#F1 Circuit Profile – 2014: Italy, Monza, Autodromo Nazionale Monza – Round 13

Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘Track Profile Specialist’ Alistair Hunter

After the conclusion of our summer break with a visit to Spa, the Formula One season continues with its final European race of the season. Monza hosts its 64rd Italian Grand Prix this year, continuing the Italian circuit’s run as the host of the most Formula One World Championship Grands Prix – which will be three more than their nearest rival, the Principality of Monaco.

Despite once again having no home drivers on the grid, the race will of course be the home race for both Scuderia Ferrari and Scuderia Toro Rosso; and while both teams have won here in the past, neither appear to be serious contenders for the victory this year.

Italian Grand Prix Monza

History

The track was originally built by the Milan branch of the Italian Automobile Club between May and July 1922 as the third permanent racing circuit after Brooklands Circuit in the United Kingdom and Indianapolis in the United States of America, located in what is now the fourth largest walled park in Europe. Consisting of a road circuit similar to the one we use today and an oval banking (which together totalled ten kilometres in length), the circuit saw high speeds from its inception.

After the first Italian Grand Prix was hosted at the Montichiari circuit in Brescia and won by French driver Jules Goux in 1921, the race moved to Monza the following year, where Fiat driver Pietro Bordino emerged victorious. Accidents in 1928 and 1933 motivated the organisers to add chicanes in addition to other minor tweaks, before a major rebuild after 1938.

The next revamp saw a 5.8 km road circuit and a 4.3 km banked oval used as the Monza track, which could still be combined as before with drivers running next to each other on the main straight of the combined 10km track. The oval track also saw meetings between the European Formula One teams and American IndyCar teams in 1957 and 1958, where the Americans dominated.

The full ten kilometre circuit was used four times in Formula One, but the series stopped racing on the oval as a result of the death of Wolfgang von Trips and fifteen spectators, as the reaction was to avoid the high speed banking. Despite the banking now only being used once a year in the Monza Rally, it is now seen as a relic of a different age of F1.

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Since then, various chicanes have sprung up in different forms, leaving the lap at 5.8 kilometres. Controversially, the Parabolica – one of the most impressive corners in Formula One – has had its gravel trap replaced by the standard ubiquitous tarmac runoffs that are a feature of the majority of the circuits on the calendar this year, but I’m going to keep the faith that it will still be impressive to see drivers push the limits through there.

The track holds several records, including the most overtakes for the lead (40 in 1965), the smallest winning margin timed to two decimal places (0.01 seconds in 1971), the highest average race speed (247.585 kph in 2003), average lap speed (both for practice and qualifying, set in 2004) and top speed (372.6 kph in 2005), the shortest race without a red flag (2003).

Circuit Characteristics

Monza Circuit Characteristics

Monza Circuit Characteristics © FIA

The circuit is 5.793 kilometres long, which requires 53 laps to get it up to the race distance of 306.7 kilometres. It starts with a long straight and a top speed of 335 kilometres per hour before braking into the first chicane, then going around the high speed Curva Grande into another chicane, before two fast right turns that comprise the Curva di Lesmo.

After going under the original banking, the track comes out of a chicane onto two long straights separated by the Parabolica. The pit straight is the second DRS zone of the race, with the first coming out of turn seven on the track map above and into the Ascari chicane.

The circuit is hard on the brakes despite only having seven braking zones and spending 11% of the lap using them (in comparison to spending 73% of the lap on full throttle), and this is due to the sheer amount of deceleration needed on this fast circuit. It is also low on downforce, meaning that many teams use aerodynamic parts and setups specifically designed for this round of the championship. In addition, the circuit is also notoriously bumpy.

The fastest lap at this circuit was achieved in a free practice session by Juan Pablo Montoya in 2004, which was a 1:19.525. In comparison, the fastest time set at the 2013 race weekend was a 1:23.755 for pole position by Sebastian Vettel.

A lap with Lewis Hamilton

Form Guide

Surprisingly for a series being dominated by the Mercedes team, Daniel Ricciardo goes into this weekend as the in-form driver, something that I definitely didn’t predict for the last race. Still, if nothing bad happens, expect to see Lewis Hamilton get the better of Nico Rosberg this weekend, even if it is only because we’re getting to the stage of the season where the British driver needs to cut down that points deficit.

Bottas has a reasonable chance of getting on the podium if something happens to the Mercedes drivers, similar to his chances at the majority of the other races this season. And, of course, never write off the Ferrari drivers at their home race, because if they could choose one race to get a first placed finish from, I can guarantee it would be this one.

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso are the only drivers on the grid to have won the Italian Grand Prix on multiple occasions, with the German standing on the top step of the podium in his two championship-winning years, in addition to his first ever victory in Formula One for Toro Rosso in 2008. Alonso has won the race on two occasions, once with Renault and once with Ferrari, the latter being the Italian constructor’s last victory at the track in 2010.

Despite a few years without a victory though, Ferrari are the most successful team at the track, winning 18 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix (and one extra victory in 1949, the first race at Monza). McLaren are next up with ten, while Mercedes have only won two F1 Italian Grand Prix, both with Juan Manuel Fangio; one coming on the road circuit in 1954, and the second occurring in the subsequent season on the full 10 kilometre course.

Pirelli and Monza

Monza is Pirelli’s home race, located just half an hour’s drive from the company’s global headquarters in Milan, where this year’s Formula One tyres are designed. It has significant lateral energy demands, thanks to its famous fast corners such as Parabolica, and also big longitudinal demands in terms of traction and braking, because of the long straights followed by slow chicanes.

Pirelli PZero OrangeFor this reason, Pirelli is bringing the two hardest tyres in the range: P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium. As well as the forces going through the tyres, the actual tyre structure itself faces heavy punishment due to the high kerbs that are a well-known feature of the Italian circuit. The drivers use these extensively to find the fastest racing line, and the tyre plays a key role in absorbing the impacts as part of the suspension. This year, levels of aerodynamic downforce have been reduced by the regulations, which means that while cornering speeds are slower, the cars will reach some of the highest top speeds seen all year, in the region of 360kph.

Paul Hembery © PirelliPaul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director:Racing at home is always a source of immense pleasure and pride for us, particularly because many of our employees who don’t normally travel to races get to see our tyres in action for the only time all season.

Our home race also happens to be one of the most demanding races of the year for the tyres, due to the rapid layout of the circuit: the reason why Monza is known as ‘the temple of speed’. The faster a circuit is, generally the more stressful it is for the tyres because of the heat build-up that all these forces entail. The cars run a very low downforce set-up for Monza to maximise their top speed on the straights.

This has a distinct effect on the tyres, as less downforce means that the cars tend to slide more and run a greater risk of wheels locking up in the braking areas, which are a key element of Monza. These lock-ups can lead to flat spots, although the design of our tyre structure and compounds this year means that flat spots are a much less common occurrence than they used to be.

Jean Alesi © PirelliJean Alesi, Pirelli consultant:At Monza there is one rule only: finding the best way to deal with top speeds that are closer to 400 than 300 kph. In order to find the highest maximum speed on the long straights, ultra low downforce is needed.

So the main job for the driver is looking after the rear tyres. In order to do that, you need a set-up that delivers good traction on the exit of the chicanes. Otherwise you get a lot of wear on the rear tyres and braking distances get a lot longer, which is a disaster for the lap time. That’s not all though.

At those speeds you actually get the ‘lift’ phenomenon: you feel that the car is about to lift off from the track. It’s something that you only find in Monza; sometimes it even feels quite hard to keep the car in a straight line on the straights. I’ve always loved Monza and I’ve come close to winning on more than one occasion. Listening to the fans cheering in the grandstand is an incredibly emotional experience. And that was with a 12-cylinder engine; with a quieter six- cylinder turbo this year, the drivers will be able to hear the fans even more…

The circuit from a tyre point of view:
Like Spa, plenty of energy goes through the tyres at Monza. On the straights top speeds can exceed 360kph. Together with braking areas where drivers shed 250kph in a short space of time, this generates longitudinal force of 4.5g. These conditions combined raise the temperature of the compounds up to peaks of 130 degrees, on the surface of the tread.

The medium tyre is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at a wide range of low temperatures. The hard tyre by contrast is a high working range compound, suitable for higher temperatures. Ambient temperatures are usually warm at Monza, but it has also rained in the past – including just before the start of the race last year.

Drivers use the lowest downforce set-up of the year, in order to extract maximum speed on the fast straights: the key to a quick lap time. This means that the tyres have to provide all the mechanical grip necessary to get the cars through the corners.

The winning strategy last year was a one-stopper, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel starting on the medium tyre and then switching to the hard on lap 23. Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso used the same strategy to finish second from fifth on the grid.

Pirelli at Monza in 3D

Brembo and the Autodromo Nazionale Monza

Brembo - Monza Turn 1

Turn 01 is considered the most demanding for the braking system.

Known by fans as the “temple of speed“, the Monza track is extremely demanding and puts the single-seater braking systems to a hard test.

The presence of long straight lines and the lack of aerodynamic load, which reduces the possibility of efficiently unloading braking torque to the ground, make the braking sections extremely violent and demanding to manage.

Memorable Moments

1971 – Including Jacky Ickx’s retirement due to an engine failure and Chris Amon’s helmet issues putting him back to sixth, the lead changed 24 times in 55 laps between eight drivers, while eventual winner Peter Gethin only led for the first time on lap 52. He dropped back before using the slipstream to overtake Francois Cevert and Ronnie Peterson on the line, creating the closest ever finish at the time with 0.01 seconds between first and second.

1987 – Ayrton Senna drove a car that couldn’t really compete with the Williams at the time, so gambled upon making it to the end of the race on one set of tyres, preserving his tyres to perfection at the right time. However, lapping a backmarker sent him into the gravel trap and Piquet slipped through into the lead, creating a Brazilian one-two despite the state of Senna’s car.

1988 – Ferrari achieved a one-two finish and denied McLaren a clean sweep of all the races that season, after Prost and Senna battled each other while their fuel consumption was too high, leading the Frenchman to retire. Senna attempted to lap Jean-Louis Schlesser as quickly as possible, leading to a collision between them and Gerhard Berger inheriting the lead and the race victory.

1995 – As Hill attempted to lap Taki Inoue’s Footwork, he hit the back of Michael Schumacher’s car, taking them both out of the race, with the marshals going above their normal duties in order to prevent a serious incident between the two title rivals. Ferrari then squandered a one-two finish due to a broken suspension for Berger and a rear wheel-bearing failure for Alesi, so Johnny Herbert took the victory.

2004 – Ferrari showed their dominance as Michael Schumacher recovered from a first lap spin to finish second behind his team mate Rubens Barrichello, who also fought through the field in the wet after having to rectify a bad tyre choice.

Support Races

Jolyon PalmerJolyon Palmer leads the GP2 series by 32 points from Felipe Nasr, who closed the points gap to him by finishing third and first in the Belgian contests while the British driver completed both races in sixth and third place. Italian heads might be turned towards 2013 Formula 3 champion Raffaele Marciello this weekend after he won the first race in Belgium, although he has been relatively unsuccessful in the 2014 season, as he is currently ninth in the standings.

The GP3 series sees Alex Lynn with a considerable lead over his nearest competitor Richie Stanaway after the top placed man finished eighth and first respectively in order to ultimately add one point to his advantage. The only home driver in the series is Riccardo Agostini, who had finished in point scoring positions in five out of the nine races he has finished, seeing him take 14th place in the championship.

The Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup has the closest championship battle of all three support series, with only three points separating championship leader Earl Bamber and second placed driver Kuba Giermaziak, who until recently held the opposite positions. Bamber won the Belgian race while Giermaziak finished eighth, leading to a twelve point swing. The best placed Italian driver there is Enrico Fulgenzi, although he hasn’t taken part since the second race of the season.

Previous Results

Year Driver Constructor
2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2012 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2011 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2010 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
2009 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes
2008 Sebastian Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari
2007 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Mercedes
2006 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2005 Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren-Mercedes
2004 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari
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6 responses to “#F1 Circuit Profile – 2014: Italy, Monza, Autodromo Nazionale Monza – Round 13

  1. I notice Lewis says that he will be using that illusive 8th gear this weekend. I’m interested to see the maximum speeds the cars reach this year.

    • I was about to ask the same question. Awhile back someone did an analysis on here and determined that they could top 400kph when they used 8th. I could be wrong, but I think it was f1esty.

      • He only said cornering speed was bigger in lmp1. But as I said then he compared a winning audi to a crapbox of a Caterham.

  2. “stopped racing on the oval as a result of the death of Wolfgang von Trips and fifteen spectators”

    Whilst it is true that 1961 was the last GP to use the full circuit, the von Trips-Clark accident had nothing to do with the banked track, as it happened on the run up to Parabolica. People had been uneasy about using the banked track for several years, including a lrage boycott for the 1960 GP.

    • Completely correct cassius42, I’ll tweak the post accordingly. I wasn’t aware of the boycott until you mentioned it so thank you very much, that’s an interesting bit of history.

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