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Monza

The building of the high banked turn

The old track 3

Did you know that having hosted all but one Italian Grand Prix since 1950, Monza is the most visited circuit in Formula One history? Ahead of the Formula 1 Gran Premio d’Italia 2013, we present a compendium of other fascinating facts and figures about the race.

This last weekend was the 65th running of the Italian Grand Prix as part of the F1 World Championship. Sixty-three of the previous 64 were held at Monza, the exception being 1980, when the race was held at Imola and won by Nelson Piquet. Piquet also has three Italian Grand Prix victories at Monza (1983, ’86, ’87), placing him second on the all-time list. Michael Schumacher holds the record with five wins (1996, ’98, 2000, ’03, ’06), all for Ferrari.

Monza was one of seven tracks on the original world championship calendar in 1950. Three others are still on the calendar: Silverstone, Monaco and Spa-Francorchamps.

Ferrari holds the record as a winning constructor, having taken victory 18 times. Alongside Schumacher there have been Ferrari wins at Monza for Alberto Ascari (1951, ’52), Phil Hill (1960, ’61), John Surtees (1964), Ludovico Scarfiotti (1966), Clay Regazzoni (1970, ’75), Jody Scheckter (1979), Gerhard Berger (1988), Rubens Barrichello (2002, ’04) and current Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso (2010). Alonso also won the race in 2007, while driving for McLaren. Lewis Hamilton (2012, ‘14) and Sebastian Vettel (2008, ’11, and ’13) are the only other Italian GP winners on the current grid. Vettel’s win for Toro Rosso in 2008 makes him the youngest winner in Championship history. He was 21 years old. A day earlier he became the youngest driver to secure pole position.  Max Verstappen, recently signed by Toro Rosso to contest starting the 2015 season, would require victory or pole before the end of the 2018 season.

The first world championship race at Monza, in 1950, was run on a circuit that was broadly similar in shape to today’s, minus the chicanes. However, on four occasions (1955, 1956, 1960, and 1961) a 10-kilometre track incorporating both the road circuit and the banked oval track was used. Since 1962, the Grand Prix has been held exclusively on the road course. Chicanes were introduced in 1972 to slow the cars and have remained ever since, albeit with several revisions.

The Italian Grand Prix at Monza has been won from pole position only 21 times. Interestingly, more than half of those victories have come since the turn of the century. Only in 2002 (Rubens Barrichello from fourth), ’06 (Michael Schumacher from second) and ’09 (Barrichello from fifth) has the sequence been interrupted.

Monza’s speed records are many and varied, particularly from the latter years of the V10 era. Michael Schumacher holds the record for the highest average race speed, winning the 2003 Italian Grand Prix with an average speed of 247.585km/h. Unsurprisingly, this race is also timed as the shortest duration grand prix (of those going the full distance,) with Schumacher finishing in a time of 1h14m19.838s. Rubens Barrichello set F1’s highest average lap speed in qualifying, taking pole position for the 2004 race at an average of 260.395kph, though Juan Pablo Montoya went faster that same weekend, taking the record for the fastest average lap speed overall, with a lap averaging 262.242km/h, set during a practice session. Montoya also holds the record for the highest top speed achieved during a Formula One race, hitting 372.6km/h during the 2005 Italian Grand Prix

One of the most charismatic races on the calendar and the fastest circuit, with top speeds this year likely to hit 360km/h and above (30km/h more than last year), the long straights of Monza have traditionally led the teams to create a specific Monza aerodynamic kit, to maximise speeds and minimise the drag.

So what exactly do the teams do and how different is an F1 car in Monza from the rest of the season?

Ferrari low downforce

A Ferrari low downforce front wing for Monza

Typically an F1 team will devote up to two weeks of wind tunnel time to a specific low-downforce aerodynamic kit for Monza. This comprises a low downforce front and rear wing as a starter. Because the noses are so low now on F1 cars, it will also require a new nose section to mount the front wing on.  Teams need to take four or five noses to each race weekend and each front wing costs around $39,000 USD to produce, so that’s $195,000 USD for Monza front wings and a similar amount for rear wings.

 Ferrari high downforce

A Ferrari high down force front wing for Budapest

Although they are less complex than the high downforce wings, with less elements, the rear wing in particular is still complex – it needs a specific DRS mechanism and also new wing endplates. DRS are less powerful at Monza than elsewhere because there is less initial drag from the narrower rear wing.

Mercedes Monza rear wing 2013

Mercedes Monza rear wing 2013

The low downforce Monza aero kit also requires teams to cut the small winglets and appendages which are found on the car on high downforce circuits, in order to cut the drag to a minimum. These items are not efficient enough, in other words. The brake ducts, for example, is an area where things get cut back.

The general rule with weighing up downforce relative to drag is a ratio of 1.5 to 1, so any downforce added needs to bring no more drag than that relatively speaking. With Monza the ratio is 3 to 1, in other words you have to be super carful you don’t add drag.

Mercedes high downforce Monaco rear wing 2013

Mercedes high downforce Monaco rear wing 2013

There’s not much you can do about the floor – 30% of the downforce of an F1 car comes from the floor – but you do need to adapt the nose to accommodate the new front wing, as its part of the flow set around the wing, this is especially true of the new lower noses we have in F1 this year.

Ferrari braking Ferrari brakes

Monza is tough on brakes, but it’s not the toughest – Montreal is, due to the number of braking events from high to low speed per lap. However Monza features the biggest stop from the highest speed of the year, into Turn 1. The car decelerates from around 360km/h to just 70km/h, a deceleration of around 6g. The teams use the thickest brake discs available, 28mm and there isn’t much left of them at the end of the race.

Traditionally teams would fit a new engine for Spa and then another new engine for Monza as these are the highest duty cycle races of the season. With only five power units per driver per season this isn’t really feasible any more, in most cases. Spa has the longest single burst of full throttle, the 26 second run from La Source to Les Combes, but Monza has the highest percentage of full throttle per lap of the year at over 75%.

FRIC suspension

This is a race where the front and rear linked FRIC suspension was very useful for the low speed corners, to allow you to run a lower ride height for aero benefit and to gain traction out of the slower corners, which is really important. The F1 teams have had a month and a half to get used to no FRIC since it was banned and are close to optimising the cars without it now. But it will be missed in Monza.

The suspension setting for Monza is important because to be fast you need to ride the large kerbs without destabilising the car and breaking traction for too long. It’s a tradeoff between a softer set up with more travel for the kerbs at Turn 1 and something stiffer for the Ascari chicane, which is the only real challenge for the drivers.

In general Monza is a bit of an equalizer for drivers as there are not many corners so there aren’t so many places for a good driver to distinguish himself from an average one. One problem is the car usually has a slight understeer for

With more and more races on the F1 calendar, teams devote less resource races like Monza than they used to, not wanting to be distracted from the core business of adding downforce to the cars to make them faster at all the other circuits. These days the big effort will be going into the Singapore updates, for example, which carry the teams through the final races of the season. But even the ones who want to save as much money and wind tunnel time as possible still have to do front and rear wings, nose and other measures, otherwise they become too uncompetitive.

There is an argument for midsized teams like Force India or even Williams, which has a strong engine in Mercedes, to spend some resource on maximising their chances of a podium at Monza. But that is a discussion might lose ground on high downforce development which is important for the other races coming up.

The old track

The old track

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