15 Sep 2011

Ciao from Monza

Monza is always a special Grand Prix. I’ve been coming here every year ever since 2008 when I did Formula BMW. I even raced here in Formula 3 earlier this year when I ended up on the podium.

The atmosphere here is incredible and the passionate race fans will always crowd around the paddock even before the sun rises. I’m very lucky to be at the race this weekend with Mercedes PETRONAS Grand Prix team.

On Friday morning, I caught up with Nico, Michael and the engineers and had a brief chat on how my season was getting on. It feels great getting advice from them and it always motivates me even more when I get back to my Formula 3 car. At the same time, the engineers will also update me on the latest updates of the Formula 1 car. It’s also interesting to learn which updates work and which don’t and this requires a lot of engineering skill. The engineers will always teach me and guide me on this.

With having two practice sessions on Friday, the team follow their programme which they planned prior to the Grand Prix. They concentrated on doing race runs and learning more about the tyres. The weather in Monza was always also very hot in the afternoon and finding the right pressures are crucial.

In the afternoon I was introduced to Massimo Meregalli who is the Team Manager of the Yamaha Factory Team which races in MotoGP. He was one of the Petronas guests for that day. After showing him around the garages and the trucks, which he found very different to what he was used to with Moto GP, he invited me to go and visit their factory as they were based just 15 minutes down the road.

It was an incredible experience to visit a front running MotoGP team’s home. They had a collection of championship-winning bikes at the reception and all of them looked absolutely stunning. He also showed me the section where the engines were being built and dyno-ed which was very impressive. There was also an assembly area where the mechanics were preparing Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spiess’s bikes for the upcoming race.

Saturday was a very interesting day for me. Free Practice 3 went really well for Nico and Michael as they ended the session high up on the time sheets and were happy with the balance of the car. But the team discovered that it took too much from the tyres. The team then planned a strategy which would sacrifice the best sets of tyres, keeping them for the race. But by doing this they qualified further down the grid which was 8th for Michael and 9th for Nico.

One thing I learned today is that although qualifying is important, it’s the end results in the race which count the most and the skill of the engineers is to know the right balance between the two. You might qualify further down the grid with one strategy, but it’s not necessarily the end of the world. Having a good car, good strategy and good sets of tyres, it can be a good end to a race weekend.

The strategy definitely worked for Michael with him having to do 2 stops plus he had a really good start and stayed up in 3rd. He held off the McLarens for almost 1/3rd of the race which was incredible. Would love to have seen Nico battling up in the front but he was very unlucky as he got hit by Tonio Luizzi in the first chicane.

It was a great race by Michael as he finished 5th place and collected valuable points for him and the team.

Last but not least, meeting Jay Kay (Jamiroquai) was also a highlight of my weekend. He is a really cool guy who I idolize. We share the same passion and all he talked about was cars!


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