Monza is one of the most iconic racetracks in the world. Built in 1922 in a royal park north of Milan, the circuit is an eclectic mix of old and new: the crumbling banking that formed part of the original layout still lies adjacent to the modern racetrack, which is the fastest of the 2012 season.
In four places around the 3.6-mile/5.8km lap the cars exceed 200mph. Such relentless speeds force the teams to use low-downforce wing configurations on their cars, which reduce aerodynamic drag while trying to maintain braking stability. Suspension settings are also critical to a quick lap because the cars need a smooth ride over the circuit’s high kerbs to allow the drivers to get the power down early on corner exits.
The vociferous Italian fans, known colloquially as the Tifosi, are sure to give every team a lot of support during this, the last European race of the 2012 season. Neither Lewis nor Jenson has previously won at Monza, although Jenson has finished second in each of the past three races at the track. Both men are looking to make amends this year.
Jenson Button: “I head to Monza absolutely full of motivation after a fantastic result in Spa. It was the perfect weekend for me – it’s not only put me back in contention for the drivers’ championship, but it’s shown that we have a car that can definitely fight for the constructors’ title.
“It’ll be great to be back in the car so soon after the victory. Monza is one of the greatest circuits in the world and our car seems to be particularly well suited to high-speed circuits, so I’m optimistic that we’ll be competitive again this weekend.
“For some reason, the car we’ve brought to Monza in the last two seasons has been really well suited to me. I’ve really been able to work with the balance and enjoyed pushing the car. The success we had with a low-downforce configuration at Spa also gives us cause for optimism.
“I’ve finished second here in both my previous races for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes – I’ll definitely be going for the win this weekend.”
Lewis Hamilton: “Spa was just one of those weekends – but the beauty of these double-header races is that it’s already firmly behind me. And Monza is such a unique and invigorating circuit that it’s easy to put my disappointments to one side and just focus on driving as fast as possible this weekend.
“For me, there’s something about Formula 1’s older circuits that’s very special; despite each being very different, the newer tracks all seem to have the same character and the same sort of rhythm, but the older circuits are very different. They feel like the land has shaped and influenced them rather than the other way around. I like that – it means you never fall into any particular comfort zone and you’re always pushing the car one way or the other to get the best from any lap.
“The first laps out of the pits on Friday always feels incredible because we have such little downforce and the ratios are so long. It feels like you never stop accelerating – and then you hit the brakes and the car feels really unstable, because the wings aren’t doing much to keep it settled. You soon get used to it, but it’s always exciting to be driving flat-out around Monza because it’s such a different experience from anywhere else we visit.
“I’ve never won at Monza before – I’ll be doing everything I can to take the victory this weekend.”
Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “Our victories in Hungary and Spa hardly feel like back-to-back wins because they were achieved so far apart, but they give us enormous encouragement because they demonstrate that we can win on circuits of distinctly different character.
“While I still think that making predictions from race to race is largely futile, it’s satisfying to see there’s some shape to our performances. We’ve qualified a car on the front row of the grid for seven of this year’s 12 races – and that’s hugely motivational for our designers and engineers because it shows that we’re able to develop and refine the car successfully from track to track. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t continue.
“Our low-downforce potential was clear to see in Spa and we’re hopeful of picking up where we left off in Italy. In fact, Monza is the only truly high-speed circuit remaining on the Formula 1 calendar. In the past, it was comparable to the old Hockenheim and, in some ways, to Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but Monza’s heritage gives it a unique character. It’s a track where the past comes to life and it’s an honour to tread upon the same Tarmac as some of the sport’s true greats.
“Having won in Hungary and Belgium, we’ll be aiming for a hat-trick of wins in Italy!”
Source: McLaren Vodafone Mercedes