Tuesday, October 24, 2006

September 2006 - Monza, Italy - Formula 1 Grand Prix

Six months ago, Casandra gave me the coolest birthday gift any car enthusiast, speed junkie, or 10-year old matchbox/hotwheels fanatic could ever ask for . . .

A three-day pass to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza - the F1 Grand Prix in Monza, Italy (just outside Milan) - one of the 3 most important races in the F1 circuit and Italy's most significant race of the year. The 10-year old about to jump on the platform (above) is me . . . standing next to . . . no, not a sup'd up vodafone on wheels but an actual F1 Ferrari driven by none other than Michael Schumacher, the 7-time F1 Champion and winningest driver in F1 history.

On day 1, we watched the drivers get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the world famous track during the various practice sessions. Above is a shot of Schumacher passing Raikkonen (in the silver McLaren) on the longest straight-a-way.

On day 2, we watched the Porsche Supercup race (above) and the F1 qualifying round. Raikkonen, driving for McLaren, snatched the pole position, Schumacher and Massa claimed the 2nd and 4th spots for Ferrari, and Fisichella and Alonso (the drivers' points leader going into race) driving for Renault (the manufacturers' leader) settled for the disappointing 9th and 10th slots on the starting line .

The driver's parade. That's the back of Schumacher's head on the jumbo-tron (above). His Rockstar status in Italy (and throughout Europe) is undeniable.

Drivers . . . on your marks . . . get set . . .

GO !!! That's Raikkonen taking advantage of the pole on the left, and Schumacher leading the pack on the right.

We had amazing seats at the first and most dangerous turn - Il primo variante - which is actually 2 sharp turns just after the longest straight-a-way. That's Raikkonen after making his first go around the treacherous variant.

And, 2 seconds behind, Schumacher snakes through the familiar turn on Ferrari's "home" track.

Several seconds later, Alonso finds the turn a bit more challenging than the veteran.

In fact, with only 12 laps to go, that variant would do Alonso in. Notice the red-clad crowd celebrate the Spaniard's mishap and the French car's humiliating exit from the track.

Meanwhile, Schumacher capitalizes on the swift efforts of Ferrari's prodigious pitmen, takes the lead from Raikkonen . . .

and, effortlessly maintainting the lead for several laps, races past the Checker Flags (above).

Here's a close-up of Schumacher just as he passes the finish line.

And the frenzied crowd storms the track. Mayhem in Monza !!

In the distance behind us is the first variant covered with Ferrari fans. Notice the 4 Renault/Alonso fans immediately behind us declining to join them on the track, choosing instead to watch the celebration from the safety of their seats.

Giant flags donning the Prancing Horse waived wildly in every direction.
The Winners' Podium: Schumacher in the middle (1st), Raikkonen for McLaren on the left (2nd), and Kubica for BMW Sauber on the right (3rd).
Minutes later, Schumacher (above) announces that this was his last appearance at Monza and that he would retire from F1 racing at the end of the season.

Though not yet F1 fanatics, we couldn't resist joining the rest of them on the track to celebrate Ferrari's and Schumacher's victory.
What an amazing weekend !!
Thanks Baby!

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