It’s round 13 of the 2017 F1 championship this weekend, which sees title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel go head to head at Monza.
Mercedes have dominated here over the last few years, and if Lewis can win here he will regain the lead of the driver’s championship– so there’ll be plenty of pressure on Sebastian to deliver his first win for Ferrari in front of the Tifosi. Still, Ferrari’s race pace in Belgium will be cause for optimism, and with Sebastian Vettel usually managing to go up a gear in performance as the championship moves to Singapore, Mercedes and Lewis will be under pressure to capitalise on a track that should suit the Mercedes strengths before F1 travels to some more Ferrari friendly tracks. It promises to be a cracking race weekend in the battle for the title!
Michael Schumacher holds the record for most Italian Grand Prix victories with 5, with 4 of those achieved for Ferrari. Of the active drivers both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have 3 wins apiece and could join Nelson Piquet on 4 victories this weekend. Vettel may have won his first Grand Prix with Ferrari power in his Toro Rosso, but has yet to take victory here for Ferrari, while Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen has never tasted success at the track, with only a pair of 3rd places to show for his six years with the Scuderia here. You have to go back to 2010 for the last Ferrari win here, when Fernando Alonso won the second of his Italian Grand Prix victories.
In last year’s race Lewis Hamilton looked to be the class of the field in qualifying, taking pole position well clear of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg while Ferrari locked out the second row but didn’t look to be a genuine threat to Mercedes on pace. A disastrous start from Lewis Hamilton saw him drop behind both Ferraris as well as Bottas Williams and Ricciardo’s Red Bull. Lewis quickly dispatched Ricciardo, but Bottas was able to use the straight-line speed of the Mercedes powered Williams to hold him up long enough for Rosberg to build a gap that was never likely to be threatened. Lewis showed the Mercedes superiority by leapfrogging the two Ferrari’s to come home second behind Rosberg. Ferrari were not troubled in third and fourth (Vettel heading Raikkonen), while Ricciardo took fifth from Bottas with a wonderfully controlled late dive into the first corner. Max Verstappen, who had also suffered an awful start to compromise his race, recovered to seventh.
The first Italian Grand Prix was held in 1921. This was staged over 10.75 miles of roads around Brescia, in a triangular layout, with the start finish straight running along the road from Montichiari to Brescia, the track bending back at the village of Fascia d’Oro, with the race being won by Jules Goux in a Ballot. The circuit of Monza, known as La Pista Magica, was built in 1922, and the Italian Grand Prix would be staged there from 1922 onwards. There have been only four years where the Italian Grand Prix was not stage at Monza, the race being staged in Livorno in 1937 (in a race tightly contested between Mercedes team mates, Rudolf Caracciola held on to take the line half a second ahead of team mate Hermann Lang), on the streets of Milan in 1947 (a race won by Carlo Felice Trossi in a 1-2-3-4 for Alfa Romeo cars), on the streets of Turin in 1948 (another Alfa Romeo victory for Jean-Pierre Wimille) and the 1980 race, which took place in Imola and was won by Nelson Piquet for Brabham.
The first Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 1922 was won by Pietro Bordino for FIAT. The decision to construct a permanent race course around the royal garden in Monza was confirmed in January 1922, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Milan Automobile Club, with plans to have the track ready to host the Grand Prix that same year. Work got underway in February, before being stopped due to protests over the impact to the park, with the track design ultimately being modified and the construction work getting the go ahead at the end of May, work being done at a lightening pace to complete the track in time to host the 1922 Grand Prix. The original track configuration had a 5.5 km road course and a 4.5 km oval course, linked by two straights, allowing for three different configurations of the track, with the full 10 km course used for Grand Prix. The race continued to be staged at Monza until 1928, the race won by Louis Chiron in a Buggati overshadowed by tragedy, as Emilio Materassi’s Talbot went out of control as he tried to pass the Bugatti of Giulio Foresti, with the Talbot crashing into the grandstand, killing Materassi and 27 spectators. The tragedy spelled the end of the Italian Grand Prix for the next few years, although a Monza Grand Prix was staged on the oval track. The Italian Grand Prix race returned in 1931 (won by Tazio Nuvolari and Giuseppe Campari in an Alfa Romeo) but disaster struck again at the circuit in 1933. Luigi Fagioli in an Alfa Romeo beat Tazio Nuvolari in a Maserati that day to take the Italian Grand Prix, which was to be followed by the Monza Grand Prix. The Monza Grand Prix was to be the last race for Giueseppe Campari, who had announced he would be retiring from racing following the event. Tragically, three leading drivers were killed in a pair of accidents at the south curve of the oval course. The race was held in three heats, and with oil reported on the track after the first heat, the spill was brushed and coated with sand prior to the second heat. In the second heat however, Campari and Baconin Borzacchini crashed out while dicing for the lead at the spot of the oil leak, with Borzacchini’s car sent spinning into a roll and Campari’s car going off the banking and flipping over, killing both drivers. In the third heat Stanislas Czaykowski also lost his life in a crash at the south curve, his car going off the track and catching fire. The tragedy would mean the end of the use of the full 10km course, and a desire to cut speeds. For 1934, a shortened track layout utilising the southern curve and half the main straight, with chicanes to reduce speed. This layout was replaced in 1935, with the full Florio circuit being used until 1938 (a combination of the road course and the southern curve of the oval track), with the chicane in place in the southern curve of the oval track to reduce speed.
After the Grand Prix in 1938 the track underwent further redesign, with the road course resurfaced, the oval course demolished and revisions to the road course layout, with the back straight extended and joined to the start finish straight by two new right angle bends, called the Curve del Porfido, after the stone paving used to, porphyry block setts. After the track was restored and racing resumed after the Second World War, this revised 6.3 km road course was the layout used for the first Formula One World Championship Italian Grand Prix in the 1950 season. That race was the last round of the inaugural F1 World Championship, and saw the title decided with Alfa Romeo’s Giuseppe Farina crowned the first Formula One World Champion after he won the race and the other Alfa Romeo of Juan Manuel Fangio retired, twice, having seen his own car suffer gearbox problems he swapped to his team mate Pierro Taruffi’s car, only for that to expire as well with engine trouble. The track continued to be used in this configuration through 1954.
In 1955, the track underwent another major change, with the original twin track approach from the 1922 design recreated. The road course was altered to accommodate the new oval, but while the original incarnation of the loop curves were relatively flat, with the curves laid on an earth embankment, the newly built curves were now elevated by reinforced concrete supports, with the banking going up to an incredible 800. The back and main straight of the road course were shortened, with a new curve connecting them, the wonderful Curva Parabolica. The track once again had a 10 km full course with smaller road course and oval course, and for the 1955 Grand Prix the full 10 km course was used. The 1955 race would be the last race for the works Mercedes team until they returned in 2010, and the finished off in style, with world champion Juan Manuel Fangio taking the victory from team mate Pierro Taruffi to give the Silver Arrows a 1-2 finish. The 10km combined course would be used again for the Grand Prix in 1956, before being replaced by the road course for 1957-1959.
In 1957 and 1958 the circuit played home to the Monza 500 Mile Race, or the Race of Two Worlds as it became known. This saw an open competition between the European based Formula One cars and the American based cars run on the high speed oval course only with rules based on those used at the Indianapolis 500. The race drew only 3 European entrants in 1957 however as the Grand Prix drivers boycotted the event considering it too dangerous, and with the team and drivers of Formula One staying away, the race was won by Jimmy Bryan who won 2 of the 3 heats in his Dean Van Lines Special. However, with a generous prize fund on offer, and a bit of pressure being applied by the organizers (entry was made compulsory in order to receive prize money from the Italian Automobile Club – and now Ferrari built cars for the event!!), the 1958 race saw F1 teams make an effort, with Ferrari entering cars and Maserati building a special car for Stirling Moss, while Juan Manuel Fangio (known for always getting himself into the best car in F1), drove the winning Dean Van Lines car from 1957 edition (which unfortunately would not hold up in the race, leaving Fangio unable to complete more than a single lap). Luigi Musso gave the Europeans something to cheer about by setting the fastest time in qualifying for Ferrari and he led the opening laps of the first heat from Eddie Sachs and Jim Rathmann. Musso would hand over to Mike Hawthorne after 26 laps, exhausted by the effort of hurtling the car around the banking, but Hawthorne wasn’t able to match Musso’s performance and fell back. In the end, the oval experience of the Americans counted, with Jim Rathmann winning all three heats to take the overall victory, with Jimmy Bryan coming second and European honour somewhat upheld as Ferrari managed to come third, Phil Hill sharing the car with Mike Hawthorne and Musso, after Stirling Moss Maserati had crashed out with steering failure going around the banked curve!. Unfortunately this would prove to be the last time the race would be run.
Formula One would run full 10km course again in 1960 – a move which would help Ferrari, who’s front engine car had the power but not the handling of their rear engined competitors in 1960), leading to a boycott by the British based teams, who felt the combined track with its steeped banked oval was simply too dangerous for Formula One. Formula Two cars were allowed to compete in the race to pad the field, and the race was inevitably won by Ferrari (with Phil Hill leading home a Ferrari 1-2-3 finish, the only victory for Ferrari that year. Incidentally, this would prove to be the last time a Grand Prix was won by a front engine car, with Ferrari switching to a rear engine machine for 1961. For 1961 the full course would be used again, but a horrifying accident that year would mean it was the last time the banked oval would be used by Formula One. Phil Hill won the race for Ferrari, and in doing so became the first American to win the world driver’s championship, as his only rival in the championship was killed in the race. Hill’s Ferrari team mate, Wolfgang von Trips, who had led the world championship heading into the penultimate round at Italy, tangled with Jim Clark’s Lotus on the second lap heading into the Parabolica and lost control of his Ferrari, with von Trips car running off the track onto the grass and crashing up the bank lining the track and spinning into the watching crowd, killing the German ace and 11 spectators.
The Italian Grand Prix would revert to being run on the road course at Monza from 1962, when Graham Hill leading team mate Richie Ginther home in a 1-2 for BRM. Tragedy struck the circuit again in 1970, Clay Regazzoni winning the race for Ferrari in a weekend overshadowed by the death of world championship leader Jochen Rindt, who was killed in a crash during qualifying (Rindt would become the sport’s only posthumous world champion that year). A series of changes were then introduced to cut speed at the track, starting in 1972 with the introduction of a chicane on the start finish straight and the Variante Ascari. The Ascari chicane was altered again in 1974, and then in 1976 the new chicane on the start finish straight was removed and replaced with a new chicane further along the straight, the Varientte Rettifilo, installed where today we have the first chicane, and a further chicane (Variante della Rogia) was added between the Curva Granda and the Lesmo corners. Tragedy struck yet again in 1978, when Ronnie Peterson died after a crash at the start of the race. The race was started before the cars had all assembled on the grid, with the cars at the back still driving up to the grid as the race started. As the cars sped down into the first chicane, Riccardo Patrese’s Arrows got tangled up with James Hunt’s McLaren, with mayhem following, as Peterson’s Lotus was spun into the barriers, bursting into flames and then being collected by Vittorio Bambrilla’s Surtees as it rebounded off the side of the track. James Hunt pulled Peterson out from the burning Lotus, with Peterson left lying on the track as the Italian police formed a barrier to prevent people getting at the scene of the accident, leading to a delay of over 11 minutes in him being treated by medical staff. He was eventually taken to hospital suffering from broken legs, but he would die in hospital the following day after complications developed. The race would be restarted hours after the crash with Niki Lauda taking a 1-2 for Brabham from team mate John Watson after the first two drivers to cross the line (Andretti and Villeneuve) were demoted following a time penalty for jumping the start, with Andretti becoming champion in tragic circumstances, as only his team mate Peterson could have caught him prior to the Italian Grand Prix.
Monza’s run of consecutive Italian Grand Prix would end in 1979, which proved to be a glorious race for Ferrari, as Jody Scheckter crossed the line with team mate Gilles Villeneuve right behind him for a Ferrari 1-2 that clinched both the drivers title for Scheckter and also the constructors title for Ferrari. The Italian Grand Prix would then be staged away from Monza in 1980, with the race being held at Imola and Nelson Piquet taking the victory for Brabham. Formula One returned to Monza in 1981 in a race won by Alain Prost for Renault, and has remained there ever since. The track underwent further changes in 1994, when the Seconda Curva di Lesmo was altered to reduce speed, and then futher changes followed in 1995, with the section from the Curva Grande through the two Lesmo corners altered again, with the curve made more shallow and the chicane before the Lesmo’s moved forward, in a bid to improve safety and allow for greater run off areas. In 2000 the track was modified further, with the first chicane altered to give us the configuration in use today.
Monza is a high speed circuit, mostly flat, with just 12.8 m of elevation change, and power, lots of it, and skinny wings are the order of the day! The track will also prove demanding on the brakes, with the high speeds punctuated by heavy braking into the chicanes.
From the start finish straight there is a long run down to the first corner past the pit exit, braking hard into the first chicane Prima Variante, a tight right hander followed by an immediate curve back to the left.
The long run down from the grid will allow for drivers with a good start to make up for a disappointing grid position, so expect to see plenty of movement going into the first corner on lap 1.
With the corner so narrow don’t be surprised to see a number of cars in the midfield forced to bail out and cut across the first corner.
The start/finish straight is also the first DRS activation zone and with the high speeds from the end of the straight braking into this corner will provide opportunity to overtake. Getting the braking right here will be crucial to holding position, remember Nico Rosberg locking up and cutting the turn twice while in the lead of the 2014 race, ultimately losing first place to Lewis Hamilton after his second error. Daniel Ricciardo showed perfect brake control last year as he came from seemingly miles behind Valtteri Bottas to snatch fifth place in the closing laps.
The drivers accelerate out of the second turn, winding to the right into Turn 3, the Curva Biassono (also referred to as Curva Grande). This is a long winding right hander that allows the cars to carry speed onto the next straight. Lewis Hamilton drove around Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull here last year, and you might remember the corner for a couple of duels between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, Vettel putting two wheels on the grass and staying on the power as he grabbed the race lead from Alonso’s Ferrari around the outside of the curve in 2011. The following year Alonso tried unsuccessfully to repay the favour, running his Ferrari around the outside of Vettel’s Red Bull, but in this case the Ferrari went all 4 wheels onto the grass and Vettel was given a penalty for running the Ferrari off the track! The cars cross back from the exit of the curve on the left to the right hand side of the track to approach the Seconda Variante (also referred to as Variante della Roggia), Turn 4 and Turn 5. This chicane is a tight left hander into a tight right hander, with the cars being careful not to take too much kerb into the right hander and then taking as much kerb as the can on the exit. The chicane will provide yet another spot for drivers to try to overtake, Daniel Ricciardo showed how it’s done with a nice move on his Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel here in 2014, Ricciardo diving late down the inside and taking the place.
The cars exit Turn 5 onto another short 200m straight into the Prima Curva di Lesmo, Turn 6, a right hander with trees lining the inside of the track casting a shadow over the braking point, with plenty of run off on the outside. Lewis Hamilton used a better exit from the Seconda Varianta to launch his Mercedes past Kevin Magnussen’s McLaren on the run into the Turn 6 here in 2014’s race. The cars exit left over the kerbs and onto a short burst past the second DRS detection point into the Seconda Curva di Lesmo, Turn 7, another right hander. It was here that Lewis Hamilton crashed out of third place on the last lap in 2009, spinning off the kerb on the exit of the first Lesmo and battering into the barrier on the inside of the track. The exit of the second Lesmo opens out onto the Curva Del Serraglio, a slight bend to the left on another long straight. This is the second DRS activation zone, with the cars briefly flicking through darkness as they pass under a bridge carrying the north curve of the old banked track. The cars arrive into the Variante Ascari, Turns 8,9 and 10, a flowing section of left, right left turns leading onto the last straight, a long blast down past the second DRS detection point into the long right hand Curva Parabolica, Turn 11, with the cars winding around the curve and hurling themselves onto the start finish straight, Rettifilo di Partenza, which holds the second DRS activation zone with the pit entry coming at the start of this straight.
TYRES WITH PIRELLI:
For its home race in Monza, Pirelli will bring the medium, soft and supersoft tyres, just as was the case last year. This selection has been chosen to provide the optimal balance between performance on the track known as the ‘temple of speed’, and durability to cope with the energy loads that those high speeds will put through them. In particular, with the latest cars, cornering speeds will be appreciably higher in Parabolica and Lesmo. With Italy emerging from one of the hottest summers ever, temperatures could be high during the Italian Grand Prix weekend: increasing demands on the tyres still further.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS
1/ Red SUPERSOFT
2/ Yellow SOFT
3/ White MEDIUM
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW
- Monza is characterised by long straights: in theory, this could mean a lower gap time gain compared to other tracks, due to the extra drag of this year’s high-downforce cars.
- Monza is about longitudinal forces, acceleration and braking, rather than lateral.
- There are also some big kerbs that test the tyre’s structure with heavy impacts.
- While there’s unlikely to be an increase in top speed in Curva Grande, entry speeds for Parabolica and Lesmo will be up to 30kph faster.
- Teams generally run very low downforce to maximise top speeds. This can make acceleration and braking tricky.
- A one-stop strategy won last year but two and three stop strategies were also seen.
- It’s a circuit that rewards power, so the focus will be primarily on engine performance.
MARIO ISOLA – HEAD OF CAR RACING
“With the new generation of 2017 cars, we may see lower or similar top speeds to last year, but with more energy going through the tyres because of the extra downforce under the new regulations. This combination of speed and downforce defines the amount of work that the tyres have to do. The tyre choice has also been influenced by the risk of blistering at Monza, as there are plenty of braking areas in a straight line. This means that the cambered shoulder area of the tyre can easily overheat and so cause more blistering compared to other circuits. In the past Monza has given us many different types of weather, but following a very hot summer, it’s reasonable to expect more high temperatures over the weekend. How this influences tyre behaviour is likely to be a focus of free practice as the teams examine different potential strategies”.
- The next-generation Formula 2 car will be launched at Pirelli’s fitting area in Monza on Thursday, to be equipped with new P Zero tyres specifically designed for it.
- German’s Marijan Griebel is the new Under 28 European Junior Rally Champion after winning his class in a Pirelli-equipped Skoda Fabia R5 on the Barum Czech Rally Zlin.
- Last weekend the Blancpain GT Series also took place at Budapest, with Audi WRT team emerging as the winner, using the Pirelli P Zero DHD tyre.
MONZA MINIMUM STARTING PRESSURES (SLICKS)
23.0 psi (front) | 21.0 psi (rear)
EOS CAMBER LIMIT
-3.00° (front) | -2.00° (rear)
Mercedes have dominated around Monza in the PU era, and will be looking for more of the same around the fast stretches of Monza. Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have enjoyed success around Monza, but Sebastian is still awaiting his first win since switching to Ferrari. Ferrari will certainly be buoyed by their performance in Spa where they looked close to Mercedes on race pace, and will look to take the fight to Mercedes at their home track and finish the European season on a high before F1 departs Europe and we start into what could be termed the ‘Sebastian Vettel’ leg of the championship, such is Sebastian’s form in the flyaway races! While their Renault power should leave Red Bull struggling to match the top two teams, they can still cause trouble, so Ferrari in particular will be thankful that Max Verstappen’s reliability woes mean he will take grid penalties this weekend, which should make life a bit easier for Ferrari at the start! Behind the main player’s Force India have shown to have race pace, and their Mercedes engines will be a factor around Monza – as will keeping their drivers from making contact! While Perez and Ocon have played bumper cars, Renault have been quietly making progress, although the fast Monza track will likely see Renault fall down the order a bit. Williams could do with a good result, and have gone well here thanks to their Mercedes power in recent years, while Haas will fancy their chances to close in on Toro Rosso. After their ‘embarassing’ performance in Spa, it’s hard to see the words McLaren, Alonso and Honda being used together in 2018 – but do the parties have any other potential partners? It’s likely to be another hard weekend for McLaren, but at least Alonso’s radio transmissions should give them some TV exposure!!
2008 – Vettel splashes to first victory (Read more)
1995 Italian Grand Prix – Herbert has the last laugh (Read more)
1988 Italian Grand Prix – Berger stops McLaren’s clean sweep (Read more)
1971 Italian Grand Prix – Gethin wins hectic race (Read more)
Once again the hopefuls in F2/GP3 and the Porsche Supercup will provide the backing entertainment in Italy.
In F2 Charles Leclerc continues to demonstrate his star quality. He took a dominant pole in Spa, and converted it into an easy win on the road, romping home almost half a minute ahead of the nearest challenger. Leclerc’s performance has been phenomenal this season, and it seems the only thing that can stop him taking the title is mechanical trouble or penalties – and just as he had his record setting pole position in Hungary stripped from him for a technical irregularity, he had his win taken from him in Belgium as his car failed scrutineering again – this time for excessive wear of the underfloor plank – at least Leclerc is in good company, the Ferrari Academy ace seems just as dominant in F2 this year as Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher was in F1 for Benetton in 1994 when he was disqualified at Spa for a plank wearing infringement! Leclerc maintains a healthy lead in the championship as Oliver Rowland, who looked to be his only rival for the championship was also disqualified for the same offence after originally coming home third after a late scrap with Artem Markelov at the Bus Stop chicane saw both drivers penalised (Rowland for pushing Markelov off the track, and Markelov for gaining an advantage by going off the track!), with Markelov winding up the race winner following the disqualifications. In the sprint race, Sergio Sette Camara got off to a flyer from the second row of the grid to catapult to his first race victory – Leclerc may have started at the back, but he charged through to finish fifth, with Rowland getting up to eight! With 3 rounds to go Leclerc leads Rowland by 59 points, with Markelov a further 9 adrift. The championship seems a foregone conclusion – the only question is – will we see Leclerc in a Sauber next year?
In GP3 George Russel bounced back from his technical troubles in Hungary with a dominant pole and win in the feature race in Spa from ART team-mate and title rival Jack Aitken, and put further breathing space between himself and Aitken with a superb charge to second place behind Giuliano Alesi in the sprint race – which was Alesi’s third consecutive sprint race victory. Russel now enjoys a 36 point lead over Aitken, with ART’s Honda protégé Fukuzumi a further 6 points back, while Alesi has managed to break up the ART 1-2-3-4 by passing Anthoine Hubert in the championship standings, a further 8 points back of Fukuzumi.
In the Porsche Supercup leading rookie Dennis Olsen took a superb pair of victories in Spa to make a real fight for the championship, closing the gap to Michael Ammermuller to just 8 points. Ammermuller had to make do with a third and second place, and with 3 rounds to go (and 20 points on offer for the win) the championship looks set to go down to the wire.
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2008||Sebastian Vettel||Toro Rosso-Ferrari|