Monza: What You Need to Know

Fact File: Autodromo di Monza, Italy

Laps 53
Lap Length 5.793 km (3.60 miles)
Race Length 306.720 km (190.587 miles)
First Race 1950
Fastest Lap R Barrichello 1:21.046 (Ferrari, 2004)
2010 Winner Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

Layout:

We’re treated to a double-header of history, following on from Spa-Francorchamps we see the world of Formula One make their final stop on their European tour. It’s a fitting end to the exploration of the home continent of the highest echelon of motor sport, the Autodromo di Monza has been the scene of some most exciting races in history. Speed, low downforce, and full throttle is what Monza is all about. Not only is it the biggest technical challenge for the teams to determine set-up, it’s presents the drivers with some of the most recognisable corners of Curva di Lesmo, Curva Parabolica and Variante Ascari. The circuit is set in woodland, forever a reminder of the old school tracks that have been slowly phased out for pastures new, and is made up of long straights, tight chicanes and big corners.

The Lap:

From the start/finish line the drivers hit 340 km/h before hitting the brakes for the first chicane (Variante del Rettifilo), then navigating the tight turns in first then second gear. With the entire field hurtling towards this narrow section, it’s often a scene of first lap accidents. Higher kerbs were added in 2009 to put a stop on cutting. Once they’ve successfully exited the chicane, it’s onto the slow corner of Curva Grande (or Biassono) before another chicane is on the horizon, Variente della Roggia. The double corner of Lesmo is next to approach, the first is considered to have a blind entry with a touch of banking, which feed the cars into the second, slightly slower corner. Drivers will be taking as much kerb as possible around here, but desperately trying to avoid a mistake to land in the gravel. Travelling downhill through the left handed, Curva del Seraglio, kink they enter the 3rd and final chicane of Ascari. Getting to grips with this tricky combination paves the way to a good lap time, and also sets the drivers up for the final hurdle of Parabolica. A long straight allows the drivers to open up their engines, and those with excellent straight line speed will be taking advantage. Streaking around the corner at 215 km/h they will find themselves back onto the start/finish straight where slipstreaming will be rife.

Overtaking and Strategy:

Engines and brakes are under the most stress around this circuit, the Mercedes engine will be at full throttle around 83% of the time, whereas the Cosworth will be sitting at 76% (a similar percentage for Renault too). Ferrari are being a little more cagey about their percentages. Although the track features relatively few corners the brakes aren’t used that often, however when the drivers come across one of the three chicanes the brakes are suddenly needed.

The presence of 2 separate DRS zones is there to encourage overtaking, but with the already low downforce levels, the effect from the deployed wing will be less. But it’s still going to give the trailing driver an advantage, no matter how small. Perhaps a more noticeable effect on the track position is going to be the pit stop schedule, Pirelli have already set a more conservative camber limit compared to Spa in response to the debacle there. Paul Hembery explains that the low downforce set-up (15% less than Spa) allows the tyres to slide about more, increasing this surface contact between rubber and asphalt on the straights. However 2/3 stops are still expected.

Overtaking is largely expected to occur around turn one, a heavy braking zone after the longest straight with a DRS zone added in for good measure should give drivers a good opportunity to gain position. The weather might also come into play this weekend, with light showers predicted for Sunday it could be anyone’s to play for. Friday is expected to be sunny for the duration, with a few clouds creeping in on Saturday. But one thing that will please Ferrari  is that the temperatures are hovering around the mid-twenties.

Tyres:

Prime compound: Medium (white)

Option compound: Soft (yellow)

DRS:

Another first for DRS where for the first time there will be two detection zones and two activations zones. We’ve seen double DRS activation zones in Montreal and Spain before, but this is the first time there are two separate detection zones. The first detection zone is 40m after turn 11 (Parabolica) and the first activation zone is 110m after the start/finish line. The second detection zone is 67m before turn 7 (Lesmo) and the corresponding activation zone is 160m after the same corner.

Why Monza Rocks:

Speed, speed, speed. Is there really anything else that needs to be said? It’s here we will see the drivers push themselves and their cars to the limits, where engines will be screaming come the drop of the checquered flag. This circuit also opens up the opportunity for another team to take advantage of the Red Bull weakness of straightline speed. It’s well known that Monza is not their track of choice, however the same was said of the Belgian Grand Prix, and this saw the first Red Bull 1-2 since Turkey. They’ve never been on the podium in Italy, and are of course looking to break their duck, but they’ll have to contend with the voracious tifosi that will be filling the grandstands. It’s impossible to ignore the scarlet that the most passionate fans with be donning for the weekend, this is Ferrari’s backyard and everyone will know about it. It may also be Toro Rosso’s home race, but let’s not kid ourselves, it red or nothing this weekend. The low downforce nature of the track also increases the spectacle, as the drivers weave through the trees, they’ll be in cars that feel completely different than at any other time. It will be accelerating faster than normal due to the reduced drag, but the kicker is the car will feel more unstable and have less grip in the corners.

5 Key Points:

  • Fastest track on the calendar
  • Biggest technical challenge of the year
  • Lesmos, Ascari and Parabolica
  • Double DRS zones
  • Home race for Jarno Trulli, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso and Ferrari
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