Mastering Monza Monza presents a unique challenge for an F1 car. It's known as the 'Temple of Speed' for the simple reason that it's by far the quickest track of the year. It's so extreme that all teams have to develop bespoke aero packages to...
Monza presents a unique challenge for an F1 car. It's known as the 'Temple of Speed' for the simple reason that it's by far the quickest track of the year. It's so extreme that all teams have to develop bespoke aero packages to make their cars slippery enough to be competitive over the 5.8 km lap. The old Hockenheim used to present a similar challenge, but today Monza stands alone as the only track on the calendar where the cars race flat out at speeds approaching 340 km/h.
To get an idea of just how quick the lap is, it's worth noting that the main straight at Monza is over 1.3 km long -- that's the distance over which the cars are at full throttle after exiting the Parabolica. The straight between the second Lesmo and Ascari also sees the drivers flat out for 911 metres. So it's little wonder that 73% of the lap is spent at full throttle -- more than at any other circuit -- with an average speed approaching 250 km/h.
The downforce stats make for equally impressive reading: a Monza-spec R30 has 25% less downforce than was used at Monaco. That allows a top speed of 340 km/h at Monza versus just 290 km/h at Monaco. But good straight-line speed comes at the expense of aerodynamic grip and it's something the drivers will need to adjust to. The first few laps during free practice will feel particularly strange, even for experienced drivers, and they will all being crying out for more downforce.
In terms of the bespoke low downforce package for Monza, the teams focus their attention on the front and rear wings. But it's a costly exercise because these wings only get one outing a year. "We know we have to do it every year," says Technical Director, James Allison. "And because wings take a long time to make, we take a first look at the low downforce package in the wind tunnel as early as May. Two or three wind tunnel sessions of a few days each see the final package specified in July. This year we also have the f-duct as a potential alternative for Monza and we're still evaluating whether we can make the device work for Monza."
On paper, Monza looks like it should be a track where overtaking is relatively easy. After all, long straights usually encourage slipstreaming and hence overtaking, and there is no shortage of straights at Monza. The reality, though, is quite different, as Chief Race Engineer Alan Permane explains: "The trouble is that most of the corners leading onto the straights are high-speed corners where it's difficult to follow another car closely. For example, take the final corner, the Parabolica: it's a long 180 degree corner where the cars experience lateral acceleration for 441 metres and an apex speed in excess of 200km/h."
Monza also has a reputation for being especially demanding on brakes with 11% of the lap spent braking. In fact, the braking demands are the toughest of the year, on a par with Montreal. That's because there are so many big stops, which put enormous energy through the brake system.
The first chicane is the most severe of all with the cars approaching at 340 km/h and shedding 240km/h in just 150 metres. And this year with the cars running on full tanks of fuel, there will be 10% more energy going through the brake system compared to last year. So don't be surprised to see all the cars running the largest brake ducts they have available to try and keep the disc temperatures at manageable levels.
Robert's guide to Monza
Monza is a special place for the tifosi, for Ferrari, for all the Italian drivers - and also for me. I feel at home there. I used to live about 6 km from Monza and sometimes, when the wind was blowing in the right direction, I could hear some testing noise.
Because I used to live there, I think I'm quite popular in Italy and I get a lot of support from Italian fans, which I am thankful for. One year, I designed my helmet to include the Italian flag as a way to thank them for their support. I am still Polish, but Italy gave me a lot as a driver.
Monza is a completely different track to the others and that's why I really enjoy going there. You have long straights and the highest average speed on the calendar, but it's difficult because we are not used to driving with such low downforce. You find that the car suddenly feels quite light, and you have to get a feeling for the handling.
In the past, when we used to have testing one week before the race, you had a chance to get used to it. Because of the low downforce, you are definitely more dependent on mechanical grip than on other tracks. You also need a car that is good under braking and has good traction out of the chicanes.
Turns six and seven, the Lesmos, are pretty difficult, especially the second Lesmo. It's a very short corner and very easy to run wide on the exit, particularly because they keep reducing the amount of kerb. It's a very difficult corner and you really need a good exit because it's a long way to go to the Ascari chicane. It looks a very simple corner, but I've always found it very difficult.
The final corner, turn 11, the Parabolica, is a famous corner, but it's not so challenging any more. It's a very long corner, but it's open and for a very long time you are at full power. It has a very important exit and often you get some understeer if you go too early on the power. If you do, then you are just hoping that it will be okay. So it's a nice corner, but not too challenging.