Autodromo Nazionale Monza : Formula 1 track overview

Written by Pjacques. Posted in Formula 1

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Published on September 06, 2011 with No Comments

Monza can be described as the track that encapsulates all that is Formula 1. The track combines high speed with skill and has a heart and soul of its own. Monza is one of Ferrari’s home circuits and the crowd are some of the most passionate found in the sport. The Italians call it ‘La Pista Magica’, the magic track.

Monza from above

Building of the track began in 1922 and was completed in less than six months. Monza became the third permanent race track in the world (after Brooklands and Indianapolis). The original track was a whole 10 km long, consisting of 4.5 km of loop track, and a 5.5 km of  road track. The loop track was an oval with two long straights and two banked corners. The only part of the original track that is still used today is the start/finish straight, with the rest of the original circuit no longer in use, lying quietly in the forest. The track was officially opened 3 September 1922, the maiden race was also the second Italian Grand Prix on 10 September 1922. Due to safety considerations, the track has been revised more than 10 times. The first chicane, Variante del Rettifilo, has been revised more than 20 times over the years.

The modern track is the fastest in the Formula one circuit due to its long straights and fast corners. This is the circuit where the cars really get pushed to the limit. Engine failures occur often as cars run full throttle for 73% of the track, and gearboxes struggle due to many gear changes on each lap. Monza also has a reputation for being demanding on brakes with 11% of the lap spent braking. The first chicane is the most severe with cars slowing down by 240km/h (340km/h down to 100km/h) in only 150 m. The biggest challenge for a driver at Monza is braking at exactly the right time. At a speed of 340 km/h, braking a fraction of a second too late can have serious consequences.

Autodromo Nazionale Monza

Let me try to to explain exactly how fast a lap at Monza is. The main straight at Monza is over 1.3 km long (after exiting Curva Parabolica). On this straight the cars are at full throttle. Then there is also the straight between Curva di Lesmo and Variante Acari that also sees the drivers flat out for 911 meters. No other track has the drivers at full throttle for this much of a lap. To put the average speed of nearly 250 km/h in perspective, consider the average speed at Monaco is only 150 km/h!

The track is 5.793km long and we will have 53 laps, giving us a total race distance of 306.720km. The lap record of 1:21.046 was set up in 2004 by Rubens Barrichello .

One would expect Monza to be a track where overtaking is easy, but this is far from the truth, as Renault chief race engineer Alan Permane explains: “The trouble is that most of the corners leading onto the straights are high-speed corners where it’s difficult to follow another car closely. For example, take the final corner, the Parabolica: it’s a long 180 degree corner where the cars experience lateral acceleration for 441 metres and an apex speed in excess of 200km/h.”

Early in 2011 there were talks of a new Grand Prix in the streets of Rome, and as intriguing as it sounds, it will be a pity if we had alternate races between Rome and Monza (or even lose Monza!). This historic track helps to link the sport with its roots in a season filled with modern tracks, and I sincerely hope that it will be a part of Formula 1 for many years to come.



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