Monza is known for one thing: speed. While it is not quite the ultra-fast monster it used to be the moniker “Cathedral of Speed” is still well earned. Formula 1 cars will be spending almost 80% of the lap at full throttle this weekend, straining engines to breaking point and punishing the brakes as they approach the tight chicanes.
2017 changes abandoned
Last year, proposed changes to Monza were released and showed a radically different first sector than we are currently used to (see the title image and the one below for a comparison). This would have seen the Rettifilio Chicane removed and a new, faster, chicane installed around a redesigned turn Curva Grande, which would have become the new turn 1.
For better or worse, these plans got held up in the planning stage (Monza is situated within a royal park after all), so we will have to wait and see if this is something that might happen in the future. Given that these changes were to be made to make Monza more appealing to bike racing though, it's debatable whether cars, and F1, would have benefitted from the changes.
It would have made for an awesome spectacle though, as the changes would have reduced lap times by over a second, as well as producing a pit straight almost 1.4km long.
The first overtaking point is down into turn 1, but it is far from easy. The narrow right-left chicane doesn’t leave a lot of room for mistakes, and while DRS down the home straight should help get a move done, if your exit from turn two is compromised you can be a sitting duck around the flat-out Curva Grande into the left-right kink of Della Roggia.
The two Lesmos are not an overtaking spot, but tricky enough corners to string together that the inexperienced and the unwary can easily run wide and ruin their exit down toward the Ascari chicane, providing a chance for any rival running close behind.
Ascari itself – a left-right-left twist that you can carry speed through if you are bold enough – provides another opportunity to pass, but one fraught with peril given the width of the track at that point in the circuit, and the unforgiving gravel traps on either side of the road.
Finally, we get to Parabolica – one of the most famous corners in Formula 1. You can pass here, and it’s not quite as risky as it was in previous years, due to the addition of some run-off area, but with the long home straight coming immediately on its exit a misplaced overtaking bid will cost a lot of time.
2016’s race saw Monza produce higher than usual levels of tyre wear, levels that saw Mercedes, with a comfortable speed advantage, be the only leading team to 1 stop. Most other teams tried to make this work but found that when racing hard in traffic, 2 stops were needed to keep their drivers on usable rubber.
With Pirelli’s harder 2017 compounds though, initial thoughts are that this could well be an easy 1 stopper this year.
We can see this reflected in the drivers’ tyre choices for this weekend’s race, where the red-walled supersoft tyre is the clear favourite, with all drivers taking at least 9 sets. Unlike in Spa, where there was a wide variety of selections, in Monza, you either took 1 set of mediums, 3 softs, and 9 supersofts, or you took 1 set of mediums, 2 softs, and 10 sets of supersofts.
The differences between the number of softs and supersofts taken by each team, as suggested by the fact that all teammates took the same allocations, is most likely dependent on which compound the team feels it needs the most practice running with.
Where do you think we'll see the most action this week? What do you make of the proposed 2017 changes that never happened? Let us know in the comments below!
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