Preview: Italian GP

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Italy, Autodromo Nazionale di Monzait

Monza in the traditional finale of the European part of the Formula One season. The high speed circuit is loved by fans and drivers, in part thanks to its ever lasting history.

As usual, Monza is the place where cars reach the highest top speeds of the season, hence it will be more crucial than at any other venue to get the top gear right. The main challenge is to have the engine touch the rev limiter late on the straight: hit the limiter too early and you are a sitting duck, passed easily by those close enough behind. Go too long and the result is the same, too slow at the end of the straight. They may look easy, but the straights really aren’t – any mistakes in gear ratio selection will become evident very quickly, and replicated during each period of wide open throttle.

The Italian Grand Prix has featured on the calendar every year since the world championship’s inception in 1950. The race has been held at Monza each time, save for 1980 when the event was run at Imola as Monza was being refurbished. Of the current drivers, just three have won at Monza. Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso are the only current multiple winners, with two apiece, while Lewis Hamilton won last year.

As announced, Pirelli will bring its medium and hard tyre to the venue, the exact same tyres as those used at Spa-Francorchamps two weeks ago. This should be fairly straightforward for the teams, even though temperatures are likely to be a bit higher than in Belgium.

Track highlights

Approaching Turn 1 The fastest part of the track – with speeds of around 340km/h – before braking hard for the slowest part of the circuit – the Rettifilo chicane – which has a minimum speed of around 75km/h. The kerbs are used extensively here as drivers aim to find the shortest line through this tricky right / left combination.

Turns 2 + 3 Good power delivery on exiting the chicane is essential as the drivers accelerate hard through Curva Biassono; a good slipstreaming opportunity heading into the next complex.

Turns 4 + 5 Heavy kerb usage through the Turn 4 / 5 chicane, which the cars approach at 330kph before braking down to around 120kph.

Turns 6 + 7 The Lesmo curves are approached at over 260kph, with a minimum corner speed of around 180kph in Lesmo 2. Good car control is required though this tricky double right-hander due to the lower than optimum levels of downforce used at this circuit.

Turns 8 – 10 Variante Ascari is a fast third and fourth gear chicane, but unlike the previous chicanes around the track there is no kerb usage. The cars approach this complex at around 330kph with a minimum speed of around 170kph in the first left hand turn, making for a spectacular part of the circuit where bravery from the drivers is very much rewarded.

Turn 11 The second fastest part of the track, with top speeds of around 335km/h reached before braking. The Parabolica is probably the trickiest corner on the circuit, a radial turn taken in fourth gear at close to 180km/h. The engine must provide a roughly constant level of torque throughout, similar in essence to the last corner at Budapest but much faster. This is a relatively unusual set of circumstances for an F1 engine, with most corners simply being “point and squirt”.

Car setup

Rear Wing With the long straights forming a significant aspect of the Monza circuit layout – speeds of around 330kph being attained during the course of a lap – minimising drag is an important consideration. For this reason a Monza-only low downforce rear wing is produced. As the rear wing creates less drag that normal, the difference made by DRS is less than at other circuits.

Front Wing Just as for the rear wing, a bespoke low downforce front wing is produced for Monza. This really is the home of speed!

Suspension There are two low-speed chicanes [Turns 1 / 2 and 4 / 5] where the kerbs are used heavily, so a softer suspension setup with longer travel is preferable for these. However, there is also the higher speed 3rd / 4th gear Ascari chicane [Turns 8 / 9 / 10] where a stiffer setup with sharper change of direction is preferable due to its higher speed and lack of kerb usage.

Brakes After Montréal, this is one of the heaviest circuits of the year for braking demands; with braking from the fastest part of the track [340kph] to the slowest [75kph] taking place for the Turn 1 / 2 chicane. Recent brake material developments mean that temperatures and wear have become less of a consideration than previously.

Engine Monza is very much a power circuit, with its long straights meaning that a significant portion of the lap is spent at full throttle. It’s not just all-out power that’s required however, with smooth delivery exiting the corners onto the straights also important

Tyres For Pirelli’s home event at Monza, the P Zero Orange hard and P Zero medium tyres have been nominated: the same combination as seen at Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix. However, while Spa exerts plenty of lateral energy on the tyres, Monza is all about longitudinal energy which puts considerable forces on the tyres and requires high levels of mechanical grip. With set-up being a compromise between the fast and slower sectors of the circuit, the tyres play a crucial role at Monza, with several opportunities for strategy.
Due to the higher speeds seen at Monza there may be some specific limitations on inflation pressures and camber settings. This is not uncommon for Monza and is just another factor in making this circuit such a unique challenge.

Quick facts

Circuit length: 5.793 km
Race laps: 53
Race distance: 306.720 km
Number of corners: 11 (4 left, 7 right)

Maximum speed (no DRS): 340 km/h
Minimum speed: 65 km/h
Corners below 100 km/h (qualifying): 2
Corners above 250 km/h (qualifying): 2
Average lap speed (qualifying): 245 km/h
Distance to from pole to apex of T1 380 m
Braking events 6 (3 heavy)
Pit-lane length under speed-limit control: 422 m
Pit-lane time at 80 km/h: 19.0s

Full throttle per lap (% lap distance): 77%
Full throttle per lap (% lap time): 67%
Longest period at full throttle: 16.0s
Average gear changes per race lap: 46 (2438/race)
Braking energy: high
Lap record: 1:21.046 (BAR, 04)