Monza is synonymous with Formula One and its association with Grand Prix racing dates back to the early 1920s. The famous circuit has hosted a Grand Prix every year since the inaugural 1950 championship, bar one, but the contract to stage the race runs out this year.
Though it may be unimaginable to some, there is a distinct possibility that the Italian Grand Prix could be hosted elsewhere. Discussions between Formula One and SIAS, the Automobile Club of Italy’s dedicated motorsport promotions division, appear to have ground to a halt, with the 2016 edition the last on the current contract.
Ecclestone is demanding a higher fee to stage the race from the circuit owners, but no more, he says, than other European promoters are paying. Last year, The Independent reported the price to be €25 million annually, some €10 million more than the race organisers claim they are willing or able to pay.
Roberto Maroni, the president of Lombardi, the region in which Monza lies, anticipates that racing will continue but admitted, when talking with La Gazzetta dello Sport, that a deal is far from done. “There can be no Formula One without Monza, as I have reiterated to Ecclestone along with thousands of (petition) signatures,” he said. “Now we have to go the final mile to make sure history continues as it should.”
Ecclestone has shown little sentiment in the past, axing the French Grand Prix in 2008, but wanted to reach an agreement on 2017 by the end of March and that deadline has come and gone.
By all accounts, the basis of the new contract had been decided with only minor details to be resolved.
Monza is 203 km away from Maranello in the province of Modena, which is home to Ferrari’s factory and development centre. The Tifosi, the colloquial name of Ferrari’s support, flock religiously to Monza each season and are vociferous in their support of the home team.
The partisan support and distinctive wall of red has helped create one of the most atmospheric races seen in the Formula One season. The Italians call it 'La Pista Magica', the magic track, while others have dubbed Monza as the ‘cathedral of speed’.
It is not only the fans who want to keep racing at Monza. Three time world champion, and winner of the 2015 Italian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton, is steadfast in his support: “When you go to a new circuit, Ayrton Senna didn’t drive there, Juan Manuel Fangio didn’t drive there. It should be here for the rest of Formula One’s life.”