From one nostalgic circuit to another, Autodromo Nazionale Monza, barring 1980, has hosted every Italian Grand Prix since the formation of F1 world championship in 1950. Fuelled with history and unmatched passion for Ferrari from its adorable Tifosi, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza has ever held a special place in the hearts of drivers and fans alike.
It all started way back in the early 1920s when the Italians decided to build a track obsessed with speed in mind and till date it carries all those unparalleled attributes as the fastest circuit on the calendar.
With only 11 corners, the versatile track is also home for sportcar racing and motorcycling events over the years and had earned the honorary status of hosting the European GP seven times since its inception in 1922.
In the early days, a loop track and a road course formulated the entire circuit in which the worst motor racing crash in Italian history occurred claiming the lives of driver Emilio Materassi and 27 other spectators.
This resulted in the on-track action being temporary confined to the high speed loop until 1932. However, in 1938, significant revamping took place and after the world war the new layout contested races between 1948 and 1954. A new high-speed oval was accommodated in 1954 as part of the renovation work.
The track also hosted the popular Race of Two Worlds races in which Jim Rathmann won in 1958 and went on to become Indy 500 champion a couple of years later.
The use of oval in Formula One ended in 1961 when Wolfgang Von Trip’s Ferrari collided with the Lotus of Jim Clark and went airborne killing 15 other spectators along with the German himself at the high-speed Parabolica curve.
The decayed banking held the last race in 1969 with the 1000km of Monza race and is now used only for the Monza Rally. The chicanes of Curva Grande and the Ascari were added for slowing the cars down in 1972, but with the technology increasing, new chicanes, run-offs, kerbs and tyre walls were forced upon to reduce the speeds in the years to come.
After the death of Ayrton Senna, modifications were made to facilitate gravel traps and the first chicane was changed from double left-right to a single right-left chicane. The re-profiled second chicane claimed a fire marshal in its first year of racing in 2000 when Paolo Gislimberti was killed by a loose wheel flying off from Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Jordan car.
In the ultra-fast 3.6 mile (5.793km) ‘Temple of Speed’, about 80% of the lap is spent on full throttle. Lateral forces endured by the tyres are so high as braking stability along with good traction out of the corners are essential. The winglets on the rear have to compensate for the low-downforce nature, so the wing angle is usually less to cut the drag as well.
The severity on the gearbox reaches the peak as more gear shifts are needed on this high-speed course and brake wear should also be accounted for significantly.
The straight-line speed is the most vital ingredient to win a race at Monza which emphasises the top line speed and power extracted from the engine.
The grid could be mixed up as Monza requires a special package to be run on the whole weekend. Since grip level is low, understeer is a major headache while honing the set-up and there could always be a compromise made to handling.
A Lap around Monza:
Turn one is all about getting into the correct braking zone as cars decelerate from over 330kph while getting a clean exit out of the right-left Variante del Rettifilo chicane matters much for a good lap time in the first sector.
Out of Turn 2 and with immediacy on throttle the cars are taken to the Turn 3 Curva Grande before entering into the trees shade and blasting through the curve and heading down to the Variante della Roggia chicane after negotiating a short straight before braking.
The kerbs are viscous and bumpy and the braking point is just under the bridge asking for heavy braking once again from 330kph.
The next parts of sector 1 make for more overtaking opportunities. The first of the Les Combes is slightly banked so a mid-corner understeer followed by exit oversteer is possible and getting it wrong will put you in gravel trap.
It leads up to the Variante Ascari chicane from a very bumpy downhill straight where second DRS zone is available. The Ascari itself has tricky corners that are crucial for timed lap as braking after turning-in is difficult due to its bumpy nature.
The next right and left-handers are taken flat out and then drivers get straight back onto throttle for the famous Parabolica curve. The car feels nervous there – apexing in fourth gear at 215kph and exiting in fifth gear – then accelerating into start/finish straight.
Slip-streaming at Parabolica is extremely difficult, however, getting as much closer to the car ahead before the approach to the main straight will provide an overtaking opportunity down into turn one with the help of the first DRS zone. (Suren M)