The Team Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda return to Monza in Italy this week for Round 15 of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Widely regarded as the last of the great high-speed circuits, the Autodromo Nazionale nestles in a picturesque royal...
Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda return to Monza in Italy this week for Round 15 of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Widely regarded as the last of the great high-speed circuits, the Autodromo Nazionale nestles in a picturesque royal park close to Milan. It has witnessed some of the sport's greatest moments and worst tragedies and is known to the Tifosi as "La Pista Magica", the magical race track. Motor racing fans in their thousands make the annual pilgrimage to the circuit that has been the home of Italian racing for 80 years.
Due to the high speeds reached at this circuit and the enforced ban on testing prior to this race, the normal testing regulations, which stipulate that the teams cannot test at a Grand Prix circuit within 28 days of the race, are lifted for reasons of safety.
B.A.R took this opportunity to mount an intensive four-day test (3-6 September) at the circuit in order to prepare for the Grand Prix. As this was the first test since the expiry of the 7-week ban, the team worked through a very comprehensive programme featuring two cars and four drivers - Jacques Villeneuve, Olivier Panis, Anthony Davidson and Patrick Lemarie.
Back with the team following his two-race secondment to Minardi, Anthony Davidson kicked off the test on Wednesday along with Patrick Lemarie, after which Jacques and Olivier arrived for their two days of running. The main elements of the test were a Bridgestone tyre programme and an exploration of the aero updates for the forthcoming race, coupled with some electronic development work and testing the latest Honda engine.
David Richards, Team Principal
"We had a very constructive test in Monza last week and have been working hard with Honda to overcome any reliability concerns following Spa. This circuit is reasonably tough on the cars so it will provide another real test of our overall package. Tyres will undoubtedly play a major part in this weekend's story, as they did in Belgium, but we were encouraged to be the fastest Bridgestone runners after Ferrari there and hope to maintain that progress in Italy."
"This is the last of the European races this year and although we're expecting a tough challenge, our objective is still to make solid progress towards boosting our points tally before the end of the season."
Jacques Villeneuve on the Italian Grand Prix
"Monza is the only high-speed track that we have left, which means a lot of straight lines, very few corners and very low downforce. It's a real racer's circuit and, although I've had mixed fortunes here, I always enjoy coming back. There's such a great atmosphere.
"There are some fun parts of the track which I really enjoy, such as the first Lesmo which is banked and taken in 3rd or 4th gear at mid-speed - or mid-speed for Monza which is still 160/170kmh. It's quite bumpy and the rear feels really light. On the other hand I don't like the second Lesmo at all. It used to be a flat-out, beautiful corner until they changed it. It doesn't have good rhythm now; you hit the brakes, you turn and you just hit the apex, then come out of the corner sliding a bit."
"Monza is a real power circuit so it will really test the package but I hope we can stay reliable and make the most of the overtaking opportunities."
Olivier Panis on the Italian Grand Prix
"Monza is a very fast circuit but it isn't particularly difficult from a driver's point of view because there aren't that many corners. It is very important to find the right aerodynamic balance though. You need very low downforce to be fast in the straights and you need good mechanical grip for stable braking into the chicanes. This can mean that we see some good racing here. There are a number of places to overtake and two or three good corners for challenging in, like the Parabolica chicane and the two Lesmo corners."
"There is a good ambience both inside the paddock and out because of the fans. The Tifosi are great and they really create a good atmosphere. The Italians like Formula One and so even as a non-Ferrari driver it is good to be there."
Possessing a unique character and ambience, Monza is Formula One's oldest race track and, despite being altered from its original layout in the interests of safety, it is still the fastest.
The track has been rebuilt on several occasions but the basic design is much the same as it was. Because of the pace of the circuit, cars must be set up with the lowest downforce levels possible without causing stability problems under braking. They must also be able to "ride" the Monza curbs effectively and remain well-balanced without too much understeer at high speed. In addition, good traction is important for exiting the revised Rettifilio and Roggia chicanes effectively and braking must be optimised to cope with the very high temperatures generated when drivers slow from top-speed to negotiate these low-speed sections.
With the exception of Curva Grande, overtaking is possible at every corner at Monza but the fast corners before each passing place make it hard to follow another car closely because of the vagaries of modern aerodynamics. Therefore overtaking manoeuvres tend to take place only when cars on two-stop strategies have a performance advantage over heavier one-stoppers.