The sun shone; Mario’s bookshop continued to reveal gems; and the Monza crowd grew steadily as the day wore on. Welcome to yet another Italian Grand Prix on the legendary, high-speed circuit. John Surtees, in company with his daughter, was all smiles, despite a recent illness. “Working here for anyone, John?” “No. No-one. I’m just here because I love it. ”
Across the way, MarieAngela and her daughter, Claudia, were delighted already with Thursday’s takings in their merchandise store. “Did I ever tell you how I helped Emerson Fittipaldi win his first World Championship?” asked MA with a smile. “It was like this. The JPS Lotus truck had a terrible accident on the way to Monza and I received a frantic phone call in the middle of the night from Peter Warr, asking me to help with doctors, rescue people and so on. Of course this was no problem for me. I know everyone in Monza. Before the race, the JPS man came to me with a big box and said, ‘MarieAngela. Thankyou for your help’. I told him it was nothing but he said that he wanted me to have this box but not to open it unless Emerson clinched the title in the race. So, after Emerson did that, I opened the box and it was FULL of black and gold JPS stickers, naming Emerson as the 1972 World Champion. If you look closely at some of the podium pictures, you can see me in the background, throwing the stickers into the sky!”
Before lunch, it was time to catch up with John Hogan (ex-Marlboro, now with JMI), Nigel Roebuck (journalist extraordinaire) and Force India’s Neil Dickie. John was still trying to work why the actor who plays him in “Rush” doesn’t look like Brad Pitt; Nigel was laden with books from Mario’s store (“The History of American Sprint Car Racing, 1952-56” – you know the sort of thing); and Neil can’t wait to wear his self-designed tee-shirt on Sunday, reminding everyone in the pit lane about a certain Superswede who so sadly lost his life at Monza in 1978.
And there was a touching moment later in the day when Lewis Hamilton was re-united with an old friend – his former karting team-mate, Stefano Fabi. Stefano, who now has MS, was overcome with emotion when he met Lewis again but the two then relaxed and chatted for a good 25min. It wasn’t long before they were talking about the hire-car in Albacete which finished its lap minus hub-caps, bumper, brakes, tyres, etc, etc. The usual thing. All the while, Stefano’s father, Teo, an F1 and IndyCar driver of great repute, sat quietly in the background, just as he used to when he was racing.