The Monza circuit: a glorious past, a terrible present

The 2012 Italian Grand Prix has just ended. Lewis Hamilton won his third race of the year ahead of Sauber’s Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso.

This year I attended the Friday’s free practice thanks to a couple of friends of mine who invited me to join them. It was my first time at a Formula 1 event at this track, not considering the 2007 summer test session -they were still allowed at the time- and the 2011 WTCC race.

Well, I want to say I feel sorry for all of the foreigners who have come to this great track, maybe for the first time, for what they have seen.

Where should I start from? The state of decay of the probably-once beautiful park the circuit is immerged in? The unreasonably-overpriced food and drinks for us, mere mortals? The astonishing high number of swindlers tricking the visitors with the Three-card Monte? Or the thieves who have stolen or damaged some of the drivers’ cars and those who booed Lewis Hamilton on the podium?

Let us go in order. The Monza circuit was built in Europe’s largest fenced park, which dated back to the 1700s and includes some great examples of Neoclassic architecture, the main one being the Royal Villa, built by Napoleon Bonaparte’s stepson, Eugène de Beauharnais.

Alright, there is just one little problem: the visitors and fans who have come for the F1 weekend have probably seen nothing of all of this. The area surrounding the track is dirty, poorly cared of and with few facilities. You see a series of toilets every now and then, a few kiosks scattered amidst the woods and that is it.

Of course, the food is overpriced, otherwise how could you make the most out of this already-expensive event (general access for Sunday only starts at €80)? A sandwich filled with a sausage and a salad leaf and a beer can cost you as much as €13. There are of course restaurants inside the track, but you can imagine the price.

While you are having your walk through this decaying park, with your stomach not actually full and your wallet which has started to get lighter and lighter, you would probably meet groups of people who try to squeeze money out of the ingenuous visitors with the three-card trick. They actually do not just try, they succeed. And there are lots of these people.

You can see them from a distance: one is the dealer, one or two are his partners in crime (the only ones who actually win) and the last one is on the lookout, in case the police arrive. And it happens, but that is not a problem. When the police are gone, they are ready to start again on the same spot.

This is the awful show that welcomes the 120,000 spectators. Is it over? Not yet, of course. Because there is something happening outside the track, too.

Romain Grosjean’s car was vandalised while he was having dinner at a restaurant, and things were stolen from it. The same happened to one of Fernando Alonso’s staff people. The worst happened to Paul Di Resta’s vehicle, which was stolen.

Last but not least, the podium. Hamilton won, he is not the number one driver in order of liking among the Italian fans, but why boo him? He did a great race, he fairly won, he even spoke Italian because he probably already knew the crowd’s reaction and tried to appear friendly. He is often an arrogant, childish douche, but more childish are those “fans” who booed him.

Something should be said about the Padanian flags that every year appear under the podium (I am talking about those white flags with a green symbol in the picture below).

To make a long story short, this is the flag of an nonexistent country, called Padania indeed, invented by a separatist party which would like to divide Northern from Southern Italy. A few years ago, one of this party leaders even said that the Italian Grand Prix should be called the “Padanian Grand Prix” instead.

For all the reasons mentioned above, I feel sorry. Sorry to all of the foreigners who have come to a place with such a history, that has been irremediably damaged.

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