This weekend at Monza, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro will be putting maximum effort and determination into winning the Italian Grand Prix, the fifteenth round of the world championship. Last year's victory on the team's home soil for Michael...
This weekend at Monza, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro will be putting maximum effort and determination into winning the Italian Grand Prix, the fifteenth round of the world championship. Last year's victory on the team's home soil for Michael Schumacher was a crucial moment in allowing the German to go on and claim his sixth Drivers' title at the final round in Japan.
This year, both titles are already safely back at Maranello, therefore the coming weekend will involve less pressure, even if motivation will be as high as ever.
Today, the Scuderia is a truly international organisation, with a French managing director, an English technical director and a host of other nationalities all working for the Prancing Horse. But sporting director Stefano Domenicali is Italian and therefore the ideal choice to explain what racing at Monza means to the team, the whole of Ferrari and its army of fans.
Domenicali has been with Ferrari since 1991, working first on the fiscal side, prior to a spell as Racing Director at Mugello circuit. In 1993, he moved to the Gestione Sportiva.
"At first I looked after the administration side, then filled several roles; human resources, looking after sponsors and team manager, prior to my current appointment," says Domenicali taking up the story. "Now I am responsible for Human Resources, finance, administration, logistics and liaison with FIA and FOM."
This weekend is not the first time the fans get to see their favourite red cars racing at home. "Monza is our second home grand prix after Imola so it is very special as we can rely on additional support from our incredible tifosi, who are very knowledgeable about racing," says Domenicali.
"On top of that, we have the extra boost of racing in front of all our staff from Ferrari. They do not get the chance to come to the races every fortnight, but they have the same passion, the same values and they share the same objectives, working at Maranello. This is why they have a special grandstand from where they can live the grand prix with us."
"This year is a special year, because while Belgium was officially our 700th Grand Prix, Monza will see a special celebration with our staff, who will be given a gift to remember the event. It will be a great atmosphere with an all-red grandstand, packed with all the flags."
According to Domenicali, there is another positive to racing at Monza: "It is close to home, so if we need to, there is no distance involved for us to go back to the factory to sort things out." All the F1 teams tested at Monza last week and the track presents a unique challenge, as it is the only circuit on the calendar where cars run in minimum downforce configuration, with average lap speeds around 260 km/h.
The main straight is the second longest of the year after Indianapolis and here engines have to work flat out for around 15 seconds in top gear. Although that is not the longest flat-out section in the sport, engines are under considerable strain for the entire lap as there are very few slow corners and engines require full-throttle for over 70% of the lap.
Apart from a couple of first or second gear chicanes introduced on safety grounds, there are only four real corners, including the famous final Parabolica turn that leads onto the straight. Nevertheless, Monza is a real challenge for the drivers, as the lack of downforce means the cars feel light and nervous and generally, drivers must begin braking for the chicanes earlier than usual. The result is that, apart from engines, the brakes and tyres also come under more strain.
The high speed nature of the circuit means that lap times between the drivers are always very close and that can make for exciting racing. After 53 laps on Sunday, Domenicali hopes both his drivers will get to the podium.
"I am sure that after Michael's seventh Drivers title, an incredible achievement. there will be a great celebration this weekend. I am sure he will feel the passion of the fans and will be lifted up by this great atmosphere. It will be a unique experience."
"Michael has had an incredible season so far, in terms of performance and in terms of his mental and physical fitness, where he is at the highest level. I am sure that having taken the title, he will take a different approach to this weekend and be able to enjoy everything that is going on."
A final thought from Domenicali on Monza? "I was born in Imola, so that was always my favourite track and I used to go camping there to watch the races. When I was a bit older I started going to Monza and it is true that you can really feel a culture of motor racing at this circuit, a sense of history, which we must never forget. It is part of an Italian culture which must be maintained, finding the balance between the historic past and the future."