FORMULA 1 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW

 

Foreword

 

We can look back on the Belgian Grand Prix with mixed feelings. We can be pleased with some elements – such as gaining performance over the weekend in the course of the previous races, putting two cars through to Q2 for the first time since Australia, Jolyon’s best-ever starting position, and running in the top ten on the most technical track we go to. Naturally, however, it was clouded by Kevin’s accident. Fortunately he is OK and able to race again but it was a very big impact and a reminder for everyone that danger is just a kerb away. Again however it is another credit to the overall safety level reached by F1 cars.

 

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to build on the positives just days away. As everyone knows, Monza is very specific and you need a different set-up there from anywhere else on the calendar, but there are some elements we can bring forward from Spa. We now better understand the car’s competitiveness on the various types of track and the drivers have the confidence to push in qualifying, which sets us up well for the race.

 

It’s the final event in Europe before we head off to the long-hauls so a good result would set us up nicely for what’s going to be a very long and physically tough end to the season.

 

 

Cyril Abiteboul, managing director

 

 


 

Building performance

 

Fred Vasseur debriefs on an eventful Belgian Grand Prix and is cautiously optimistic about our chances in Italy.

 

Firstly, how is Kevin after that big accident in Spa?

I’ve spoken to him several times since Sunday and he is doing well. His ankle was bruised in the accident and he was taken to hospital in Belgium as a precaution, but released the same day. He has since undergone several further checks at home in Denmark and every check has indicated he is recovering well and able to race in Monza.

 

Until that point, the Belgian Grand Prix was going well for the team. How would you review the weekend overall?

We built performance over the weekend and had our best qualifying of the year so far. We got two cars through to Q2 for the second time this season and the starting positions, twelfth and thirteenth, were the best we have had. Before the safety car came out we had both cars in the top ten, but eventually we were racing with Toro Rosso and Haas, which is where we expected to be coming into the weekend. Naturally we would have loved to keep in the top ten, but we suffered with tyre degradation and also cars coming through the field out of position. But it’s showing that we are definitely in the fight now and also in the fight at all types of circuits.

 

What can we expect from the team in Monza?

Monza is a very special track that challenges the car at the top end of its limits. We are realistic, but optimistic that we can keep the momentum we started in Hungary going. We need to build over the weekend and take every chance we can in the race. As we’ve seen in the last Grand Prix, anything can happen in front of us so we need to keep ourselves in a position to capitalise on every opportunity.


 

Soaking up the atmosphere

 

Kevin Magnussen looks forward to the ambiance of the Autodromo di Monza.

 

First and foremost, how are you after the accident in Spa?

I’m feeling OK, thanks. It was a big crash and I was sore but fortunately had nothing worse than a bruised ankle. I’ve had some more checks in Denmark and am working with my physio to keep fit. I feel I’m ready to race in Monza. The FIA will of course have the final word but I really want to and I’m confident that by then it will be fine.

 

Monza is one of the classic tracks on the calendar. What do you think makes it so special?

There are many reasons, but I think that the fact it has so much history makes it a special event. The track is unique as well, with very long straights and slow corners. It does have some high speed corners that are a challenge too, so it’s just really cool. Added to that you have one of the best atmospheres of the season.

 

Have you been to see the old track?

It is definitely really cool to see and so different to what we know in F1 today. Back then they were racing on an oval track with massive banking in cars that were so basic and so fast without any seatbelts! It is really special to see and stand on it and feel the atmosphere. It’s one of those things where it’s really hard to imagine how it must have felt – when you watch Le Mans now you can imagine how it must feel as the track is not so different, but when you see videos from Monza back then you cannot absorb how it must have been – everything was so different.

 

Talking now about your history at the track – how have you done at Monza in the past?

In all honesty it’s not been the best track for me but it has been ok. I have had podiums in nearly everything I’ve driven but never won there, so clearly we need to fix that!

 

Monza is the second high-speed track in a row after Spa. Performance in Belgium steadily built over the weekend and in qualifying it all came together for the best session of the year. Do you think you can keep that going in Italy?

Belgium was good and we did improve over the weekend. Italy is another track and while it does have some of the same characteristics it’s not exactly the same. What we have learnt is that we have to take each circuit as it comes and react to the situation you find yourself in. I expect it will be hot again too, so I need to stay focussed. You can’t really prepare for the heat – you just need to stay hydrated and stay in the shade.

 

You had some great support in Belgium from the fans, does it make a difference to you to know they are in the grandstands?

You can feel the fans around the circuit and it’s nice to be able to meet some during the pitlane walkabout or autograph session. I’m the only Dane racing so when I see a Danish flag I know it’s for me and that’s very nice. It does give a boost, and when I see them on the out or in laps, it’s really cool.

 

Will you be indulging in some pizza or pasta over the weekend?

I love Italy, but this weekend I will have to stay away from pizza. I’ll stick to the pasta, caprese and carpaccio, thank you!

 


 

Italian job

 

Jolyon Palmer reviews Spa and previews the Italian Grand Prix, held at a track he loves.

 

What do you particularly like about Monza?

It’s a very special track, and one I absolutely love. There is so much history there; so many races have been held at Monza and lots of great drivers have won, particularly back in the old days when you needed to be quick and incredibly brave. Then there is the passion of the crowd – you can hear the fans when you drive round. The track itself is very old school and it’s fun to drive. We take off a lot of downforce so parts are flat out and there can be a lot of overtaking. It’s good fun.

 

You’ve had some pretty good results at Monza. Does this add to the fun?

Yes, I won and took pole in GP2 plus I’ve won twice in F2, so it’s been a good one for me. I really enjoy racing at Monza and I think it’s actually one of my best tracks. I did FP1 last year as well so I’ve driven it in an F1 car, which is good experience, so I’m really looking forward to getting there and out in the car.

 

What do you think it takes to do well at Monza?

With those straights naturally you need good straightline speed then stability under braking. There are a lot of high speed straights and very slow corners so you need to balance out the low downforce with the need to be late and hard on the brakes. It’s all about finding a good top speed, with the optimum downforce level for the chicanes.

 

You had your best qualifying of the year in Spa, do you think you can keep this momentum going?

We go to Monza knowing it will be tough as it does not suit the characteristics of the car too much. However we also thought Spa was going to be tough and it was better than expected, particularly in qualifying. We need to approach it fresh, confident that at each race we are moving forward and in the fight now and see how we do.


 

Glide path

 

Technical Director Nick Chester looks at the unique challenges of Monza and what it takes to fly down those straights.

 

We hear a lot about Monza being a very unique track on the calendar. What makes it stand out from a technical point of view?

It is a special track, like nowhere else we visit over the season. There are four long straights so we need to run the lowest wing level of the year to be able to reach the highest speeds we can. However, you still need to make sure the car has good balance with a low level of downforce. There are some very hard braking points, but you have a lot less wing to be able to slow the car down. It can be quite tricky to find the right balance between speed and grip. Good traction out of the chicanes and getting up to speed quickly down the following straight is key to a good lap time.

 

Performance in Belgium was quite strong, particularly in qualifying. Do you feel this is a good departure point for Monza?

We were cautious going into Belgium as we knew it was a big power track that places a lot of demands on the car. However we performed competitively in qualifying after building up performance each session. It demonstrates that the car is working well at most track configurations now so we can go to Monza expecting to do a reasonable job.

 

Kevin obviously had a very big accident in Belgium. Have you been able to repair the damage for Italy?

The accident was clearly sizeable and the damage sustained is too great to use the car for Italy. The current spare will become Kevin’s car in Monza and we will take another chassis out as a spare.

 

Spa was blazingly hot and Monza can also be toasty. Any worries about temperatures or any tricks you have picked up?

Monza can be one of the hottest races, but it is also the start of the autumn and you can drive in in the morning and see the mist is hanging over the park. We may see cooler temperatures in Monza than Spa, which would be unusual, but anything can change. We didn’t have any particular problems with the heat in Belgium so even if it does transpire to be as hot it should not be an issue.

 

Do you have any developments coming through for Monza?

For the second part of the year we will have small updates that were planned as part of the usual development cycle at the start of the season. Unfortunately we didn’t run our new bodywork in Spa as it was too hot, but we have some cooling modifications and minor aero updates and possibly some mechanical changes coming through shortly. Really it’s now about getting the most from the package we have in hand.


 

Circuit notes

 

T1 – Wide start and finish straight narrows down to the legendary Rettifilio chicane. The kerbs are used extensively here as drivers aim to find the shortest and most direct line through this complex.

 

T2 – Maintain momentum through the flat-out Curva Grande where a good tow can be exploited in readiness for heavier braking and an overtaking opportunity into the Variante Roggia left/right flick.

 

T3 – Again the kerbs are used to maximum effect, but it is much quicker than the first chicane, so too much kerb can unsettle the cars and create a loss of momentum up to the Lesmo sequence.

 

T4 – The Lesmo curves are approached at over 260kph, with a minimum corner speed of around 180kph in the tighter second Lesmo. The cars are often a handful here due to the relative lack of downforce on the car.

 

T7 – Taken initially in third gear but quickly changing up to fourth, precision of line is important at the Variante Ascari. There is a minimum speed of 170kph in the first left and then right hand flicks before the power can be increased for the final right where the cars can drift out on to the exit kerb before heading down the long back straight.

 

T8 – Peaking at approximately 335kph the drivers brake and change down to fourth gear for the constant radius Parabolica right hander. The run-off was changed in 2014 from gravel to tarmac, which is likely to see some deeper braking in to the first section of the turn.

 

Power Unit notes

  • Monza is the most power sensitive track of the season. More than 70% of the lap is spent at full throttle, more than any circuit of the season. There are four long periods of open throttle, each with an average of 13secs each. The first is the pit straight, followed by the run through the Curva Grande, then from the Lesmos to the Variante Ascari and finally from Ascari to the Parabolica. The longest time the power unit will be at full throttle is the pit straight, which lasts 16 secs.
  • Despite the ICE being flat out for most of the lap, fuel consumption per kilometre is relatively low compared to slower tracks. This is due in part to the short length of the track and to maintaining a constant speed throughout, but also due to the high average speed with low downforce package that reduces the time spent to complete the distance.
  • The long periods of wide open throttle generate a steady stream of exhaust gas. The energy available in the exhaust due to the high percentage of full throttle time means that the turbo will be at maximum speed for over 80% of the lap.
  • Despite the heavy braking for the three chicanes, the MGU-K is not significantly stressed in Monza. Each braking event is very short and there are only three slow corners. In comparison to a corner-rich circuit such as Hungary, the MGU-K barely recovers the maximum energy allowed. To compensate, the MGU-K recovers energy at partial throttle through overloading the ICE, although it will be difficult to harvest the max energy allowed by the regulations. The MGU-H will also feed the MGU-K down the straights.
  • The chicanes will see the cars brake from well over 300kph to 80kph but accelerate back up to 300kph in less than eight seconds. This creates a braking event of around one to two seconds, or quicker than a blink of an eye. It’s important for the car to be stable under braking and acceleration so engineers will pay particular attention to the engine maps and how they interact with the low downforce aero configuration.

 

Tyre choice

 

Medium: Verdi’s Requiem. A substantial classic that has stood the test of time.

 

Soft: Like Puccini’s La Bohème, these are accessible, but with substance.

 

Supersoft: A light operetta giving immediate gratification, similar to Die Fledermaus by Strauss.

 

 

Memory Lane

The history and electric atmosphere of the hallowed Autodromo di Monza coupled with its high-speed challenges makes it one of the classics and any driver lucky enough to win the Italian Grand Prix always counts it as a highlight of his career. Benetton-Renault driver Johnny Herbert was fortunate enough to grab victory in 1995. The Briton had started eighth, but a bizarre cocktail of circumstances enabled him to carve through the field and take the win. Pole-sitter David Coulthard retired after a spin on the warm-up lap but was able to rejoin when the race was stopped on the second lap. He however definitively stopped on lap 14. Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher then collided when overtaking Taki Inoue, leaving the two Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi running first and second. Berger stopped when a camera mounted on Alesi’s car flew off and crashed into his suspension, breaking it immediately. Alesi then subsequently retired with just seven laps to go with wheel bearing trouble. Although lucky with others in front, Herbert had driven impeccably and inherited the lead of the race to score his second-ever F1 win.

 

Quirky facts

Milan has the honour of having Europe’s largest opera house, the Teatro alla Scala. This huge opera house can seat two thousand viewers at one time and it is reckoned to be one of the best opera and ballet theatres in the world. It is also home to La Scala Theatre Chorus, La Scala Theatre Ballet and La Scala Theatre Orchestra.
Leonardo da Vinci worked in the court of Ludovico Sforza in Milan for 16 years from 1482 and during this time completed some of his most important works. He composed the greater part of his Trattato della pittura and the extensive notebooks that demonstrate his intellectual range. In 1483, Leonardo was commissioned to execute the famous Madonna of the Rocks. His fresco of the Last Supper was started around 1495 and completed by 1498.

 

Milan Cathedral, or Duomo, is built in the Gothic style and took nearly six centuries to complete. It was started in 1386 and its façade finally finished by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1805, but the last gate was inaugurated on 6 January, 1965. It is the largest church in Italy (outside the Vatican in Rome) and the fifth largest in the world.

 

Milanese cuisine has its own distinct flavours and ingredients. Polenta and rice feature heavily along with many dairy ingredients such as cheese, cream and butter. Saffron risotto is a popular dish. Legend has it that in the mid-1500s Belgian workers building the Duomo stained windows could give a special tone by adding saffron. On the wedding day of the master glassmaker’s daughter, chefs mixed in a bit of saffron to the rice dish. After the initial amazement, the guests proclaimed the complete success of the operation: since then the yellow risotto with saffron has entered Milanese cuisine.

 

George Clooney isn’t the only celeb to have lapped it up on the nearby Lake Como. Winston Churchill took a painting holiday on its shores after World War II and equally Stendhal was inspired to set part of The Charterhouse of Parma on Como’s shores. Verdi composed La Traviata there, Liszt Après une Lecture de Dante, Bellini Norma. Wordsworth, Shelley, Puccini, and Rossini all found inspiration at Como while Leonardo da Vinci used the streams and waterfalls as the setting for Madonna of the Rocks. John F. Kennedy stayed there, as did Napoleon while Hitchcock made his first film, The Pleasure Garden, on the grounds of the Villa d’Este, the lake’s premier hotel, in 1925.

 


 

Renault Sport Academy Roundup

 

Oliver Rowland

Oliver had a fighting weekend in GP2 in Spa. He could only manage fifteenth in qualifying, which put him right in the mix for the Feature race. He battled through into the top ten but a clash with Sergio Canamasas at the very last corner dropped him back down to tenth. In the Sprint race Oliver started well but a coming together with Pierre Gasly and another last-corner incident – this time with Sergey Sirotkin – saw him cross the line in eighth, but classified sixth due to post-race penalties.

 

Jack Aitken

Jack scored his maiden win in the second GP3 race in Spa. Starting third, he quickly moved into second and then took the lead early on in the race. He then kept a cool head over three safety car periods to edge away from the field and score his first-ever victory in the series. Fifth in the feature race on Saturday moved him to sixth in the standings.

 

Kevin Joerg

Kevin had a mixed weekend in the GP3 event at Spa. Eleventh position in Saturday’s race belied the speed and progress made in practice. He had greater hopes for Sunday’s race, but was unfortunate when Nirei Fukuzumi tagged him into the barriers shortly after the second restart. He was forced into premature retirement.

 

Renault Sport Formula One Team Third, Reserve and Test Driver Action

 

Esteban Ocon

Esteban made his Formula 1 debut with Manor Racing in Spa. The Frenchman was as impressive as his reputation, qualifying in eighteenth and racing to sixteenth overall.

 

Sergey Sirotkin

Sergey lost some ground in the GP2 championship to Pierre Gasly in Spa. He could only muster ninth in the Feature race and ninth in the Sprint, but a post-race time penalty dropped him to P16. He is now fourth in the standings with 115 points and looking to re-close the gap at the next round in Monza in just a few days.

 

Nicholas Latifi

Nicholas Latifi likewise had a tough event in Spa. Qualifying eleventh, he passed the flag in thirteenth in Saturday’s race but improved for Sunday to finish in ninth.

 

Infiniti Hybrid Fact