Formula 1’s European season ends in style this weekend at a circuit steeped in history. 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.
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.
The Autodromo Nazionale Monza was the third permanent autodrome in the world after Brooklands (England) and Indianapolis (America). Its construction was decided in 1922 by the Automobile Club of Milan, to satisfy the request of the Italian car industry involved in sporting activities.
The autodrome was built in a record time of 110 days and featured a flat section and a road circuit combined into one. All the events were run on the full 10-kilometre track until 1928, when the Grand Prix was temporarily suspended due to a horrific tragedy. That year Italian Emilio Materassi crashed his Talbot opposite the pits during the race, killing himself and 27 spectators.
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 F1 Italian GP 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.
Every Italian GP has been held at Monza since 1950, except in 1980 when it was held at Imola. The circuit faced multiple modifications since its first appearance on the Formula 1 calendar. In 1955 the road and oval courses were combined again to create the 10 km long track which was raced on just four times before it was dropped on safety matters.
Two chicanes were built in 1972 to reduce high speeds, one located on the grandstand straight and the other at the entrance of the Ascari curve. Both chicanes were modified again between 1974 and 1976 when another variant at the entrance of the first Lesmo curve was also built.
Other modifications were made in 1995, without drastically changing the structure of the track. The last transformation came in 2000 when the first Variante’s and Roggia Variante’s sections were redesigned to increase the safety demands. The track had been brought back along the historic axis, while the left part of the asphalt is now used as a safety area.
Nowadays, Monza is a 5.793 km length circuit which features 11 corners. “Most of the corners are high speed which makes it more of an adrenaline boost and the downforce will be very low on the car which makes it more challenging to drive,” says Williams’s Pastor Maldonado. “This circuit gives everyone the chance to open the car up and see what it is capable of on the long straights.”
“For the designers, you need to have a car that’s very slippery through the air,” adds Romain Grosjean, who sat out the race last season courtesy of his suspension. “Then for the engineers, you have to make the correct decision on gearing to make the most of the slippery car and engine power along the straights. For the driver in the car, there are a couple of heavy braking areas where you are slowing from the highest speeds of the year, so you have to be careful to get your braking right otherwise you can overshoot the corner.”
Monza has been like a jinx to the winning driver in recent years as no one managed to win the Italian Grand Prix and the world championship in the same year from 2004 to 2010. Only three drivers did that over the past two decades: Ayrton Senna (1990), Michael Schumacher (2000, 2003) and Sebastian Vettel (2011).
Michael Schumacher holds the record of five wins at Monza while Ferrari is the most successful team in Italy having won their home Grand Prix 18 times. From the drivers on the grid this season only Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have won here before.
During the 2008 race weekend at Monza Sebastian Vettel set three F1 records when he became the youngest driver to claim pole position, the youngest driver on the podium and the youngest winner in Formula 1 history.
The 1971 race saw the closest finish in F1 history. Peter Gethin took the lead on the final lap and won the race, with the top three separated only by 0.09 seconds.
In qualifying for the 2004 Italian GP Juan Pablo Montoya set the fastest lap in F1 history with an average speed of 262.242 km/h.
Friday 6 September
- Practice 1: 10.00-11.30
- Practice 2: 14.00 – 15.30
Saturday 7 September
- Practice 3: 11.00-12.00
- Qualifying: 14.00-15.00
Sunday 8 September
- Race: 14.00
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