Home of the famed Monza tifosi , the Italian Grand Prix in Monza can be a double edged sword for the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team. To go to the Italian Grand Prix as double World Champion is undoubtedly the highlight of the season. They are ...
Home of the famed Monza tifosi , the Italian Grand Prix in Monza can be a double edged sword for the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team. To go to the Italian Grand Prix as double World Champion is undoubtedly the highlight of the season. They are greeted as the heroes of Italy by the idolizing fans. Attending the Italian Grand Prix as the underdogs, as they have done in the past, can provoke the complete opposite reaction from the tifosi who can just as easily hail jeers and scorn upon the team from the grandstands as a sign of their dissatisfaction.
This year, as in the past few years, there will be nothing but cheers of admiration and the electric atmosphere of anticipation of another Ferrari victory to add to their growing list of victories in 2002. However, it's a circuit where the chances of something going wrong are probably higher than most other tracks throughout the season.
The Autodromo Monza is now the only fast, low downforce circuit on the F1 calendar and for that reason, the cars will run a unique aerodynamic package used only on the Monza track. While the bodywork remains the same, the front and rear wings are specially developed for low drag and overall downforce.
Since the changes to Hockenheim, it is also the track that is the hardest on the engine throughout the year. During a lap of Monza, the engine runs at full throttle for around 65 percent of the lap, a condition that poses a far greater mechanical stress on the engine than in other races. In fact, the factory engine dynamometer is set up for a simulation of the Monza circuit on the basis that if they can survive race distances there, the other tracks will be no problem. Thus, by the time the cars take part in this year's race at Monza, the engine design they are using will have done thousands of laps under the same conditions and, hopefully, any reliability problems will be a thing of the past.
However, on the engine side, one thing that is likely to be new is the use of a specially developed qualifying engine for Monza. It has been tested in the week before the race and it will probably be used for the qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.
The chassis itself will remain unchanged for the Italian GP. The famous kerb riding at the chicanes, which used to mean specially reinforced suspension parts, is now a thing of the past. The kerbs are now so high that the drivers are obliged to stay off them and, in any case, the sort of shock the suspension can suffer at this track is used as a reference point for the basic design strength of the suspension for the year.
One particular worry at Monza for the engineers is the cars brakes. Monza now rates as being as hard or even harder on the braking system of the car as the Canadian GP, especially now that there is considerably more grip from the tyres, which in turn makes the brake duty cycle even harder as the drivers can brake later.
The cars will be using the largest size Brembo brakes that they are allowed and during the race, the engineers will be paying close attention to the on-board telemetry monitoring brake wear and temperatures. If the wear rate looks critical, a simple radio call to the driver to ease up on braking can prevent a disaster later on in the race.
Because of the fast straights and extreme braking from speeds as high as 340 kph into the first chicane, the Monza circuit is very hard on the tyres themselves and blistering or durability problems can be an issue. For that reason, a two-stop race strategy can be a safe one with regard to brake and tyre worries, although the choice is a close one between one or two stops.
Even the gear ratios have to come under close scrutiny for Monza in order to get just the right balance between the very high seventh gear for the high top speeds on the straight and a low enough first gear for a good start.
In more ways than one, winning at Monza can be tougher than any other race in the season.