2010 Italian Grand Prix preview
No more mistakes allowed at Monza
For round fourteen of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) Formula One World Championship, Formula One has arrived at the historic Autodromo Nazionale di Monza for the last race on European soil, the Italian Grand Prix. It is a pure power circuit, where engine performance plays a major role in achieving the best possible result. It is a circuit which combines long straights with tight corners and chicanes. The Italian Grand Prix has been part of the Formula One championship since 1950, this year's race will be the 61st Italian Grand Prix and the 60th held at Monza, only in 1980 the event was held on the Imola circuit in the principality of San Marino.
Although over the years 97 Italians have participated in Formula One, only three of them won the Italian Grand Prix: Giuseppe 'Nino' Farina in 1950; Alberto Ascari in 1951 and 1952; and Ludovico Scarfiotti in 1966. Since Ascari won the Drivers' Championship in 1953, no other Italian has won the title. The last Italian driver to win a Grand Prix was Giancarlo Fisichella, who won the Malaysian Grand in 2006 for Renault. Ferrari have won five of the last ten races at Monza, and the driver on pole position has won seven of the last ten races. Michael Schumacher won the championship after winning the race at Monza in 2000 and 2003, and Ferrari could celebrate winning the title in front of their home crowd. In this year's event, two Italians will participate: Jarno Trulli for Lotus and Vitantonio Liuzzi for Force India.
The FIA has appointed four stewards who will make up the F1 Stewards Panel for the race in Italy: Swede Lars Osterlind and German Gert Ennser will represent the FIA, and ex-Formula One driver Emerson Fittipaldi will represent the drivers.
For Fittipaldi it will be his second time as a FIA steward, he also joined the FIA Stewards Panel during the Canadian Grand Prix. He not only won the Formula One Championship in 1972 and 1974, he also won the Indy 500 twice, and became CART Champion in 1989. He started his Formula One career in 1970 with Lotus, switched to McLaren in 1974, and from 1976 until 1980 he raced for his own Fittipaldi team. He retired in 1980 and led his Fittipaldi team until the demise of the team in 1982. The now 63-year Fittipaldi participated in 149 Grands Prix, won 14 races and scored 281 world championship points. He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001.
FIA examining Felipe Massa's Spa start
The FIA has launched an investigation to find out how Felipe Massa escaped a penalty after he had positioned his car about one meter outside the start box on the start grid during the start of the Belgium Grand Prix. Normally the transponder on the car sends a signal to a sensor which is embedded in the tarmac, and when a car is not in the correct position, the sensor should then send a signal to race control to alert race director Charlie Whiting. For unknown reasons the system failed, and although it was also clearly visible for spectators at home, track marshals also failed to report the incident to the FIA Stewards.
A spectator posted a video of the incident on YouTube, which initiated the investigation, and the FIA now wants to make sure this will not happen again. The sports'' governing body also made it clear Massa will not be punished retrospectively because, according to a FIA spokeswoman, 'no further information or complaints were received before the publication of the official result on Sunday night, [therefore] the classification of the Belgian Grand Prix will now remain unchanged'.
Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso still upbeat about title chances
While Mark Webber was able to limit the damage of his very slow start in Belgium, Vettel, Button and Alonso lost a lot of championship points in their bid for the 2010 title. But all three of them refuse to give up their title aspirations, and with six races still to go, think still they have a chance to win the championship.
Vettel is now 31 points behind team colleague and leader of the championship Webber. After his collision with Button at Spa the young German was heavily criticized for making too many mistakes, but he is confident he can catch up with the leaders. Vettel, "I know how good we are -- I will take the title. Someone who has the most pole positions must think that way. These 13 races have not run completely smoothly, but I'm only 31 points behind. Assuming we maintain our speed, we can catch up quickly." About his mistakes he said, "In the end, it makes you a better driver. I'm also someone who can put things in the past and look ahead when the next morning comes." But he also said he would not chance his driving style, "I always try to attack, so in that way nothing is going to change. You always have your head switched on and everyone weighs up the risks. know that both myself and my car are fast enough to win."
Button is 35 points behind the leader, and after he had been eliminated from the race in Spa by Vettel, he described the incident as a 'big blow' for his title chances. But he was pleased with the progress McLaren has made in developing the car, "Our pace over the whole weekend in Belgium was extremely encouraging -- we're developing the car at a very rapid rate, and we're learning more about it all the time, so I'm optimistic that we'll be able to maintain that form in Italy next weekend."
Alonso is 41 points behind the leader, and he has warned Ferrari not to make any mistakes, as he thinks the race in Monza will be crucial for his team. "At our home circuit we will have to do everything to avoid losing any more points. A good result would be a great boost. But if things go badly, although it won't be over, it would be a hard knock for team morale.", he said. Not only Ferrari can't afford making any more mistakes, Alonso can't afford to make more mistakes either, although Rubens Barrichello ruined his chances to score points during the first lap, he crashed out of the race in Belgium under his own steam when he ran wide over the curbs and ended in the tyre stack with a broken suspension during the closing stages of the race.
Ferrari received good news yesterday after the hearing of the FIA World Motor Sports Council (WMSC), the team has escaped further sanctions after the team order scandal during the German Grand Prix, which is also good news for Alonso, as he could have been disqualified from the race in Germany, which would have cost him another 25 championship points.
F-Duct or no F-Duct this weekend?
Monza is a high speed circuit which theoretically would justify the use of the drag reducing device on long straights, but it is also a low down force circuit. Because of the low wing setting the system would be not effective, as the rear wing produces very little drag, and therefore the use of the F- Duct would be pointless. McLaren earlier reported they would not use the F- Duct system during the Italian Grand Prix, but have changed their mind and it now has emerged they will run a few tests on Friday and then decide whether to use it or not.
BMW-Sauber will also conduct tests at Monza to determine whether they will use the F-Duct or not. Technical director James Key said Sauber also has developed a new aero package for the C29 for Monza, "We will run an aero package on our car which is designed specifically for there. It consists of different rear wing options, as well as front wing versions to match them."
Renault still hasn't made a decision yet and although the Renault F-Duct worked very well at Spa two weeks ago, technical director James Allison said, "Monza is very different from all the other circuits and so we have had to prepare a bespoke package that we will not use anywhere else. Monza has such long straights and so few corners that it requires much smaller wings than any other track. Like several other teams, we too are evaluating whether we can make the device work in the particular, low down force environment of Monza."
Other teams will definitely use the F-Duct at Monza, even Toro Rosso, who previously said the system was too expensive to develop, will run an experimental version this weekend after they tested the design at Vairano earlier this week. Williams technical director Sam Michael is adamant they will also use the F-Duct, together with a specially for Monza designed aero package.
|Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Italy|
|Circuit length:||5.793 km|
|Corners:||11 turns (7 right and 4 left)|
|Longest straight:||1200 m|
|Total number of race laps:||53|
|Total race distance:||306.720 km|
|Average speed:||254 km/h|
|Estimated top speed:||340 km/h|
|Brake wear:||Medium to high|
|Down force level:||Low|
|Lap record:||R. Barrichello - Ferrari - 1:21.046 (2004)|
|Speed limits in the pit lane:||60 km/h during practice sessions;|
100 km/h during qualifying and race
|Monza, Italy, 3-day weather forecast|
|Friday:||Mostly sunny and warm, 20% chance of rain, min 14C, max 24C|
|Saturday:||Mostly sunny and warm, no rain expected, min 15C, max 23C|
|Sunday:||Sunny and warm, no rain expected, min 15C, max 24C|
Pit stops and tyres
Expected pit stop schedule for Monza:
For 1 Stop - between laps 27-33
For 2 Stops - between laps 17-22 and 33-41
For 3 Stops - between laps 11-16, 26-29 and 42-46
Challenge for the new teams
The circuit of Monza will present a challenge for the new teams, as it is the first time they race here, and it will be important to find the right car setup on this high speed, but low down force circuit. None of the three newcomers have a F-Duct system, and this will be a huge disadvantage on the long straights. HRT team principal Colin Kolles, "Monza is an ultimate power circuit with a top speed rate of 70 per cent. We have to find a very low down force setup for the car to achieve maximum speed. With top speeds of up to 340 km/h, the cars are difficult to control and the drivers have to be attentive and concentrated."
Virgin driver Timo Glock also knows the setup is important, "It [Monza] is very quick and we run in a very low down force configuration to get the straight line speed required for the straights. My favorite part of the track is Ascari, which is good fun. The straight at Parabolica is also good in qualifying when you're trying to get the maximum out of the car and leave your braking as late as possible." And Virgin's technical director Nick Wirth added, "The wonderful Monza circuit really is out on its own now in terms of its requirements for an extremely low down force setup in comparison to the other tracks. Mechanically, the ability to ride the Monza curbs is crucial for lap time as well as having a great engine."
Lotus technical director Mike Gascoyne is also aware of the problems the track will present, "Monza is unique as it's now the lowest down force circuit on the modern Formula One calendar. For the race weekend, we'll have a revised low down force package with new front and rear wings, plus a few other smaller modifications to the cars." Italian Lotus driver Trulli about his home Grand Prix, "We Italian drivers have fantastic support out there, and the fans are really fired up for the race. It's such a warm atmosphere, you can't help but enjoy it." And about the technical aspects he said, "Everyone talks about the low down force, but the brakes play a really crucial role. You obviously need good top speed, low down force, good traction good braking stability."
More flexibility tests by the FIA
After teams had urged the FIA to test the flexibility of the front wings, especially those of Red Bull and Ferrari, the FIA decided to ramp up the tests and during the Belgium Grand Prix they doubled the load which is applied to test the wings. Again all wings passed the test, but since then there have been suspicions some teams would have a flexible floor, and the FIA technicians will conduct further tests in Monza to probe whether the flexibility of the floors does not exceed the limits the FIA has set. The FIA will test the floors by putting not only weights on the center of the floor, but also on the sides of the floor. The floor is not allowed to flex more than 5 mm under a load of 200 kg.
McLaren, one of the teams who asked the FIA for clarification of the rules, has now decided to modify the floor on their MP4-25 to meet the new FIA requirements. McLaren's chief engineer Tim Goss, "We've had to make some minor modifications just to make sure we're well inside the deflection limits the FIA are going to set on that." He also expects other teams will have to modify their floor. Red Bull and Ferrari have always insisted their front wing and floor are legal and have no intention to modify them for Monza.
Monza - all or nothing
Again Formula One visits one of Europe's classic Grand Prix circuits, and the standings in the Drivers' Championship provide a few clues as to what to expect this weekend. For some drivers it will be their last chance to stay in the race for this year's title, and they will be prepared to take risks to keep their championship hopes alive. The circuit presents a number of overtaking opportunities, but it is also a high speed circuit with long straights where a good healthy engine, a good aerodynamic setup and a perfectly tuned F-Duct can give a driver the upper hand.
Due to the points difference, only the two current leaders in the Drivers' Championship, Lewis Hamilton and Webber, can be leading the championship after this year's edition of the Italian Grand Prix. As for the Constructors' Championship, although Ferrari still has a mathematical chance to reel in the title, they have scored 250 points this season, the real battle will be between Red Bull Racing (330 points) and McLaren (329 points).
And there is no better way to conclude this preview of the Italian Grand Prix than quoting the words of the current Formula One Champion Jenson Button: "Given the competitiveness at the front of the field, this could be an intense, thrilling Grand Prix."