Milan: A red tide swept through the centre of Milan on Wednesday as up to 10,000 Ferrari fans crammed into the city’s Piazza Duomo to mark the 90th anniversary of both the Formula One team and the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
The race will remain on the calendar until 2024, after the signing of a contract renewal in front of an ecstatic crowd in the city’s famed cathedral square.
Formula One chairman Chase Carey and FIA president Jean Todt joined Italian Automobile Club (ACI) president Angelo Sticchi Damiani on the red-carpeted stage to announce Monza was safe until “at least 2024”.
“It was not easy but in the end we reached an agreement and now we can say with serenity that the Grand Prix at Monza will be there until 2024,” said Damiani.
“I could not be happier with this announcement,” said Carey. “Because there are so many other races on the Formula One calendar, but there is only one Monza and only one Italian audience.”
F1 has held a GP in Italy since the championship began in 1950, and the race has been run at Monza every year bar 1980, when it was held at Imola.
The 2019 event takes place on Sunday following Ferrari’s win in Belgium, with Charles Leclerc winning his first Grand Prix on a sombre occasion at Spa-Francorchamps following the death of his friend and F2 driver Anthoine Hubert.
The Italian team are tipped to win on home turf in front of its army of passionate fans.
“It’s a beautiful evening, thanks to everyone for being here. You are the soul of Ferrari,” Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri told the crowd.
Many of them had arrived early afternoon to grab the best positions in the sunshine to see the drivers and cars from the past to the present day.
“We’ve been here since this afternoon, it’s been worth it, we’ve seen beautiful cars and great people from the world of sport,” said 41-year-old Ferrari fan Paolo Genoni.
Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel shared the stage with past drivers including Kimi Raikkonen — Ferrari’s last world champion in 2007 — Arturo Merzario, Mario Andretti, Jean Alesi, Alain Prost, Eddie Irvine and Felipe Massa.
There were cries of ‘Schumi, Schumi’ for Ferrari’s most successful Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, with his son Mick, who is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, present.
Schumacher, 50, suffered serious head injuries in a skiing accident in December 2013 and has not been seen in public since, with 2019 marking 25 years since his first world championship win.
Iconic cars of the past were also driven round the Piazza Duomo.
Leclerc was on board the Alfa Romeo 8C driven in 1934 by Tazio Nuvolari, with Vettel driving the 750 Monza, and the Ferrari 312 T in which Niki Lauda won the 1975 world championship.
“It’s a very strong emotion, you imagine yourself in their shoes, hearing the noise of the engines, it’s wonderful,” said 36-year-old Antonio Della Valle.
Another fan Laura Minitti added: “I was delighted to see these cars go by because I’m Italian and in the end it was an Italian celebration that I liked.”