The mystique of Monza

France may be the ancestral home of grand prix motor racing, and England is its heart, but its spirit resides in Italy.  The Autodromo Nazionale at Monza, just north of Milan, is the fastest racetrack on the F1 calendar, a true test of speed, damn the aerodynamic bits and pieces that have taken over the sport.  And of course you cannot discuss Italian motor sport without mentioning Ferrari, F1’s flagship team and the only team to compete in every World Championship season since the inaugural year of 1950 (if you need a comparison from other sports, for American fans, think the New York Yankees; for the rest of the world, think Manchester United and Chelsea combined).

This is the 64th season of the F1 World Championship and this weekend is the 64th running of the Italian Grand Prix (as part of the championship).  Sixty-three of them have been at Monza, three more than Monaco has hosted; Silverstone is third with 47.  Although the track has changed significantly from its days as a high-banked oval, the speed has remained.  The teams break out special aero packages with tiny rear wings, and the cars are at full throttle for over three-quarters of the 5.793 km lap.

bankingThe old banking at Monza.
Photo credit: Paul D’Ambra via Flickr

The Ferrari fans, the tifosi, also contribute to the special atmosphere at Monza.  Recently, though, they have not had much to cheer about.  Although the Prancing Horses have won 18 of the 63 Italian GPs, they have only won one of the last six races at Monza.  Even worse, an Italian driver has not won at the Autodromo Nazionale since Ludovico Scarfiotti won the 1966 race (in a Ferrari, of course).  In fact, only one Italian has even stood on the podium since 1988: Giancarlo Fisichella, who finished third in a Renault in 2005.  There is no chance of the winless streak ending this year, either, as there are no Italian drivers on the grid.

tifosiPhoto credit: Paul D’Ambra via Flickr

For the race on Sunday, we should expect plenty of overtaking, as there are lots of long straights with relatively slow turns at the end.  Even better, many of the passes should be sans DRS.  Due to the extremely low downforce set-ups the cars are already running, DRS does not provide as large an advantage as at other tracks.  According to ESPN F1, last year’s race featured 32 passes without DRS and 23 with it.

The last five races have seen five different teams take the chequered flag: McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari, Brawn GP, and Toro Rosso (Sebastian Vettel’s first F1 victory).  Maybe that is a good sign for Kimi Räikkönen and his Lotus or the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.  For the sake of an exciting finish to the season, let’s hope so.

Enjoy the race!

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