The Autodromo Nazionale Monza is the most recognisable venue in Formula 1 thanks to the Tifosi that flock to it every year in hopes of a Ferrari win.
Its long straights and lack of corners may lead you to believe that this is one of the easier circuits to drive around, but you’d be mistaken. Somewhat like Austria, thanks to the simplicity of the layout, any mistakes that are made are amplified down the four straights and leave you vulnerable to attack from behind.
It’s such a satisfying feeling when you nail the chicanes and the more challenging corners like the Parabolica and the speed endlessly climbs on the flat-out sections.
Turn 1 & 2 – Variante del Rettifilo
The circuit’s configuration has remained unchanged since 2000, so the first corners you must tackle are those that make up the first chicane. The run out of the Parabolica is the longest straight on the track which when combined with a very wide start/finish straight and DRS, makes this one of the best overtaking opportunities of the lap. Speeds almost reach 220 mph (354 kph) going into Turn 1, which makes this a huge braking event that starts between the 150m and 100m boards.
Stick to the outside on entry to get the best turn in and try to kiss the apex of T1, but don’t worry if you don’t touch it, as the exit of T2 is more important. Be careful not to accelerate between the two corners, as this will see you take a trip in the gravel on the outside. You can go on the orange kerbing on the inside of the second corner, but don’t touch the yellow and black sausage kerb, nor the thin kerbing on the outside, as this will unsettle the car going into the Curva Grande.
Turn 4 & 5 – Variante della Roggia
These days, a Grand Prix car can take the Curva Grande (Turn 3) easy flat, so the next challenge is the Turns 4 and 5 chicane. Brake at about the 100m board and stick to the right side of the road for best entry. This is an overtaking spot for those who are brave down the inside, but you’ve got to have a great run on the car ahead to do so, as there is little space between the corners for error.
The absolute best line through here to line your front left wheel to the left of the orange bump on the inside kerb. Be careful not to carry too much speed, as there’s gravel on the outside of Turn 5 waiting for you. For T5, you need to go to the left of the orange kerb, as hitting it will unsettle the car on corner exit.
Turn 6 & 7 – Lesmos
The first corners you’ll attack that aren’t chicanes are the Lesmo bends, two right-handers which look easy but are anything but. Because of the low downforce you’ll be running, these are tricky to nail, especially Lesmo 1, due to its deceptive camber. Brake just after the 50m board going into the corner and aim for the thin kerbing on the inside of the corner, but beware of the grass and the barriers on the inside. Taking too much speed through these corners will punish you, another gravel trap lurks on the outside of both. Overtaking is possible through the first Lesmo, but it’s not the best idea as there’s another long straight and DRS zone after Turn 7.
For the second Lesmo, brake just before the 50m board and avoid the green grass/concrete on the inside of the corner, you’d have to be incredibly precise to not run through the grass. There is a decent amount of run-off on the outside of the exit, but get back onto the road as soon as possible, as grip is at a premium on acceleration onto the third straight while a wheel wide will put you in the gravel and ruin your pace.
Turn 8, 9, & 10 – Variante Ascari
The breaking zone for Ascari is surprisingly short, the 100m board is again your target, or just after the road flattens. This is another great overtaking spot due to the DRS, but the road is surprisingly narrow at this section.
Ascari is a three-part chicane and the first left hander is one that is very easy to cut but staying to the right of the sausage kerbs will allow you to avoid a penalty. Be sure to straighten up and immediately turn right for turn 9, it’s essential to avoid the grass/concrete on the inside as there’s little grip out there. Turn 10 is another one that’s easy to cut, but the left-hander minimally punishes those that do. Once you pass the last left corner on the circuit, be sure to avoid the run-off and gravel on the exit, you can easily spin your car on that, you’ll be doing 160mph at this point. Don’t worry about going over the white line after the grass, there’s no punishment for that and gives you some margin for error.
Turn 11 – Parabolica
The final 200mph straight leads you to arguably the most important corner on the track, the Parabolica. A good run through here is essential for a good lap and to maintain your position. Those who are brave can attempt an overtake, but like the Lesmos, there’s little point in doing so due to the DRS on the next straight. The Parabolica is a horseshoe 180-degree right-hander that’s slightly banked, harking back to the old circuit F1 starts used to race on in the 50’s.
Brake at around 60-70m on entry and be sure to hug the white line on the outside of the entry, be as close to the grass as you dare for a good angle. Brake in a straight line and swing as much lock on as you dare going round the bend, avoid the kerb on the inside at all costs, it’ll unsettle the car. The kerbing on the outside has plenty of grip, so don’t be shy of putting a wheel on it on exit if you have to, but it’s best to avoid if possible.
In general, setups at Monza should always aim for maximum speed down the four 200mph+ straights with just enough downforce to survive the Lesmos and Ascari. I found a 2/4 (front/ rear) wing configuration was best, but you could aim for less if you’re brave enough. An unlocked on-throttle diff with a locked off-throttle is ideal. Tyre wear isn’t a huge issue at Monza due to the lack of high-speed corners, so you can afford to be aggressive with the toe and camber angles and the tyre pressures. Suspension should be as soft as possible to allow you to use the kerbs and get away with mistakes, firm springs are fatal around this track. Ride height should be low, around 3 or 4 with the anti-roll bars at about 9. Brake pressure should be high (around 85%) but not too high, as lock-ups are an issue if you run without ABS, bias should be in the low 50’s.
This may not be the fastest setup over one lap but it’s fantastic for races, giving you a huge advantage in the slip-stream.
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