Formula 1’s European season will end in style this weekend at a circuit steeped in history and in a moment when the title battle is more alive than ever. It’s the Italian Grand Prix at magical Monza, the fastest track of the season where drivers will be reaching speeds up to 340 km/h.
The Italian Grand Prix was part of the inaugural Formula 1 championship back in 1950 and has been held every year since, same as the British GP. The first event was held on 3 September, being the seventh and final race of the 1950 season. That day Nino Farina became the first World Drivers' Champion and the only driver to win the title in his home country.
Sixty-five of the 66 Italian Grand Prix have been held at Monza, with the lone outlier being Imola in 1980 when Monza underwent a refurbishment. Most races at Monza have run on a variation of the road course used today, but the 1955, 1956, 1960 and 1961 races were run on the combined circuit that linked the road course with the facility’s 4.250 kilometer high-speed oval.
With massively high speeds and concern over driver and spectator safety, use of the oval was discontinued for competitive purposes following the 1961 Italian Grand Prix. The oval still exists, however, with rusting Armco barrier barely holding back nature’s grasp on the now dormant portion of the racetrack. The layout currently used by Formula One produces the year’s fastest laps, as the track’s design of long straights and high-speed corners makes Monza the ultimate high-speed circuit.
“It's a very special track and full of tifosi. As you go down into Turn 1 you can see, hear and smell them - they are all doing barbecues in this area of the track and are all so passionate! Getting to the first chicane is one of the best feelings, arriving at nearly 350km/h, surrounded by these incredible fans… It's fantastic! Obviously, it's a very tough couple of corners, always tight during the first lap of the race and there are very frequently a few tangles there,” says Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz.
“You then reach another 330km/h top speed section, before entering another chicane, Turns 4 and 5. Here it's very important to jump over the kerbs. We then go into what is one of my favourite parts of this circuit, the two Lesmo's. These corners have a lot of banking, so it allows you to carry a lot of speed into them. I have to say that lap by lap you go quicker each time through these corners just because of gaining more and more confidence.
“Just before arriving to Turn 8 you reach another high speed of around 340km/h, and this just shows that it's a really fast track, it's incredible. Another of my favourite chicanes is Turns 8, 9 and 10, taken in fourth gear and much faster than what it could seem… It's important to ride the kerbs here as well.
“After this there's a very long and fast straight, before arriving to Turn 11, a corner that has lost a lot of its beauty - the run off area used to be gravel and it was so much nicer back then! Now its tarmac and everyone can go fast through the Parabolica. It's a shame that they decided to do this.”
Following his victory at Spa-Francorchamps, Nico Rosberg reduced the gap to his team-mate Lewis Hamilton to only nine points.
Mercedes is leading the Constructors’ Standings with 455 points ahead of Red Bull’s 274. The biggest move in the standings comes from Force India whose results at the Belgian Grand Prix lifted the team into fourth, with two points ahead of Williams.
Monza requires a special low-downforce configuration, which can make the cars tricky to drive when braking from high speeds down in the chicanes. Its long straights and fast corners put plenty of energy through the tyres and a good management of the medium and hard compounds will have a big effect on the race and the strategy.
Tyres: supersoft, soft, medium
DRS: zone 1 - main straight, zone 2 - Curva del Serraglio
Driver Steward: Tom Kristensen
Weather: lows will range from 17-18 degrees Celsius to highs of 27-28 degrees Celsius
Facts and stats
Circuit length: 5.793 km
Race laps: 53
First Grand Prix: 1950
Lap record: 1:21.046 (Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, 2004)
Most wins (driver): Michael Schumacher (5)
Most wins (constructor): Ferrari (18)
2015 Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton
2015 Race: 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), 3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
Moments in time
The 1971 Italian Grand Prix recorded the closest finish in Formula One history as the first six drivers were covered by 0.61 secs when they crossed the line at the end of the race.
Timetable (GMT +2):
Friday 2 September
Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30
Saturday 3 September
Practice Three: 11:00 – 12:00
Qualifying: 14:00 (60 minutes)
Sunday 4 September
Race: 14:00 (53 laps or two hours)