Behind the scenes at the Italian GP

If the Istanbul paddock looked a bit empty and sterile a fortnight ago, Formula 1 came back to life with a vengeance in Monza. The paddock itself is an odd shape and a central area takes on the look of a typical Italian Piazza on race day, with a huge crowd of Italy’s beautiful people doing what they do best – posing!

The interesting thing about them is that the majority seem to have got in without the all-important pass around their necks. The best disguise to get into F1’s “holy of holies" without going through those irritating formalities is to dress up as a member of the clergy, the armed forces or the police!

A survey among the F1 drivers about who they would like to have dinner with came up with some odd results. Our very own DC chose fellow Scotsman and comedian Billy Connolly, which seems fair enough, but rather more strangely, octogenarian former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, “but when she was younger and a bit hotter than she is now," he added. You are joking, aren’t you, David?

The combined ages of Eddie Irvine, Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi is well over eighty, but all three of them have turned down the idea of entering the veteran F1 series known as the GP Masters, on the grounds that they are too young, they told us while sharing a table at the Energy Station in the Monza paddock. That did not stop Irvine from having a little senior moment over the weekend when he accidentally filled his diesel car with petrol and had to pay heavily to have it cleaned out. A former Grand Prix driver in a diesel? Whatever next!

Ferrari stuck to their tradition of inviting all the F1 press to a gala dinner on Saturday night in the paddock. Even though the team is struggling this year, President Montezemolo seems to have maintained his sense of humor, introducing Michael Schumacher on stage as “a promising young driver who has not won enough races yet!" The dinner ended just as a major storm hit Monza, but the guests were all given bright red rain capes to wear on the way back to the car park. It looked less like a glamorous dinner and more like the end of Little Red Riding Hood convention.

It seems that more countries are cottoning onto the idea that if you want your letters to get to their destination quickly, you should put an F1 person on the stamp. When we were in Hungary, that country’s postal service issued stamps with a picture of Bernie Ecclestone on them and now Austria has come up with a Niki Lauda postage stamp. A case of philately will get you everywhere! Red Bull Racing

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