Round 12 of the Formula 1 championship sees the paddock travelling for the last time in Europe this season, for the Italian Grand Prix. Known as ‘Temple of Speed’, Monza is one of the few classics circuits remaining on the calendar. It is a place with a lot of history which has the magic of transforming a racing weekend into a unique event for drivers, teams and fans.
The Belgian Grand Prix resulted in another Mercedes 1-2 as well as a podium comeback for Lotus and a tyre failure for Ferrari. We move on to the place that holds the record for the most changes of lead in a race (41 times) and the narrowest winning margin in Formula 1 history (0.01s).
In terms of Monza’s characteristics, drivers will compete on the fastest track on the calendar this weekend, a place that requires a low downforce because of its long straights, heavy braking zones and big kerbs.
No other circuit in the world has hosted a Formula 1 race more than Monza as the Italian track joined the championship since its inaugural 1950 calendar. With only one exception - the 1980 Italian GP at Imola - all the other races were held at Monza.
The Autodromo Nazionale Monza was built in 1922 as a response to the demands coming from the Italian car industry involved in sporting activities, at a time when there were only two other permanent establishments in the world. The circuit was 10 km long and featured a road and an oval course combined into one.
The track layout has changed several times with some sections redesigned in order to reduce speeds and increase safety. The current version of the track has been in use since 2000. Despite being one of Monza’s most iconic features the famous banking was only used in four Formula 1 races, as part of the 10 km layout.
Monza is a very demanding circuit for the drivers due to the fact that they constantly need to be focused and plan their next move.
The track requires the lowest downforce package and that brings a challenge for the team as it will be in their hands to find the right compromise so the car can also get good grip in the turns.
“The one word that comes to mind when I hear the word Monza is speed. It has to be speed because the track is all about how fast you can go on the start/finish straight and then also on the back straight too. We are reaching the highest speeds of the season on these stretches,” says Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado.
“One of the critical points is the Parabolica corner. You have to get this right at the end of your lap to ensure a good time, and if you get it wrong it also compromises you for the next lap. It’s difficult to do this as the car is set up for low downforce on the straights, so it’s more difficult to drive on the corners – especially a long corner like Parabolica, which is tough and fast, the most crucial at Monza.”
Monza is not only fast but also technical where drivers need to find the right breaking point to gain a bit of time since the introduction of the higher kerbs prevents them now from cutting the chicanes.
“Since they made the chicane kerbs too high to ride in an F1 car, braking has become the biggest thing at Monza. It’s very tricky to get that right. You’re coming down to the first chicane at your highest speed of the year and braking for what is almost the tightest corner in F1, with the least amount of downforce. The car starts to slide around and becomes quite tricky, so getting the braking right is key,” Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo explained.
Lewis Hamilton expanded his lead to 28 points over his team-mate Nico Rosberg in the Drivers’ Standings after a dominant win from pole position in Belgium. With 200 points still left to be awarded to any driver, the title fight is far from over but a victory in Monza will make the task easier.
Jenson Button is the most experienced driver at Monza with 15 appearances to date. The Brit is yet to win an Italian GP and that’s unlikely to happen this year with McLaren. His best result at Monza was 2nd in 2009, the year he became Champion with Brawn GP.
Of the drivers on the grid this year, only Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have won at Monza. The drivers that won three of the last four events went on to clinch the title in the same year.
Formula 1 records shows that Qualifying is very important here with the pole sitter going on to triumph in eight of the last 10 races.
Tyre management will be another important key in Italy, especially now after Pirelli has gone a step softer than last years with the tyre nomination. Medium and Soft compounds at Monza means that all the mechanical grip under acceleration and braking will come from the tyres, something that will translate in a faster degradation.
The two DRS zones in Italy will stay the same as last year. First detection point will be before Lesmo 2 with the activation point right after it and the second detection point before Parabolica, with the activation point after the finish line. Danny Sullivan will act as the FIA’s Driver Steward.
Facts and stats
- Circuit length: 5.793 km
- Turns: 11
- Direction: clockwise
- Race laps: 53
- Top speed: 365 km/h
- Gear changes: 51
- First Grand Prix: 1950
- Lap record: 1:21.046 (Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, 2004)
- Lowest starting position for a winner: 11th
- Wins from pole: 22
- Most wins (driver): Michael Schumacher (5)
- Most wins (constructor): Ferrari (18)
2014 Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2014 Race: 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), 3. Felipe Massa (Williams)
Timetable (GMT +2):
Friday 4 September
- Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
- Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30
Saturday 5 September
- Practice Three: 11:00 – 12:00
- Qualifying: 14:00 (60 minutes)
Sunday 6 September
- Race: 14:00 (66 laps or two hours)