By Alan Baldwin
MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton would love to end Sunday's Italian Grand Prix just like last year - to the sound of boos, whistles and catcalls from the crowd.
So much so, the 2008 Formula One world champion said on Thursday he would even be willing to pay for the privilege.
Hamilton won at Monza's 'Pista Magica' last year for McLaren, ahead of three Ferrari-powered cars including the one driven for the Maranello team by crowd favorite and title contender Fernando Alonso.
He was booed as he stood on the top step of the podium, which juts out over the start-finish straight, by the fanatical Ferrari 'tifosi' who flowed on to the track like a red wave after the race.
Hamilton, who was not best pleased at the time, smiled when reminded of it.
"I would love to have that experience again this year - I'd pay to have that experience," said the Mercedes driver. "If I'm up there and I'm being booed that means I've won, so I definitely want that.
"I'm sure it will be the same this year. Surprisingly I have a lot of support here, which I wouldn't expect," added the Briton.
"It's probably going to take a long time before all the Ferrari fans change their opinion of me."
If anything, he can expect the boos to be even louder this year if he makes it back-to-back wins.
Hamilton has started the last four races from pole position and goes into the race third overall in the championship, just 12 points behind second-placed Alonso and 58 adrift of Red Bull's overall leader Sebastian Vettel with eight races remaining.
Upsetting the Monza faithful, a crowd full of passion at one of the oldest and most atmospheric of circuits, has always gone with the territory for those who do not race for the Italian glamour team.
Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion and Hamilton's team mate at McLaren last season, has faced his share of it over the years with three second places at Monza.
"Most of them are not there to support us," he said with some understatement. "But it's a great atmosphere and I really enjoy it. It's one of the races that I have loved since I started in F1.
"They (the fans) are really friendly when you arrive at the circuit, very positive. I think they don't like seeing anyone that's not Ferrari on the podium.
"It's worse when there are two Ferrari drivers on the podium...when I finished second to Alonso and Felipe (Massa) was third, yeah...," he grinned at the memory. "I don't mind it. Initially it was a bit of a surprise."
Vettel has seen both sides of it, winning for Red Bull's sister team Toro Rosso in 2008 and then for the champions in 2011.
"It was exceptional to win with Toro Rosso, an Italian team, with a Ferrari engine in the back," he recalled on Thursday as he sat in the Red Bull motorhome.
"Being on the podium was one of the best moments I've had, with all the fans coming and cheering like crazy. There was an ocean of flags, and even though most of them were Ferrari, it was still very special.
"But then when I won here again in 2011, with Red Bull, it was a very different atmosphere...people weren't so happy. But I had Jenson alongside me on the podium and he said it was normal for anyone not wearing a red overall."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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