MILAN (Reuters) - Ferrari and Monza celebrated their 90th anniversaries in style on Wednesday with Formula One providing the icing on the cake with a new contract securing the Italian Grand Prix until at least 2024.
The announcement was made to a sea of Ferrari ‘tifosi’ flooding Milan’s cathedral piazza for an event attended by world champions, team bosses past and present and future prospects including Michael Schumacher’s son Mick.
“We’re very excited,” said Formula One chairman Chase Carey after appearing on stage with Italian Automobile Club (ACI) president Angelo Sticchi Damiani and Monza circuit representatives.
“Monza’s one of our defining races, our iconic races,” added the American, who represents commercial rights holders Liberty Media. “The Italian fans are second to none, all you have to do is look at that crowd.
“It’s a great part of the sport and we couldn’t be more excited to have this race in place for the next five years.”
Monza agreed a deal in principle back in April but the signing means all 22 races on what will be the biggest ever calendar next year now have firm contracts in place.
Italy and Britain are the only countries to have hosted races in every year since the world championship started in 1950.
Next year will also see the debut of Vietnam and the return of the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort, with Germany no longer featuring.
Wednesday was as much a celebration of all things Ferrari as enduring testament to Monza’s historic role as the ‘Pista Magica’, temple of Italian motorsport.
Fans unfurled a huge Ferrari flag in front of the majestic Gothic cathedral as drivers appeared on stage next to racing cars spanning the generations.
Current racers Charles Leclerc, fresh from winning last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, and Sebastian Vettel revved up the crowd ahead of Sunday’s grand prix in the former royal park outside Milan.
F1 great Mario Andretti, world champion with Lotus in 1978, enjoyed the applause of the crowd and took selfies against a sea of red flags and shirts while French great Alain Prost surveyed the scene.
Mechanics, some of them hired by the team’s late founder Enzo Ferrari himself, recalled glory days of old.
Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen, still the last Ferrari world champion after taking the title in 2007 and now racing for Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeo, received a huge roar of recognition as he stepped out.
Former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who presided over golden eras with the late Niki Lauda in the 1970s and Schumacher in the early 2000s, saluted the ever passionate supporters and threw caps into the crowd.
“For me, it’s a very important day because I’ve been far from Ferrari in the last five years,” Montezemolo told reporters. “But I’ve been very pleased to be here today.
“I won with Niki. I miss a lot Niki today, really a lot,” he continued.
“I miss a lot Michael, because both have been more than important in my life...in this fantastic night it is these two persons who are unfortunately were not with us.”
Austrian triple world champion Lauda died in May this year while Schumacher, winner of a record seven world titles, has not been seen in public since suffering head injuries in a 2013 skiing accident.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ed Osmond