Monza, a special place for a special race This weekend's fourteenth round of the Formula 1 World Championship takes place in the historic Royal Park in Monza, one of the most beautiful and charismatic venues on the calendar. The Italian Grand...
Monza, a special place for a special race
This weekend's fourteenth round of the Formula 1 World Championship takes place in the historic Royal Park in Monza, one of the most beautiful and charismatic venues on the calendar. The Italian Grand Prix will be making its sixtieth visit to the famous track, although it is the sixty first running of the race, which moved to the Imola circuit just once, back in 1980. Scuderia Ferrari last won in Monza back in 2006 courtesy of Michael Schumacher, although the Prancing Horse has been first past the post here a total of seventeen times. Among the many notable victories, perhaps the most emotional came in 1988: in a season when one team won all the other races, the Monza fans witnessed Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto take a memorable one-two, shortly after the death of company founder, Enzo Ferrari. Phil Hill's 1960 victory for the Scuderia was also significant on the technical front as it was the last time that a front-engined Formula 1 car was first past the chequered flag.
Naturally, as the home race, this weekend has a special significance for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro and its "tifosi", but national pride aside there are more prosaic reasons why this is an important moment in the season: with only six races to go, the Scuderia needs to return to the top form it demonstrated in the races leading up to the summer break if it is to have a realistic chance of aiming for the championship titles.
Monza has played a significant role in the history of motor sport, but if there is one thing it is famous for above all, it is its high speed nature, with the 2003 Italian Grand Prix holding the record for the fastest ever average race speed, at 247.585 km/h, while the 1971 event boasted the closest ever finish in the history of Formula 1, when Peter Gethin beat Ronnie Peterson by just one hundredth of a second. Back then the track layout was extremely simple, with five corners linked by fast straights. Today, safety concerns mean that chicanes have reduced top speeds, putting a premium on a car's brakes as much as its engine power, although the cars still run with minimum aero downforce, the most obvious example of which are the small wings that make their only appearance of the year here. With these unique characteristics in mind, everyone at the Gestione Sportiva has been working flat out to optimise the "Monza specification" of the F10. The starting point was to analyse the precise reasons for the performance drop-off noticed in Spa-Francorchamps a fortnight ago and the engineers now understand what caused the hiatus in the good form shown in the races just prior to the summer break. Furthermore, the team's third driver, Giancarlo Fisichella spent a day carrying out straight line aero testing at the Vairano facility last week, to validate the engineers' conclusions and to evaluate elements specifically aimed at Monza. Meanwhile, race drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa spent time at the factory, in meetings and on the simulator.
Inevitably, in a season as closely contested as this one, it will be difficult to evaluate just how successful has been the work carried out prior to Friday's free practice sessions: even more so given the cars run in a different configuration to that seen at any other venue on the calendar. However, past showings this year at circuits that share some of Monza's characteristics -- Montreal and Sakhir for example, with the need for stability under hard braking at the end of long straights and the ability to ride the kerbs -- would indicate that the F10 should return to top form this weekend. Doing well this weekend is uppermost in the Scuderia's thoughts, given that the vast majority of the crowd in the grandstands will be cheering for the Prancing Horse and many of the Gestione staff and their families will be in the crowd. But in the harsh reality of modern motor sport, there is pressing need for Felipe and Fernando to bring home as many points as possible, because with five races remaining after this weekend, failure to do so will seriously jeopardise any hopes of lifting a championship trophy on Sunday night in Abu Dhabi in mid-November.