The return of Formula One after the summer break has brought fans back to the sport, and the Dutch Grand Prix was a reminder of the thrills and spills of the sport. But when the racing world turns its attention to the historic Monza circuit, the Italian circuit promises a different challenge altogether.
Monza stands out on the F1 calendar for a number of reasons. Its high-speed, low-downforce nature presents a unique set of demands for teams and drivers, prompting a radical overhaul of car configurations. As the paddock prepares for the ‘Temple of Speed’, we look at the technical intricacies and aerodynamic adaptations that make Monza different from any other race.
Monza: Where speed reigns supreme
Monza’s defining feature is its long straights and minimal corners, forcing teams to adapt their cars to this high-speed paradise. A staggering 80% of the Monza circuit demands full throttle commitment from the drivers, emphasising the need for a specialised set-up.
The relationship between downforce and speed is a crucial factor in Formula 1. Downforce, the aerodynamic force that pushes the car onto the track, is directly proportional to the square of the car’s speed. In essence, doubling a car’s speed results in a fourfold increase in downforce. This phenomenon is extremely beneficial in the corners, where optimum grip is paramount. However, it becomes problematic on the long straights, where minimising drag is a priority.
At Monza, teams face a unique dilemma. While reducing downforce is crucial for higher speeds on the straights, it inevitably reduces grip in the corners. This trade-off requires a delicate balance and demonstrates the technical mastery of Formula 1 teams.
Maximising low drag
To maximise top speed at Monza, engineers focus on minimising aerodynamic drag – the main obstacle to achieving breathtaking speeds on the straights. Key aerodynamic components such as the front and rear wings are adjusted to minimise drag. The angle at which these components are set is crucial; at Monza in particular, the rear wing appears almost horizontal during the race.
The drag experienced by a car is influenced by factors such as its speed, frontal area and drag coefficient. By reducing the angle of the rear wing, the teams simultaneously reduce the projected surface area of the car when viewed from the front and the drag coefficient. These adjustments allow the cars to reach significantly higher speeds on Monza’s long straights.
However, the reduced wing angle also reduces the downforce generated by the car, which affects cornering performance. Given the limited number of corners at Monza, this trade-off is less significant than at other circuits.
Red Bull’s surprising ‘secret weapon’
As the F1 fraternity prepares for Monza, much attention has been focused on the teams’ adaptations to the track’s unique conditions. In particular, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and Haas have all gained an advantage by designing their cars with high top speed capabilities from the outset.
A comparison of Ferrari’s Monza rear wing with its Monaco counterpart reveals significant differences. The changes reflect the team’s focus on optimising the car for Monza’s low downforce requirements.
The biggest surprise, however, comes from Red Bull Racing. The team, known for their innovative approach, appear to have made the fewest changes to their car’s aerodynamics. Remarkably, Max Verstappen’s car retains an identical rear wing configuration to the previous race.
This unusual move demonstrates Red Bull’s confidence in the inherent aerodynamic efficiency of their car. The team’s bold strategy challenges the convention of radical Monza-specific modifications and raises questions about their performance capabilities at the legendary circuit.
Their rear wing truly is a secret weapon for the RB19.
The experimental nature of the teams
Monza’s unique characteristics encourage teams to experiment with different configurations during practice sessions. These trials provide valuable data for determining the optimum set-up for race day.
In the first practice session, Red Bull will introduce a modified version of the medium-downforce rear wing on Sergio Perez’s car, while Verstappen will use an unchanged medium-downforce rear wing. Perez’s wing features a Gurney flap modification to improve wing efficiency, potentially giving Red Bull a performance edge.
McLaren are also planning to test different designs during practice. Lando Norris’ rear wing configuration is very similar to Red Bull’s, suggesting a similar approach, while Piastri’s wing has distinct differences, notably the absence of sharp endplate edges.
A look at the other teams
Aston Martin and Haas have made minimal changes to their rear wings, reflecting the high top speed characteristics of their cars.
Alfa Romeo bring a distinctive rear wing design to Monza, with a flat lower plate and steep upper angle. This unique design sets them apart from the other teams.
Williams, known for their impressive top speeds, will be looking to capitalise on Monza’s characteristics, helped by the excellent form of Alex Albon.
Anticipating an exciting weekend
In addition to the rear wing modifications, the teams are also fine-tuning the front wings of their cars to reduce drag. The outwash effect, used to improve performance by minimising downforce and drag, is a prominent feature on cars such as Ferrari’s.
Red Bull’s bold approach to Monza is generating a great deal of intrigue and setting the scene for an exciting weekend. The team’s decision to retain its rear wing configuration makes a bold statement about the adaptability and efficiency of its car.
Monza’s challenges underline the need for technical mastery in Formula One. As the teams prepare to navigate the ‘Temple of Speed’, the anticipation builds for an action-packed and strategically intense race weekend. Each lap of Monza’s iconic circuit promises a unique blend of raw speed and tactical brilliance, a true spectacle for Formula 1 enthusiasts around the world.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 30, 2023