After one of the most iconic tracks in the world, the F1 circus moves to another of those circuits: Monza, for the Italian GP, or the “cathedral of speed”, as it is known. The venue witnessed the highest ever speed recorded in a grand prix weekend - 372.6 km/h - during free practice for the 2005 Italian GP byWilliamss Juan Pablo Montoya.
A little bit of history
Monza has been on the F1 calendar since its very beginning. It was built in 1922 and it first consisted of a mixed track and an oval. In 1928, Monza witnessed one of the most spectacular and fatal crashes in a racing circuit, in which driver Emilio Materassi and 27 spectators lost their lives. Due to that horrible accident, the races were done on the oval until 1932. The following year, the mixed track was used and there were 3 more deaths on the Italian track. So, it was modified and the longest straights disappeared and two chicanes were added in order to reduce speed. Then, between 1938 and 1939, more big renewals were made, including the addition of two new curves.
This layout was used until 1954, so the first F1 Italians GPs were raced on it. In 1961, a tragedy occurred again: on the end of lap 2 at the approach to the Parabolica curve, the German driver Wolfgang von Trips lost control of his Ferrari and crashed into a stand full of spectators, killing 15 of them and himself. Some minor changes were made but it wasn’t until 1972 when two new chicanes were added to the layout; the “Curva Grande” and “Ascari”. They didn’t work out very good as a speed reducers so they were modified in 1974 and 1976. “Lesmo” curve was added in 1976 too. Two years later, there was another death on the Italian track: Ronnie Peterson crashed and his car burned.
Since then, the circuit has been modernized, there has been some safety works and, to sum up, the infrastructure has been improved. In the nineties, the three major curves were tightened to reduce speeds. In 2000, the first two chicanes were removed and replaced with a single right-left chicane, and the “Curva Grande” was renovated and renamed “Biassono”.
The driver with most wins at the cathedral of speed is Michael Schumacher with 5. Nelson Piquet has 4 winner trophies on Italian soil (although in 1980, Piquet won at Imola and not at Monza). 8 drivers stood on the first place of the podium at 3 occasions, with Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello being the two of them. Two wins in Monza for no less than 12 drivers, including Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Ayrton Senna.
Monza has been the first GP victory for very few drivers: Peter Gethin and Ludovico Scarfiotti, was also their only win, Clay Regazzoni, Jackie Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya and Sebastian Vettel. The German driver became the youngest driver to get a pole position and a victory back in 2008, when he won the GP under the rain in his Toro Rosso. This year, the German could win in Monza with his third different team, a milestone only achieved by Stirling Moss.
53 laps at the 5.793km track for a total of 306.72km. The main straight allows drivers to speed up until 340km/h. Then, they brake around 120m before the “Variante del Rettifilo” or “Prima variante”, a right-left slow chicane, entered at first gear and 85km/h and exited at second gear and 75 km/h. Good traction at the exit is needed for a good lap.
Right after the chicane, drivers find “Biassono”, the former “Curva Grande”, a long right-hander with a very large radius (about 300m). They get there at full acceleration from the chicane and go along at full throttle.
Now, to start the sector 2, there is a short straight prior to “Variante della Rogia” or “Seconda variante”, the best overtaking spot even if drivers have to be careful because the kerbs here are very high. It is a left-right tight chicane, in which drivers brake from 330 to 110 km/h. Just 200 meters from the exit of the chicane drivers get at about 270 km/h to a blind right curve of 75 meters radius in which speed is about 190 km/h. At the exit there is the second DRS detection point, in a short straight were speed goes up again to 260 km/h before the second “Lesmo” curve, taken at 180 km/h at the apex and with 35m of radius. Drivers should use all the kerb here.
“Lesmo” curves were much faster in the beginnings. It was an iconic part of the circuit, but also very dangerous. After the Lesmo curves follows a long straight containing a very fast and open corner called “Serraglio”, with a 600m radius. DRS can be used in this section, downhill and very bumped.
Sector 3 starts with “Variante Ascari”, a left-right-left chicane. It is a fast chicane, with speeds about 200 km/h. The exit is important because there is a long straight at this point, where DRS detection point is located. The straight ends in “Curva parabolica”, approached at 335 kilometres per hour in seventh gear. The apex is in fourth gear at 215 km/h and the exit in fifth gear at 285 km/h. Radius increases. Then, drivers accelerate onto the main start/finish straight with DRS use allowed.
Tires and technical requirements
About the tyres, a hot topic on the agenda, the F1 tyre supplier Pirelli has chosen for the Italian Grand Prix its medium and soft compounds. Taking into account that they are versatile compounds, they are able to balance the unique demands of performance and durability required by Monza with its high speed straights, to support huge impacts on the kerbs, as well as to absorb high energy, up to 4-5g. They have also completed an investigation of what happened to the Ferrari’s German driver two weeks ago.
Paul Hembery said: “Monza is always one of the highlights of our season, with an incredible history and atmosphere. We have the medium and soft compounds, a step softer than our nomination last year, which should be well suited to Monza and the emphasis on speed that this circuit always places. We’re expecting a fair degree of wear and degradation, so as always the work done during free practice will be very important when it comes to calculating the optimal strategy. With the two compounds potentially quite closely matched in terms of pace, this opens up a few options”.
“The cars run low downforce at Monza and that actually increases the work for the tyres considerably under acceleration and braking, because with less force pushing down on top of the car, it’s the tyres that are providing all the mechanical grip. Allied to the kerbs at Monza, this provides our tyres with a wide-ranging all-round challenge, requiring consistent durability and performance”.
“We have finalised the investigation into Sebastian Vettel’s tyre at Spa. Detailed conclusions from the technical analysis will be presented at Monza”.
About this weekend
This week Sahara Force India have announced that they have signed Nico Hülkenberg for two years more. This is what the German driver said about Monza: “When you have a frustrating weekend like the one in Spa, the best cure is to get back behind the wheel and go racing again. I know we could have been very competitive in Belgium without the technical issues on race day and we missed an opportunity to score good points”.
“Monza is special. It's a high-speed track that pushes the car to the limit: it may look easy but the margin for error when braking for the chicanes is very small and you end up paying heavily for every mistake. It's a fun and challenging circuit to drive and the atmosphere makes it even better. The fans are very passionate and knowledgeable: the town lives for the race and you have a feeling that you're in one of the temples of Formula One”.
“The layout of the track should allow us to be competitive and it’s an opportunity for us to score important points. I had a very exciting race there in 2013 and I wouldn't mind a repeat performance. We have seen what the VJM08 is capable of in the last few events and I think we will have the chance to compete in the top ten”.
FP1 Friday 4 10.00h
FP2 Friday 4 14.00h
FP3 Saturday 5 11.00h
Qualifying Saturday 5 14.00h
Race Sunday 6 14.00h
by Cristina DeLarge