I’ve had the pleasure of visiting quite a few F1 racetracks, but none have the atmosphere and beauty of Monza. Located in a royal park, originally part of the estate of the Viceroy of Italy, Monza can never escape its history. One of the reasons is that the ‘new’ F1 circuit – completed in 1955 – is physically interwoven with the original banked circuit, built in 1922. They are conjoined twins, two separate entities and yet one is also part of the other.
Unlike many race tracks accessing the surrounding area is relatively easy, a walk in the park in fact. On a visit to Monza earlier in the year I persuaded my wife that we should spend the day exploring the park and the old circuit. We found a walk which took us through the Villa Reale and then along the western bank of the Lombardy river. Our route then brought us past the clubhouse of the prestigious Golf Club Milano, which has a 27 hole course in the park. As we got nearer to a gap in the hedge where the old track was located, I could see the outline of a police officer. As we got closer several light-blue Fiat Polizia Municipale cars came into view. We weren’t sure what was going on. Was this extra security for the old track or had there been some kind of incident? As we got up to the gate one of the officers saw us and beckoned us to come across the track to the infield of the circuit. OK, so we could go through, but what was going on? As we got onto the eastern straight of the old circuit, we could see the area marked out with bollards and a line of police cars waiting to try the course. The old Monza circuit was being used for police driver training, it could only happen in Italy.
We then walked along towards the grandstands of the new circuit between Variante Ascari and Parabolica, turning left as we got to the gates and heading south with Parabolica now on our right. We continued along the path until we could see the banked Sud Alta Velocita curve of the old circuit, the path going below the track at this point. We detoured to the woods on our left and found a small path that led down through the trees. After a few minutes walking we found ourselves on the circuit. It was a magical moment, a bright sunny day standing on this curving track. We took the risk that police driver training had not progressed to the banked part of the old circuit and walked around taking in the atmosphere. They say there are ghosts at Monza. Many great drivers lost their lives here: Peterson, Rindt, Von Trips and Ascari, amongst others. I can’t say that I felt the presence of ghosts, but I did feel very privileged to enjoy the beauty of Monza. Long may Formula 1 continue to race in this Royal Park.