In Peter Collinson’s famous 1969 film, a group of English thieves arrives in Turin aiming to pull off the crime of the century, robbing a security van. In order to confuse the city’s police, they tamper with the computer-controlled traffic light system so as to cause gridlock, wrong foot their pursuers and escape with the loot. A flight of fancy led us to reimagine a remake, set not in Turin, but in the Temple of Speed that is Monza.
In fact, looking back at last year’s Italian Grand Prix, the way it panned out could well have come from the fertile imagination of a screenwriter. After a hard fought qualifying session with very small time gaps, Pierre started from tenth on the grid. He got off the line well and then the guys on the pit wall pulled off a daring master stroke, calling him in for a perfectly timed pit stop to change tyres just before the pit lane entry was closed for safety reasons. However, race leader Lewis Hamilton ignored the red light and pitted, which netted him a 10 second penalty. Not long after that, Charles Leclerc crashed at the exit to the Parabolica and the race was red flagged. At the restart, Pierre seemed to have an extra gear compared to the rest and began his incredible charge, while Hamilton dropped down the order as he took his penalty. At this point, the Frenchman could smell victory but the last ten laps were nail-biting. In a true cinematic cliff hanger, Pierre was gradually being reeled in by McLaren’s hard charging Carlos Sainz, who in fact had learned his trade in our gang. The Spaniard tried everything he knew to attack, but Pierre had his elbows out and held his nerve. The chase was reminiscent of “The Italian Job”, with the three Mini-Coopers being pursued by the police on the famous rooftop test track at the Lingotto building. In our version of this story, it’s our guy who comes out on top at the chequered flag.
Pierre yelled on the radio, “we’ve done it again!” evoking never to be forgotten memories. 12 years earlier, at this same track, Sebastian Vettel gave Scuderia Toro Rosso its first win, in only its third season in the sport. As Gasly stood on the podium the French national anthem blared out for the first time since 1996, followed by the Italian one, which our crew sung along to at the top of their voices. We hadn’t sung it since that 14th September 2008, the date of our team’s memorable first win courtesy of a driver who would later go on to become a four times world champion with Red Bull Racing. That day too, the Faenza folk had celebrated in the rain. Back then, the race was won from pole and that day too, the pursuer was a McLaren with Heikki Kovalainen at the wheel. On both occasions, Lewis Hamilton was fighting for the title, which he would go on to win. He had struggled in Qualifying, out in Q2 and 15th on the grid, but he fought back in style to finish seventh. Out in front was our man Vettel, steering the STR3 on the limit as the laps ticked by until the chequered flag was waved, just as happened with Pierre on 6th September last year. Two historic wins, one in the Toro Rosso era the other in the time of AlphaTauri. The 2008 win is still the only victory for a non-Scuderia Ferrari car fitted with a Ferrari engine, albeit an Italian one and the second is the only one for an Italian car fitted with a Honda engine.
In short, two races, two wins, two stories, two Italian films worthy of an Oscar! As we approach the 72nd Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix we celebrate our two wins in Monza, our very own “Italian Job.”