Saturday, December 1, 2012


It’s been almost a week since the 2012 Formula 1 season came to a climax in Brazil and the bitter taste of defeat is finally starting to fade away. For those of you who didn’t watch last Sunday’s (or if you live in Australia, Monday morning’s) dramatic conclusion, Fernando Alonso lost the Driver’s Championship by a mere three points to Sebastian Vettel. It was an exciting race and Ferrari fought until the very last lap but sadly, despite Vettel having to endure what has to be one of the most calamitous races of his career, he would not be denied the championship.

 In the aftermath of Interlagos there has been much controversy surrounding Sebastian Vettel and his passing of several cars while yellow flags were out on the circuit. At first it appeared as though the yellow flags in question were merely yellow and red striped slippery surface warnings, Ferrari’s Pat Fry even noted as much during his post-race interview when questioned about Vettel’s pass on Kobayashi. In the past week, however, new video evidence emerged on the internet which seemed to show the newly-crowned World Champion passing Jean Eric Vergne under a very definite yellow flag. It was a development that had the potential to alter the result of the Championship and it made headlines all over the world.

My initial reaction to what has been nicknamed “Flag-Gate” was one of horror. There is nothing worse than when the result of a race is altered after the cars have reached the chequered flag and the champagne has been sprayed. The idea that the Championship could be decided by a post-race penalty made my stomach turn. I imagined the potential headlines accusing Ferrari of using underhanded tactics and various other odious methods in order to secure the Championship. I imagined that somehow, even if the argument was completely valid, Ferrari’s image would once again be dragged through the mud and others would emerge looking whiter than white.

My mind skipped back to Texas, when Ferrari made the bold decision to break the seal on Felipe Massa’s gearbox, demoting the Brazilian five positions on the grid. It was a strategic move that allowed Fernando Alonso to start on the clean side of the track and helped to ensure that Ferrari would take the Championship down to the wire.

From inside the paddock, there were no complaints about this strategy. In fact, I rather think that many of the teams might have admired its brilliance. Still, despite there being no controversy, some members of the media chose to report it as one. One article that boiled my blood in particular appeared on ESPN’s Formula 1 website. In the article Martin Williamson accused the strategy of being within the rules but outside the spirit of them. He even went as far as to say that Ferrari’s actions made a mockery out of qualifying and sullied the sport. It is commentary like this that gives new fans a false impression of the sport. What exactly did Williamson mean when he spoke of the spirit of the sport and what made him believe that he could even attempt to define the moral boundaries of a sport that is three dimensional, not black and white. Team orders have always had a place within Formula 1 and the teams have always pushed the limits of the regulations. It is the media who chooses to make drama where indeed no drama exists.

The media has this amazing ability to blow things totally out of proportion and paint its subjects as either heroes or villains. Sensational headlines sell newspapers and everyone enjoys commenting on a good controversy. As much as I would have loved to celebrate a Ferrari Championship, I must concede that this whole messy post-Brazil affair has been nothing more than the Spanish media stirring the pot.

Although Ferrari were satisfied that Vettel overtook Kobayashi under a yellow and red striped flag during the Brazilian Grand Prix, the emergence of the Vettel/Vergne video on the internet and the media storm that the video unleashed, forced them to re-examine the race and ask for clarification from the FIA. Fernando Alonso, himself was allegedly also amongst those calling for Ferrari to lodge a protest. “I have no miracles.” He wrote on this twitter account “I transform the correct rules in my miracles.” with his manager, Luis Garcia Abad adding “Where justice does not prevail, it’s dangerous to be in the right.”

In the conspiracy theorists’ defence, I have to admit that I have watched the grainy video of Vettel’s pass on Vergne countless times and have yet to see a green flag being waved. Still, the quality of the video that sparked this debate is so poor that one cannot even read Vettel’s dashboard. As much as I dislike not being able to see the flag with my own eyes, I do accept that both the FIA and the teams have access to a quantity of information that would make my head spin.

In the end, the whole dramatic episode amounted to nothing, with the FIA confirming that Vettel’s move was indeed legal and that Ferrari had no case to appeal. Ferrari too conceded, issuing the following statement: “Ferrari duly takes note of the reply sent by the FIA this morning and therefore considers the matter now closed. The request for a clarification from the FIA, regarding Vettel’s passing move on Vergne, came about through the need to shed light on the circumstances of the move, which came out on the internet only a few days after the race.”

With Vettel in the clear, the media has made Ferrari its latest target, with some unfair comments being hurled in the team’s direction questioning the Italian side’s sportsmanship. Perhaps to clear the air a little, Stefano Domenicali made a statement of his own. “We had no intention of belittling the merit of the title winner, but it was right to have the matter completely cleared up.”

Believe what you like, but the fact remains that in the face of overwhelming pressure, Ferrari had no choice but to address the issue. The team’s ethics and sportsmanship have nothing to do with it. Were the situations reversed, Red Bull might have very well reacted in a similar manner and yet, somehow, I have a feeling that they wouldn’t have received quite the same amount of criticism for merely asking for clarification. The lesson here is that it is the media we should hold accountable for sensationalising issues in order to sell papers and not the teams who are merely trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Phillip Island’s MotoGP: Part One

The past few weeks have seen many interesting developments in the Formula 1 paddock. Ferrari announced that they have renewed their contract with Felipe Massa, Lotus have confirmed that they are sticking with Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg has been picked up by Sauber, strengthening all of those paddock rumours claiming that Ferrari is watching him. Sauber’s reserve driver, Esteban Gutierrez looks set to take the second seat in the team next year after filling in for Sergio Perez during India’s first Friday free practice session. Apparently Sergio was suffering from some sort of super cold that was enough to keep him out of his car but not out of his team’s garage. During the session, camera crews focused in on the glum-looking Mexican who appeared more irritated than unwell. “Had a fever yesterday, but I’m all right today. It’s a team decision.” He clarified on his twitter. Watch out for an announcement in the coming days confirming either Gutierrez or current driver, Kobayashi. Finally, what update wouldn’t be complete without a random comment from Lewis Hamilton who once again left me speechless when he claimed that his childhood love of curries means that he feels quite at home in India… surely he’s kidding right?

But enough about Formula 1 for now, last weekend I took a break from my favourite motorsport to check out one of the most exciting forms of racing out there, namely motorcycle racing. I’ll admit it, I’m not an avid MotoGP enthusiast, in fact aside from watching the occasional race with my boyfriend who is quite passionate about it, I don’t really think about it that often. Sure I know the major players and yes the races that I have seen have been nail biting but I guess I have always told myself that there isn’t much room in my life for another form of racing aside from Formula 1. Despite this prior belief, however, I couldn’t resist a weekend of live racing at Phillip Island when the opportunity presented itself.


Bundled up in a massive yellow jacket which made me resemble a caterpillar of sorts, I made my way to the circuit via coach and was immediately thankful for my ridiculous attire upon arriving at my destination. Don’t let the latex mini skirts and cropped tops that the grid girls wear fool you, Phillip Island is absolutely freezing! Shivering in the freezing rain, my boyfriend and I made our way to our seats, stopping along the way to watch the Moto3 bikes.



Although we had purchased grandstand tickets just opposite the podium on Gardner Straight, it was a joy to watch the bikes from different general admission areas along the track. One major difference between Formula 1 and MotoGP has to be the quality of viewing from these relatively inexpensive areas. I was amazed how close I was able to come to the track and the sound of the engines was truly magnificent. The angles and speeds that the riders approach the corners at are quite frightening and when two or more bikes enter a bend at the same time the whole manoeuvre appears to be a well-choreographed dance. 

There’s something pure about motorcycle racing, something in its essence that I feel as though Formula 1 has lost. When I stood at the exit of the final corner at Phillip Island it finally hit me what that something was. One by one, as all of the powerful 1000cc MotoGP bikes passed me by, I noticed them kick their riders hard in their own unique way. Some riders had to contend with a small wobble, while others appeared to be on the edge between control and disaster. It seemed as though no one was really in charge of their machine and yet instead of timidly backing off, they all pressed on, harder and more committed than before they had even entered the corner. I wondered if the whole lap was like that and indeed as I stood at various vantage points, I discovered that it was.
You would think that a man who would willingly skate on such a fine edge would be careless to the point of recklessness and yet one thing impressed me almost as much as the fearlessness that the riders seemed to possess and that was the respect that they had for one another. There was no blocking, no swerving, no games like we have witnessed in Formula 1 in recent years. The slower riders made way for the faster ones and everyone gave each other room. One got the feeling that these riders could easily regulate themselves without the need for steward interference and ridiculous penalties for racing incidents. As morbid as it sounds, perhaps the fact that all of these men have witnessed tragedy in their careers and risk their lives every time they jump on a bike has made them better racers. Modern- day Formula 1 drivers could learn a few things from these men.

Watching them pass before me one by one, pushing to the limit and seemingly defying gravity made me think about men like Tazio Nuvolari, who started his career on a motorcycle and suddenly I understood the fascination. These men are the real deal; racers at heart who live for that feeling of adrenalin that they get pushing themselves beyond what many believe to be possible. Just like watching an acrobat, your heart is in your mouth the whole time. Instinctively you look away and yet can’t resist but to turn back and watch the show. Writing about that feeling makes me think of Enzo Ferrari and what he described as his “terrible joys”. Through MotoGP I was able to understand this contradictory feeling and experience its magnetic pull firsthand.


After my first taste of live motorcycle racing, my boyfriend and I took a moment to explore the area and check out some of the merchandise. The atmosphere was very laid back and I got the feeling that this must have been what Formula 1 was like thirty years ago, before the meticulous organization of modern-times. Most notably absent were all of the glamorous celebrities who regularly fight it out with one another during a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend for a few precious moments of camera time. I definitely did not miss the big screen focusing in on Nicole Scherzinger jumping about like a deranged lemur every few moments that’s for sure.

The people in attendance seemed all equally passionate about the sport and many wandered around in motorcycle leathers and carrying helmets, having arrived at the track on bikes of their own. There were many banners expressing love for Australian native, Casey Stoner, who will retire at the end of this season. There was equal support, however, for legends like Valentino Rossi and many fans sported tributes to the late Marco Simoncelli, who died tragically in a race last year. As I left Phillip Island after the first day, I was full enthusiasm for Sunday’s race and had developed a definite respect for MotoGP.


Be sure to check out my blog in the coming days for part two of my MotoGP experience as well as more pictures from Phillip Island.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lewis Hamilton’s Debut Album

As a tifosa, I should be freaking out right now. Sebastian Vettel has reduced Fernando Alonso’s healthy lead in the World Driver’s Championship to a mere four points in one race and the Red Bull RB8 looked almost unbeatable in Japan. Strangely enough, however, after spending the majority of Sunday evening shaking my head in disbelief and muttering bitterly to myself, I seem to have switched my focus onto Lewis Hamilton and his increasingly ridiculous behaviour.

Those of you who know me well will already be aware that Lewis is often the butt of my jokes. From his tacky earrings to his pretentious TAG Heuer commercial (“let me tell you a fascinating story.” LOL!) not a week seems to go by without me wondering how the humble and intelligent boy who once told Ron Dennis that he would like to drive for McLaren became the author of twitter tweets such as “Wassup everyone! Hope your kool.” and “Chillin wit my homie.”

Now, I’m not saying that Lewis isn’t talented. As much as he annoys me, I will admit that he is certainly one of the most naturally gifted drivers on the grid. The fact that he manages to retain a drive despite putting his foot in his mouth on a regular basis is surely indicative of how large that talent truly is. One does however wonder how much of Hamilton’s shock decision to switch teams to Mercedes next year was Lewis wanting to leave and how much of it was McLaren simply not wanting him to stay.

There has been a lot of friction between Hamilton and McLaren recently, with Lewis often appearing to be a spoiled brat throwing his toys out of the gold encrusted pram that Ron Dennis built for him. From public criticisms of his team to random twitter outbursts and even the leakage of his and team-mate, Jenson Button’s telemetry data on social media, it has been shocking to watch Lewis Hamilton take an image that was already somewhat tainted in the wake of 2011 and run it further into the ground. Sometimes I find myself questioning if even Lewis’s own fans aren’t just a bit turned off.

To be fair to Lewis, I don’t know him, nor do I know the inner workings of the McLaren team, in fact I have to admit that I too once judged Fernando Alonso for his behaviour and branded him a prima donna prior to his Ferrari years. Maybe in five years time, once the dust from Hamilton’s move has settled, I will see things in a new light. For now, however, I have to wonder if Ross Brawn might already be regretting his decision to sign McLaren’s former golden boy. In the past several days alone, Hamilton has admitted in an interview with The Mail on Sunday that he probably won’t be winning next year’s championship or even a race in the 2013 Mercedes. “I am just well aware we don’t have the best car and it will take a lot of work to improve it.” He puzzlingly stated about a car which has yet to be built. I’m sure that neither sentiment will be met with open arms by Brawn, who is accustomed to winning and surely hopes to be on the top step of the podium multiple times next year.

Many of the sport’s most respected commentators have supported Lewis’s move to Mercedes. Former McLaren driver, David Coulthard likened the Briton’s switch to a young man moving out of his parent’s home and Damon Hill even went so far as to compare Hamilton to a caged bird at McLaren. It seems that despite Lewis’s questionable behaviour, he still has people in his corner and they will no doubt be keen to see him return to the promising form that he displayed at the beginning of his Formula 1 career.

For my part, although I dislike the man, I will say that a move like this takes guts. If the Mercedes is the class of the field in 2014 when the sport’s technical regulations change then Hamilton will look like a genius. If, however, Lewis ends up languishing in the midfield or even lower, his career may go the way that Jacques Villeneuve’s went in 1999 when he joined British American Racing.

If that does end up the case, maybe Hamilton will follow the French Canadian into the music industry, he has a girlfriend who already knows the business and seems to be quite handy on the guitar. Perhaps he could go by the name L-Ham or Lew-Diddy.

Whatever the outcome next season, whether Lewis flies or lands flat on his face, it’s going to be an interesting ride for sure and I am salivating at the prospect of watching the drama unfold.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to Attend The Canadian Grand Prix

It may seem like a lifetime away now, but only a few short months ago the Formula 1 circus made its way to Montreal, home of the Canadian Grand Prix, and I was there to welcome it.

First of all let me just say that Montreal is one of the most beautiful cities in the world during the summer months. I know that I’m probably a little bit biased seeing as it is my hometown, but members of Formula 1’s inner circle and tourists alike all rate Montreal as one of their favourite destinations on the calendar.

So what is it about Montreal that makes it special and how can you maximise your time in the city and at the same time have an amazing Grand Prix experience? The following are some of my tips on how to attend the Canadian Grand Prix:
1. Take The Metro Everywhere: In Montreal, the only way to travel if you haven’t rented a luxury sports car for the weekend is by Metro. It is fast, affordable and will get you to virtually anywhere you want to go. Taking the metro to the circuit is the easiest way to get there, but when leaving the island after the race, I recommend waiting a few hours as it can take a while to get out and your time will be better spent exploring the track.
2. Go to Pit Lane Open Day: Pit lane open day is a Montreal tradition. On the Thursday before the Grand Prix weekend begins the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve opens its doors to members of the public and fans can get up close and personal with the teams and even some drivers. I have fond memories of sitting on the unfinished Ferrari pit wall as a child and in 2010, I met Bruno Senna and chatted to the Red Bull mechanics. Unfortunately this year pit lane open day was cancelled due to interference from protesters, I hope that it will be reinstated next year.
3. Head to Peel and Crescent: During Grand Prix weekend in Montreal, the place to be when not at the circuit is on Peel or Crescent. Every year the two streets host a variety of events. From pit stop challenges to live entertainment on stage, there is something for everyone. If you want you can even eat at Newtown, which was once owned by Jacques Villeneuve. This year I was able to meet the legendary Emerson Fittipaldi. Along with posing for several photographs, he also signed a massive wad of pictures that my friend Rex, who is possibly Emerson’s biggest fan, had brought along with him. I thought that Rex was going to pass out, he was so excited.

4. Visit Mount Royal: For the most spectacular view in the city, go for a hike, cycle ride or drive up Mount Royal. The hill hosts some of the city’s most beautiful mansions and at night the entire city lights up, creating a fantastic photo op.
5. Eat in Westmount: Westmount may not be on every tourist’s radar but it is well worth a visit, especially if you are a fan of former Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. The outspoken Canadian owns a house in the area, as do famous hockey players, celebrities and even former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. I grew up there and still enjoy strolling through the lovely Westmount Park, revisiting memories of my youth whenever I visit. Aside from celebrity watching and some picturesque parks, Westmount also boasts several lovely restaurants. My current favourite restaurant in Westmount is a little Italian restaurant called 11 Scalini. Whenever my family goes there we get amazing service and the carbonara is to die for. Ask for Sergio if you love Ferrari, he is a massive tifoso and adores chatting about the red cars! **
6. Sit Anywhere: Having been just about everywhere around the circuit Gilles Villeneuve, I have to say that it is impossible to go wrong when it comes to seat selection. If money is no option, then you can’t beat the first corner, Senna S for drama and action, but even the most affordable tickets offer extremely good value for money. This year I sat in the modestly-priced grandstand 33 and thoroughly enjoyed my view and overall experience.
7. Buy a plastic poncho: In recent years, a plastic poncho has been the must-have accessory at a Canadian Grand Prix weekend. Fans who attended the 2011 race will remember it as a monsoon-like affair that went down in the history books as the longest ever Grand Prix and this year after Friday’s second practice session there was a similar downpour that caught many fans unaware. I have never been more thankful for a glorified plastic bag in my entire life!
8. Invade The Track: The end of the Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon is usually such a sad moment, but in Montreal the end of the race is when a lot of the fun that you can have as a spectator begins. The track marshals open the circuit at various points and if you are prepared to climb, crawl and get dirty, then you won’t be disappointed. Fans are allowed to walk all the way around the circuit, hang around outside the pit lane for several hours and even take photos next to the now famous “Salut Gilles” message at the start/finish line. Those who are sitting along the start/finish straight also have the opportunity to celebrate just beneath the podium and many drivers and teams who have performed well in the race will happily greet their supporters after the champagne. This year I caught up with an overjoyed Sergio Perez who was singing in Spanish with friend and fellow countryman, Esteban Gutierrez and was greeted by Heikki Kovalainen as he thanked his mechanics.

Although the above are just a few of the countless things to do in Montreal, I hope that my suggestions have been helpful if you are planning a trip to the Canadian Grand Prix this year. If you have a question about the event, please feel free to ask me about it and I will do my best to provide you with the information.
** If you decide to take the Metro to Westmount, get off at Vendome.

AFL Grand Final Week in Melbourne

Spring has finally sprung and I am really looking forward to some warmer weather after my few months of winter! As you have probably already guessed from the photos in my previous blog post, I am in Melbourne, Australia; land of kangaroos, Crocodile Dundee and these awkward looking pick-up truck mutations known as yutes.

I said goodbye to Italy in June after experiencing an amazing year living in Lodi and taking every opportunity to travel around the country. I will miss the home of Ferrari so very dearly and I have to thank the people who I came into contact with while I was there a great deal for showing me how to truly live with passion and helping me to understand the team that I have loved my entire life more than ever before. In the past year I have gotten closer to Ferrari than I ever dreamt was possible, I have made some amazing memories and I have been reminded that anything can be achieved if you believe in it and single-mindedly pursue that goal. I know that I will be back to Maranello someday soon and I am looking forward to that day with all of my heart.

It’s been tough moving to Australia and I would be lying if I said that there weren’t obstacles but who ever said that following your heart was easy? Thankfully I can now say that I feel settled in Melbourne and have begun to look forward to the fantastic amount of events that the city has to offer and also learn more about some of the things that are uniquely Australian.

At the top of my list of fascinations has to be what the locals here simply call “football” but the rest of the world refers to as “Aussie Rules”. The most confusing thing about “football” has to be the name since apparently only people in Victoria call it football, the rest of Australia calls rugby “football”. Lost yet?

If you can get past the name and the ridiculously short shorts that all of the players seem to wear, try understanding the rules. Am I the only one who wonders how a team can still score points even if they don’t get the ball in between the designated posts and what’s with the referee throwing the ball in backwards sometimes and then other times simply smashing it into the ground like a mouldy watermelon?! Why are there so many birds in “football” and why is one of the teams known only as the cats? Not the wildcats, not the tiger cats, not even the slightly agitated cats…just the cats. I could go on, but before I begin dissecting the random words that commentators use to describe various plays (for example: “Ooooh he soccerd it!” What does that even mean?!) let me just say that I am absolutely in love with this game!

I found out recently that Aussie Rules is in my blood and even though it was only a distant cousin of mine who once played for Collingwood, I definitely feel as though the revelation warrants me learning a little bit more about the sport and perhaps even trying it out for myself. Who knows, maybe someday soon you’ll see me violently thrashing my hands around like a lunatic in the stands of the MCG or maybe even prancing about on the Brownlow Medal red carpet. Stranger things have happened.


The Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final takes place this Saturday and all throughout the city, locals will be proudly sporting their colours of allegiance. There is even a parade on Friday and the tourist information centre boasts a large banner that features the AFL trophy on it. I can’t wait to see who emerges victorious this weekend, whether it’s the hawks or the swans. I’m putting my money on the swans simply because I reckon that in the wild a swan could absolutely take a hawk, I’ve been chased by one before and those things are bloody vicious.

Put some shrimp on your barbie, it’s going to be a cracker! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Where Am I?

What a month to be a tifosa and what a crazy month for me in general. Since I last wrote I have been travelling...and travelling and having more of my random adventures. Ferrari has somehow managed to find speed in the car, Felipe Massa has managed to put in a half decent drive and yes, who could forget Fernando Alonso's spellbinding Spanish victory? So where am I now? I won't tell you just yet because I still have jet lag and honestly don't know if I'm on foot or horseback, but I will leave you with some of my pictures from the past month and the promise that I will return to tell all of my tales in the near future!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Maranello Celebrates Gilles Villeneuve 30 Years On

When I was in Maranello yesterday for the Mille Miglia race, I couldn’t help but take note of one of the town’s tourist attractions in particular. The bronze Gilles Villeneuve bust, situated on the street that bares his name, was once again sporting a new look. Gone were the massive potted flowers that adorned the monument less than two weeks ago for the celebrations which marked 30 years since the little French Canadian died in a horrific accident during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend and a large Banner had been placed beneath the memorial, “Ciao Gilles” it read simply.

Italians have constantly impressed me with their knowledge and enthusiasm for motorsports since I arrived in this country less than one year ago. In fact, I remember once being told that I could not possibly hope to understand Ferrari until I had lived in Italy. While it is true that many tifosi are only partial fans at best, it was upon the anniversary of Gilles Villeneuve’s death that I came to see the true passion that many Italians have for Ferrari and its drivers. I also came to see that Gilles was loved in Italy possibly more than any other driver to have donned the famous scarlet overalls.

In the week running up to May 8th, every major sporting newspaper and magazine ran at least one article dedicated to Villeneuve and his legacy. The Gazetta dello Sport even sold a large book dedicated to the former Ferrari driver, filled with pictures detailing his life and career. People who I spoke with about the anniversary all knew the legend of Gilles Villeneuve. “He was the pilot who Enzo loved the most.” One of my neighbours commented upon noticing my purchase of the above mentioned book. “He loved him like a son.”

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated event that was held to mark thirty years without Gilles took place on the day of his death in Maranello. Villeneuve’s son, Jacques took to Fiorano to drive his father’s Ferrari 312 T4. When I heard about this tribute, I made it my mission to attend. I grew up watching Jacques Villeneuve race and I remember being thirteen and painting a huge mural on my wall to commemorate his 1997 World Championship. He wasn’t a Ferrari driver, but he was Canadian and to me that was worth cheering about.

It wasn’t until I began to learn more about the history of Formula 1 that I truly first encountered the story of his father, Gilles. I think that I have already written about my admiration for Villeneuve, who is remembered for his passion, his speed and his courage. He died before I was born and yet I have seen the videos of him working his magic behind the wheel of various cars and came to identify with him as I identify with Ferrari. Gilles Villeneuve was not simply a driver, no, he was a driver who embodied the very things that I love about the prancing horse itself and the qualities which drew me in and made me a life long fan of this inspirational team. It helped, of course, that Gilles was also a Canadian but had he been from Romania, I think that I would have still come to idolize him.

On the day of the tribute I was surprised to find Maranello bustling with people and not just any people, but true tifosi. These spectators were genuine fans with genuine memories. A few of them donned Gilles memorabilia and many more toted around various copies of magazines and spoke fondly of what Gilles Villeneuve had meant to them. The atmosphere was calm and relaxed and when, at approximately 10:30am, Jacques Villeneuve began his tribute, the knowledgeable crowd watched in awe.

It was the perfect day to be Canadian in Maranello and once the Italians nearby me detected my accent, they were full of questions about what Canada is like and if Canadians still think of Gilles as they do in Italy. Interestingly enough, although Gilles Villeneuve is far from forgotten in Montreal (they named the Formula 1 circuit after him.) I do think that the Italians really adopted him as one of their own and took him into their hearts in a way that the average Canadian has not. It was lovely to see the real emotion displayed from those in attendance.

After the handful of laps, I joined a group of fans outside the gates of Fiorano, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the Ferrari celebrities in attendance and hopefully Jacques Villeneuve himself. My expectations were more than met when the gates opened and out came Luca di Montezemolo in his silver Ferrari. The car rolled along slowly as people shoved magazines and pieces of paper into the car’s passenger seat window, where Montezemolo was sitting. “Luca, I’m Canadian!” I shouted in Italian without really thinking about it. The moment the words left my mouth, it seemed as though the world froze and Luca di Montezemolo himself leaned forward in his chair to greet me personally and thanked me for coming.

After my brush with the Ferrari president, I didn’t really expect to see many more things, but the celebrities kept pouring out of the Fiorano gates. Fernando Alonso made a mad dash out the alternative exit to the circuit in his car, much to the crowd’s great displeasure. When the next vehicle attempted to leave Fiorano, the congregated tifosi refused to make way. “Go the other way!” one cheeky fan exclaimed in Italian to roars of laughter. “It was good enough for Alonso!” Mauro Forghieri, who was technical director during Gilles Villeneuve’s time at Ferrari, also experienced humorous crowd problems of his own. As the Italian attempted to sign autographs, the car behind him began honking at the swarmed Forghieri, who laughed at the joke.

All those in attendance were in a fantastic mood and as Gilles’s former mechanics left the facility, the tifosi erupted into applause, acknowledging the service that the men had given Ferrari. The crowd was in fact so respectful, that the team treated us to a special viewing and photo session with the car as it was taken back to the factory, with several of us crossing the forbidden threshold, beyond the gates of Fiorano, for and unforgettable few minutes!

After several hours of stories and laughs with the fans around me, finally the Villeneuve family and their entourage came into view. Melanie Villeneuve, Gilles’s daughter, was the first to greet the crowd with a warm smile and friendly wave. Her mother, Joann walked a few feet behind her, chatting happily with friends. Both women embraced the crowd immediately and spoke in Italian. I was fortunate enough to speak with both of them, who were shocked to discover that I too am Canadian. Melanie in particular was especially down to earth and it was a joy to hear a Canadian accent for the first time in almost a year!

Suddenly the focus of the crowd shifted when a flashy yellow Ferrari, containing 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve in it, approached the exit. I managed to exchange only the briefest few words with him before the fans climbed all over his car…literally. “Is it always like this?” I asked Melanie Villeneuve as she watched her brother get mauled by the tifosi. “Yes.” She replied, while glancing at her mother.

As the cars containing Jacques Villeneuve, Melanie Villeneuve and their mother, Joann made their way out the Fiorano gates, well wishers approached Joann in particular and began to tell Gilles’s widow how much her late husband had meant to them. Obviously touched by their words, both Joann and Melanie seemed to really appreciate the love that the fans still have for Gilles Villeneuve.

As her car was about to disappear from view, Melanie Villeneuve greeted me one last time. She gave me the thumbs up and exclaimed “Go Canada!” while beaming broadly. I like to think that if Gilles could see the way that he was remembered, he would have been extremely proud. For me, it was a very special day in Maranello that I will not likely forget anytime soon.