Italian Grand PrixView

By on Thursday, September 4, 2014
Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

The Formula One paddock moves on to Italy this weekend for the last round of the European season at Monza. The track is located in the picturesque Parco di Monza, home to a great atmosphere and legendary racing history.

The Italian Grand Prix joined the Formula One World Championship since its inception and is now one of only two ever-present races on the calendar, alongside the British Grand Prix. Only in 1980, when Imola hosted the race, has Monza not been on the Formula 1 calendar. The first race was won by Nino Farina, in an Alfa Romeo, one of the only three Italian drivers who have won their home Grand Prix.

This weekend the cars will reach the highest speed seen this season, as Monza holds the reputation of being the fastest track on the calendar. But it will still be interesting to see the top speeds now with the new engines and the cars having less downforce than in the previous years.

The Track

The Autodromo Nazionale Monza was built in 1922, by that time being the third permanent circuit in the world, alongside Brooklands and Indianapolis. The circuit was 10 km long and featured a flat banked section and a road circuit combined into one. The track was modified many times since, mostly as a response to the tragedies which had occurred during the race events.

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

One of the biggest changes came right before the Italian Grand Prix joined the Formula One Championship. At that time, Monza's banking had been abandoned and only the road circuit was used, after the last two corners were transformed into a double-right hand sequence. The reconstruction of the new Monza banking was completed for the 1955 event, when the new course was combined with the road one. Two years later the organizers chose to use the road circuit only, while the combined layout was last time used for the 1961 Italian Grand Prix. That year, Wolfgang von Trips died after crashing into an embankment and went flying into a crowd of people, killing 14 spectators.

Today, Monza is 5.793 km long and consists of long straights, tight chicanes and high kerbs, which bring tough demands on engine, brakes and suspension. The track offers a mix of low and medium-speed corners and requires a different driving approach to any other circuit on the calendar.

In order to get a better view on how to drive a good lap here, sat down with Williams test driver Felipe Nasr, who has raced in Monza in GP2.

“We are going into turn one [Rettifilo Chicane], a hard braking zone so you have to be very precise on the braking and thinking about how you’re going to exit the first chicane, which is the first Variante. The car needs to have a very good traction so you can take all the profit from the corner exit, into the corner. It’s a place where you arrive with over 300 km/h and a good spot for overtaking. Turn three [Curva Grande] is easy flat with a GP2 car. Again, you’re going up the gears, up to nearly six gear while coming to the second Variante [Roggia]. It’s also a hard braking but you need to try and carry that momentum to turn four and five [Lesmo corners]. After exiting there we’ll have a very short time to prepare for the next corner, again a quick corner, where is always more grip to find or to bring a little bit more speed.

Caterham F1 Team

Caterham F1 Team

“Turn seven is also a tricky one, difficult because you have quite a big kerb on the inside so you really have to be ‘spot on’ where you’re putting the tyre. But it’s also a place where you can gain time all the way until the next braking [zone]. We pass the tunnel and we go to Ascari, very quick again, you can use a lot of the kerb and you feel like flying over them at a very quick speed. You need to be very confident on Ascari to make it really good, on the right way.”

“Then we are getting to the back straight, going into Parabolica - it’s my favourite corner - which is so quick and you just have to believe on everything, brake very late, downshift a few gears and just make sure you’re going to get out of it,” Nasr explained.

The race

Monza is not only about how fast you can drive on the straights. It is also a big challenge for the engineers who need to find the perfect compromise with the downforce level in order to get high speed but still have a good aero balance for the car.

Monza is also one of the most demanding races of the year for the tyres and the high temperatures expected this time of year can cause issues on the long straights. Pirelli has chosen the medium and hard compounds for this weekend, which might present the perfect opportunity to try a one-stop strategy.

There will be two DRS zones in Italy, with the first detection point before Turn Seven and the activation point right after it. The second detection point will be before Parabolica, with the activation point after the finish line. 

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

With two pole positions and a victory at Monza, Lewis Hamilton can be optimistic about his chances to close the gap to his team-mate Nico Rosberg, who has now a 29-points lead in the Championship Standings.

The Italian GP has been labeled as a jinx to the winning driver in recent years. Between 2004 – 2010, no driver was able to win at Monza and be crowned World Champion in the same year. Only three drivers have broken the jinx over the past two decades: Ayrton Senna (1990), Michael Schumacher (2000, 2003) and Sebastian Vettel (2011).

World Sportscar Champion and Le Mans winner Derek Warwick will be the FIA's driver steward this weekend.

Timetable (GMT+2):

Friday 5 September

  • Practice Session One: 10:00-11:30
  • Practice Session Two: 14:00-15:30

Saturday 6 September

  • Practice Session Three: 11:00-12:00
  • Qualifying: 14:00 (60 minutes)

Sunday 7 September

  • Race: 14:00 (44 laps or two hours)

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