The race at Monza has always been and will always be a special race – not just for Ferrari but for anyone who truly loves Formula 1. This track, more than any other, embodies its most important values: speed, daring, passion, courage and extreme technology. Naturally that is also the case for Luca di Montezemolo, whose sporting and personal history is linked by a thread – obviously a red one – to this Italian Grand Prix.
“So many memories come into my mind when I think of Monza,” Ferrari’s President told www.ferrari.com. “There are beautiful ones but also very painful ones. For example I think of the impression made on me by the tragic incident in the 1961 race, when von Trips’ car flew into the crowd at Parabolica. That was an episode that had a major effect on me and immediately taught me how motor racing can be both fascinating and risky. It was also at Monza that I saw my first Grand Prix live in 1966: that day Lodovico Scarfiotto won at the wheel of a Ferrari and it was the last success by an Italian driver at his home race.”
Monza has given Ferrari so much sporting joy and one of these moments ranks among the best in the relationship between Montezemolo and the Prancing Horse that dates back over 40 years. “Regazzoni’s victory and Lauda’s third place in 1975 brought great satisfaction and joy: it was my first world championship,” adds the President. “That result also brought us both the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ titles, taking Ferrari back to the top after an 11-year wait. And who could forget the same Niki who, the following year, courageously got into the cockpit of his Ferrari when his wounds from the Nürburgring fire were still bleeding? He was fourth that afternoon, but definitely first in terms of suffering and will power.”
Since Montezemolo took over the role of Ferrari President at the end of 1991 his life during the race weekends has changed compared to when he was the Scuderia’s Sporting Director. “Now I don’t often go to Grands Prix, especially the Sundays: it’s too hard, I prefer to watch on television alone at my house. But I try never to miss Saturday qualifying at Monza: I like to see my team at work up close and also to cast an eye over the opponents. I also like the contact with our fans. Monza is one of the races that will never be missing from the Formula 1 calendar. A track with four corners and three chicanes may seem old-fashioned to some but the same argument applies as at Monte Carlo: both are essential sides to our sport, one for the glamour that surrounds the race, the other for the emotion that only comes from raw speed.”
Monza has served up more joy than pain in the last 20 years: “It’s true, there have been some great moments. I think of 1996 when Michael Schumacher won the race giving the definitive signal that, from then on, we could rejoin the ranks of the big teams. I think of 2000, when Michael defeated his great rival Hakkinen and began that fantastic run of four straight victories that brought us back to the top of the world after 21 years of wait. I think of 2006 when Michael again took a wonderful win on the very day he announced his retirement from racing (the real one, because in my view after that a twin I do not recognise was racing…) I think of 2010, when Fernando Alonso overcame a very hard opponent in Button: then, too, the opponent was a McLaren and it seemed to signal the beginning of another fairytale like the one ten years earlier. But then we know how it ended up on that cursed evening in Abu Dhabi…”
The days that precede the Italian Grand Prix take place in a special atmosphere: “I always try to look into the eyes of my team to understand how things are really going,” says Montezemolo. “I spur them on up to the last moment to bring to the track even the tiniest last development that can give us the hundredths of a second that could make us improve. Then there’s the magnificent crowd at Monza that always welcomes us with great warmth. They say it makes no difference to race in front of your own fans but I don’t believe that’s the case: it’s the same for the team and the drivers – anyone working for us, including foreigners, becomes an adopted Italian when you wear red – and it’s the same for the cars. It sounds irrational, I admit, but I’m convinced that when they race at Monza even the suspension, the wings and the engine in a Ferrari give something extra, that little bit that can make the difference.”