Monaco 2002 - Meeting the drivers!
If you are a regular visitor of my website, then you know that this was already my fourth visit of the Monaco Grand Prix. And again, I loved it! I saw all the actual Formula 1 drivers and many drivers from the past too!...
After a special trip in 2000, where I actually stayed in Monaco, this time I decided to stay in Nice again (mainly for money reasons). Because I stayed longer this year and therefore arrived and left Nice at other days than the usual race tourists do, I had no problems with delayed flights. As I got up early in the morning and took one of the first trains to Monaco, I also had seats in the trains. So, this made it even nicer...
The first important thing I realised: Monaco has a new railway station. Looks great, but it's a longer way to the center of the city, as the station is in the mountain. On the other hand, it has two different entrances (one where the old railway station was, another one up the mountain), which makes it easier if you are ending up higher up and don't want to walk all the way down to the railway station. Because, as I said in an earlier story, Monaco is built on a hill (you could even call it mountain) and therefore, wherever you walk, you either walk up or down, there is nearly no flat road in Monaco!
On Thursday and Sunday, I was on grandstand W again (at the pit entry). On Saturday (for Qualifying) I sat on the V grandstand, where we had a great view of the cars arriving on the start/finish straight and accelerating, which was quite impressive.
This time, I saw a little more of Monaco, like for example the palace of the prince. I met almost all the drivers and I can't say that any of them were unfriendly. All of them were nice enough to sign my program and some of them even said "Thank you"! I got autographs of many stars, and some others I met but didn't ask for an autograph, either because I didn't care about it (like with Jean Todt after the latest Grand Prix or Willi Weber, Schumachers manager) or because I was not even sure who they were (I'm not that familiar with film stars or singers that I would have known them all). But when models posed close to me, I was of course taking a picture of them. Anyway, I got autographs of the following Formula 1 drivers (actual and ex-drivers): Marc Surer, Thierry Boutsen, Rubens Barrichello, David Coulthard, Juan-Pablo Montoya, Nick Heidfeld, Felipe Massa, Takuma Sato, Jacques Villeneuve, Olivier Panis, Jarno Trulli, Jenson Button, Eddie Irvine, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Enrique Bernoldi, Alex Yoong, Mark Webber, Mika Salo, Allan McNish, Fernando Alonso, J.J. Lehto, Aguri Suzuki (he works for a Japanese TV channel), Ricardo Zonta, Luca Badoer, Luciano Burti, Karl Wendlinger, Thierry Boutsen and Jacques Laffite. I also got autographs of the motorbikers Max Biaggi and Loris Capirossi. Click here for a picture of me asking Heinz-Harald Frentzen for an autograph. - Here is a picture of me in my "Webmaster of WWW.PROSTFAN.COM" t-shirt asking Jacques Villeneuve (with Craig Pollock) for an autograph.
When I asked Gerhard Berger for an autograph on Thursday, he told me that he has "no time right now to give one, but later". Of course I didn't see Gerhard until Sunday after the race. And I asked him for an autograph again, although he was looking busy and had lots of fans around him. He said that he had no time. So I answered: "You promised me on Thursday that you would give one later, Now it's Sunday and you still haven't signed yet!" – So, Gerhard replied: "OK, give it here, then I sign NOW!"... So, I actually got an autograph of "Gerhard Later" as I used to call him in the meantime. The next funny story was at the Jordan motorhome: In there was Giancarlo Fisichella, so I tried the same trick many other people used to get autographs: I asked a Jordan team member, if I could hand him over my programme, so that he would give it to Fisichella to sign. The answer came right away: "No, sorry, no way!". But, as I noticed the former F1-driver Andrea de Cesaris (now with a moustache) in the motorhome, I asked the same team member again: "Would you hand the programme over to Andrea de Cesaris. The answer came as fast as the first one: "You recognized Andrea de Cesaris? Well, OK, give me your programme, I will let it sign for you! Andrea will be so very happy that someone actually knows him." – I had to really laugh about that one and was proud that I knew him and Andrea de Cesaris was waving to me and showing me the thumbs up! Only a few drivers did not sign: Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen.
I shouldn't forget to mention that the race itself was neat to see too! I was surely the most exciting Formula 1 race of the season so far and we saw lots of fights even for the lead and several overtaking manoeuvres (mainly of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who drove a great race). At a certain point in the race it really started to smell terribly on our grandstand. It took me a while to realise what it was, until I saw the smoking Williams of Juan-Pablo Montoya parking behind us! I never before smelled a blown-up engine from so close...
The Formula 3000 race was also fantastic, with a winner, who was so much better than the rest: the French driver Sébastien Bourdais (I also got an autograph of him) was leading the whole race, made no mistake and was bloody quick! His driving style reminded me of Alain's (without wanting to say to much). I was just really very impressed by this young Frenchman and he drove a whole race with an unbelievable speed and without a visible mistake!
On Sunday after the race, I was very happy to have seen every actual F1-driver (also Jean Alesi, Johnny Herbert and more drivers I didn't mention earlier). I got autographs from 30 former or actual Formula 1 drivers, which is 8 more drivers than we have in F1 this year! I also had the chance to talk a few words to some of them. So, I was very happy with the race weekend and decided to take a last walk through the famous tunnel of Monaco. Walking by a person that looked somehow familiar, who was pressing buttons on a mobile phone... Walking on... Thinking... Stopping... Saying: "Was that who I think it was?" – grabbing my programme and running back! – It was Mark Blundell taking a small evening walk!
So, my visit to Monaco was just great again, with lots of nice surprises. - I hope to be there again next year or anytime soon!
Last, but not least, here my four best photos from Monaco 2002: