SEPTEMBER 4, 2014
Busy Monza weekend kicks off on Thursday
Not surprisingly, a big crowd gathered in the press conference room at Monza as hostilities resumed between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
The FIA paired the warring Mercedes duo together to face the media on Thursday, with what one journalist described as the "ambassador for peace" - the imposing Fernando Alonso - sitting between them.
"This is the first time there has been so many people in the room," Hamilton smiled. "I am excited about moving forward."
Indeed, there was little sign of the crunching carbon fibre that characterised their controversial battle in Belgium, Hamilton insisting he said everything about the Rosberg clash "in the press release".
Spaniard Alonso even called it a "beautiful battle" that will play out over the last seven races of 2014.
"The problem they have is a good problem -- they are fighting for the world championship," said the Ferrari driver.
There was plenty of action elsewhere at the Autodromo Nazionale.
Roberto Merhi is making his Friday debut for Caterham, but he is tipped to step onto the grid in Singapore if he secures his F1 super license.
"At the moment the idea is to do practice one to see how it goes, to see how much I can learn from the car and everyone, and then we will see what is the next target," said the beaming Spaniard.
If he does make his debut in Singapore, Kamui Kobayashi - who mere hours ago was in Tokyo and not expecting to fly 12 hours to Italy - will be out in the cold yet again.
"I am talking about racing," he told reporters on Thursday, "and not about politics. At the moment it is not an easy situation."
Marussia's Max Chilton, meanwhile, was explaining that after his cockpit kerfuffle in Belgium, he is now sure to stay with the struggling team for the rest of the season.
"What happened was a commercial decision which got changed, and we are now back to normal," said the Briton.
The driver carousel for 2015 also continued to turn. Romain Grosjean, who is tipped to leave Lotus, said everyone is waiting for Alonso's next move.
"You have to wait for Ferrari and Alonso and by then the market will have moved," said the Frenchman. "Alonso is the key of the market."
Alonso, however, has spent the last few days dismissing all the speculation, and on Thursday he reiterated that when his last McLaren adventure went bad, it was because of the "team management".
It is said that the very same Ron Dennis is now aggressively wooing the Spaniard.
He may also be wooing another former McLaren driver, Lewis Hamilton, who according to Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has had his contract talks "frozen" for now amid the heat of the title battle.
"Well," Hamilton said on Thursday, "I haven't said that I was freezing anything.
"But I would like to say that I see my future with Mercedes. I am really happy here," he insisted.
Finally, a big point of interest on Thursday was what the FIA has done to the Parabolica corner, where much of the fabled gravel has been asphalted over in the name of safety.
Most who saw the final product concluded that it is perhaps not as bad as expected -- that a serious error at the corner will still result in a damaging trip into trouble.
Force India's Sergio Perez, however, was not impressed.
"Parabolica was an iconic part of Monza so it is a shame we lost it. I don't understand why," he said.
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