of stones which I picked up and still have, I took loads of photographs of all areas of the banking and it was everything I expected it to be. A must visit for any motorsport fan.

Regards Mark