Monza - temple of speed
If Monaco was the race where you’d bolt on every available wing or flap in a bid to improve grip, Monza has traditionally been the place where you’d go the opposite way – ditching everything in the quest for speed.
It’s what makes Monza such a special grand prix. Formula 1’s last pure ‘temple of speed’, the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is the one place on the calendar where you’ll see F1 cars reach their highest maximum velocity of the year. And it’s utterly incredible to behold.
Nowadays, of course, the visual difference between an ultra high- or low-downforce configuration is somewhat different, for Formula 1’s more restrictive aero regulations have elided much of the capacity to experiment with aero extremes.
That’s not to say that F1 cars no longer exhibit different bodywork between those two races: the extreme characteristics of Monaco and Monza mean that it’s still important to play to the strengths of the circuit whenever you’re considering the ultimate bodywork package for each race.
At Monaco, you’re able to forsake ultimate speed for grip and acceleration, the Principality’s punchy little straights and preponderance of corners being the overriding factors in set-up. At Monza, it’s all about straightline speed – wings are trimmed to a minimum, and additional bodywork ‘furniture’ – flips, flicks and winglets which, although minimized following 2009’s culling of aero mods, are also reduced to their minimum.
The consequence of shedding all that downforce (and grip) for the Santander Italian Grand Prix is that the cars are skittish and nervous through Monza’s corners. The drivers dislike the nervy cars, but it makes for exciting racing as cars scrabble for grip under braking (the cars no longer benefit from high-speed grip to keep them glued to the track during the initial braking phase) and are more unpredictable under heavy acceleration loads.
In particular, watch out for drivers out-braking themselves into Turn One (particularly during practice as they grow accustomed to the longer braking distances needed) and kicking up dust at the exit of the second chicane as cars wash out and run wide under traction.
Monza is a race of extremes – from the cars on track, the crammed routes into the circuit to the massed fans in the grandstands.
We love it.