Since the age of just 10 I had endlessly dreamed of attending a Formula 1 race. I wanted to experience the sounds and smells first hand and, more than anything, I wanted to cheer on my heroes as they put everything on the line.
This time last year, I was in the midst of experiencing the best weekend of my life. It was everything I had expected and more. Special. Something to cherish forever…
Monza is the temple of speed, the grand prix to attend if you’re looking for an electric atmosphere – fast corners, long straights, and the formidable Tifosi, it has it all.
A bold statement I’ll admit, but I am not exaggerating here. As an avid Formula 1 fan, it was everything I had ever hoped for and more. Even now I can’t stop smiling, reflecting on my time in Italy. Besides, it’s no secret that Monza was my first ever live grand prix. And what a weekend it was!
I attended with my dad – a lifelong F1 fan – on general admission tickets, and we based ourselves at the second Lesmo on the Saturday and Sunday. The views were better than I had expected, considering we hadn’t paid the extra for a grandstand seat.
Saturday morning came and we left our apartment near the city centre early – 0530 early – and already it was raining. The day was tough, but came with rewarding results.
The weather forecast said the rain would stop by mid-morning. Unfortunately, it didn’t. This resulted in very little on-track action and the Formula 1 qualifying being postponed continuously.
I was frustrated, and I couldn’t cover that up. I had been looking forward to the event for so long and was met with a torrential downpour which resulted in everyone being soaked through, with no race cars.
By half past three in the afternoon, the majority of people that were sat on our stand had packed up and gone home for the day. I was tempted too, but I hadn’t come all that way for nothing. I was going to stand with wet everything until a decision to delay qualifying until Sunday morning was made.
I am so happy that we stuck it out. Watching the cars run in the wet is something that will stick with me for a long time. The spray coming off of them was unbelievable – the skill those drivers have is undeniable. I was in awe. This is when the drivers earn their money.
So, as we stood in the now eased off rain, getting sprayed by Lewis Hamilton’s ferocious path, I was more content with the day had ended up. Having walked 10 miles that day, and now being the very proud owner of several blisters, I was very thankful when we reached the warmth of our apartment. But, rest assured, I was damn exciting to do it all again the next day. Just right after I’d had a pizza.
We were at the track by half past seven the next morning and already the queues to enter the gates were long. The atmosphere was fantastic, a sea of red waiting in line to access the autodrome. We got talking to a young couple from Ireland who were somewhat grand prix veterans (already). I was sad not to get their name as they were so friendly, making me excited for my race weekend adventures to come!
At 0800 we were in our seats, to the left of the big TV screen at the second Lesmo. Again, the view was spectacular for the tickets we had. I was expecting to only get glimpses of the cars through the trees, but no. We had a view of the cars as they came out of the first Lesmo and down the straight and then the entrance to the second Lesmo.
The rest of the day was like a dream. A utopia.
The GP3 race was enthralling – I wasn’t expecting the cars to sound as good in person. Being a part of Dare To Be Different, it was wonderful to see fellow a member of Susie Wolff’s initiative – Tatiana Calderon – have an excellent race.
The wait for Formula 2 zoomed past (pardon the pun). We chatted to a couple from the States who were also attending their first grand prix. With them was their five-year-old son who was absolutely dumbstruck at the racing cars. He especially liked the safety car which he called the saviour car. A year on and I’m still certain that the name could stick!
Alas, F2 was brilliant. My dad who hadn’t even followed it until now remarked upon how exciting te racing was. And that’s a fact you can’t deny – the racing the series provides in fantastic.
Thankfully, we weren’t the only ones watching. The crowds in the surrounding seating areas were beginning to get into it, which is good to see. By this point, the everywhere was rammed.
By the time the F1 came around, I was nervous. I was scared that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as what I did watching it in my living room. What if I didn’t like it as much? What if this, what if that.
Now, I can’t believe for a second that I doubted myself.
The sounds and the smells, the vibrations and the atmosphere all left me tingling. I had a buzz inside of me; F1 is a part of me. I smiled throughout the whole race (except when Max Verstappen picked up a puncture in front of us) when I was, truthfully, lost for words.
They were my heroes pushing everything to the limit, right in front of me. I still regularly think about it now – the feeling of elation watching the battles unfold right in front of you. The exact sensation is hard to pinpoint, yet all I know is that you feel exhilarated.
I couldn’t believe it when the race came to an end. I struggled to process that 90 minutes had passed. Immediately, I wanted to rewind and watch it all again.
When we left our stand I was physically shaking. It was the adrenaline, all of the excitement I had been feeling. But, it wasn’t over.
We took advantage of the open track post-race and walked anti-clockwise back to the Parabolica. It was hot, sweaty, but I savoured every second and every step. The track itself was immensely busy with fans and it now had a carnival-like atmosphere. People played music, celebrated and took endless photos.
I left that track having covered 23 miles in two days. I had blisters on blisters, sunburn and hat hair, but I knew that I had just had the best 48-hours of my life. I said to my dad that I was emotional and he understood. He knows what a massive part of my life F1 is.
Being an avid fan that weekend was phenomenal. I cheered, I wore merchandise and never wanted the experience to end.
So, thank you F1 and thank you Monza. You have made a million memories that I’ll have forever more.