Of course, this was our home race and therefore there were plenty of people from our Faenza HQ on hand to cheer on Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat. It meant Scuderia Toro Rosso had plenty of support this weekend and while that is good for morale, it can't physically make the cars perform better and we always knew the STR12 would struggle a bit. Monza's nickname is "The Temple of Speed" and speed is something we do not have in abundance. Therefore that fact, combined with running less downforce to try and compensate for it, meant our two drivers struggled throughout the weekend.
Off the track there was plenty to keep them busy however, starting on Wednesday when they teamed up with our friends at Red Bull Italy. It involved turning up at a gym in the centre of Milan, where the drivers were asked to help show media and the general public how to go about tackling a fitness training programme. From there, Daniil and Carlos moved on to an event run by our sponsor Acronis, where they showed their skills at remote-control car racing, after attending the presentation of the True Image 2018 Personal Backup Software.
After a busy day at the track on Thursday, fulfilling the usual media obligations, the two Toro Rosso boys were back in Milan to take part in a parade, featuring some beautiful old cars that had once taken part in the legendary Mille Miglia road race. It was lucky that Carlos didn't need his racing boots for this, because earlier in the day, during the craziest, busiest pit lane autograph session we have ever seen, our Spanish driver removed his race boots, signed them and presented them to two very lucky young fans who really could not believe what had just happened.
Finally it was time for some track action on Friday, which was a bit problematic, especially for Sainz. As he said himself, it was not the birthday he had wished for, on the day he turned 23. There was some light relief for him though: strange but true, Carlos has a thing about meerkats, saying they are his favourite animal, so our friends at Movistar, together with our communications department, arranged for a real, live meerkat to come and meet him in the paddock on Friday. As you can imagine the F1 photographers had a field day. Carlos is also a big "Game of Thrones' fan, so it was something of an extra present for him that both Kit Harington and Liam Cunningham, two actors who star in the show were in Monza, getting a ride round in the F1 Experience 2-seater Formula 1 car and Carlos was delighted to meet them both.
(From the left: Carlos Sainz, Paul Stoddart, Kit Harington, Liam Cunningham and Patrick Friesacher)
On Saturday, in those atrocious track conditions, Daniil and Carlos qualified 14th and 15th respectively. So with penalties for the Spaniard, where would everyone start? Well, by our reckoning, no more than three drivers started the race from the position in which they qualified. That was because there were so many of them who had penalties and, believe it or not, Kvyat started from eighth and Sainz from 15th.
As expected the race proved very difficult for us and there were no points in the bag come the end of the shortest Grand Prix of the year, in terms of time. However, our home event had been a wonderful advertisement for Grand Prix racing, both off and on the track. Now we head to Singapore, a circuit which should suit us much better and where it will not be unrealistic to set out looking for a good points haul.