Monza has a unique buzz. Even on a Thursday. There is something about the place that is difficult to pin point but all you know is that the pulse quickens as you drive through the gates of this ancient wooded park.
Maybe it’s seeing the old banking (last used for F1 in 1961); perhaps it’s the history that comes with epic races and sad events (hard to believe it’s 30 years since the great Ronnie Peterson died of injuries received during a first-lap crash); frequently it’s because September at Monza is usually contract time for the following season (there’s no better place than Italy to foster rumours and mad speculation).
It’s not difficult to imagine what’s firing up the old autodome this time round. The final laps at Spa continue to dominate conversation, bringing an added frisson to the usual Thursday press conferences.
McLaren kicked off at 2.30pm. Usually this is a huddle with Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren Brand Centre: international media first, then the Brits. This time, McLaren rightly figured that their boy might be a tad more popular than usual and a full blown press conference was set up for all and sundry.
You’ll be able to read the lengthy quotes elsewhere, so let’s just sum up the mood by saying Hamilton appeared cool, genuinely relaxed and upbeat.
His attitude was along the lines of: ‘I really enjoyed last Sunday’s race; it was a fantastic battle; I couldn’t do any more and, as far as I’m concerned, I won that race and I’m here to continue the fight.’
The only contentious part of his talk came in an answer to the question about Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari appearing to have less grip.
“Well, that’s his driving, that’s all,” said Hamilton. “That is how he drives. If you don’t have the balls to brake late then that is your problem! At the end of the day, in those situations it is the driver who can feel the grip more and put the car more on the edge. And I know I am great in those conditions. I felt the grip more than him, I knew where to place my car and I did place it in different positions to him and I found the grip.”
That’s a point of view, I suppose. It was the work of a moment for the media to nip along to the Ferrari motorhome and put the point to Raikkonen.
Talk about a waste of time. Kimi probably expresses more interest when the barman calls last orders in his favourite Helsinki watering hole. Basically, ‘Whatever’ sums it up. Raikkonen simply said there are rules and other people apply the penalties and what was done, was done.
Move on to the FIA official press conference, and the inevitable question: ‘What did you make of the Hamilton incident at Spa?’ Giancarlo Fisichella, Sebastien Bourdais, Jarno Trulli, Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa said that Hamilton definitely did gain an advantage by taking to the run-off area but
all five agreed that the 25-second penalty was harsh.