Both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen had impressive races last time out at Spa-Francorchamps, and both McLaren drivers are hoping for another positive weekend at the Italian Grand Prix at the legendary Monza circuit.
Button has never won at Monza, and has a best finish of second, which he has achieved on three occasions (2009 for Brawn GP, 2010 and 2011 for McLaren). He openly admits to loving returning every year to the Italian track, and feels with the additional straight-line speeds the 2014 cars are showing this year, it could be a special race.
“I think every racing driver looks forward to Monza,” insists Button. “It’s one of the greatest circuits in the world, with a unique layout and an atmosphere and vibe that make it probably the most special place we visit each year. I’ll never grow tired of going there.
“Driving out of the pits at Monza is always cool. You’ve been so used to the higher downforce levels that we run at most other circuits, that it just feels crazy when the speeds keeps rising and rising – it never seems to end. And, with ERS and DRS, I think we could have a very special Monza race.
“It’s such a fast circuit that it really requires a different driving approach to any other circuit on the calendar. You’re running such low levels of downforce that braking and accelerating are made much trickier – under heavy braking, the car is constantly trying to break away from you; equally, when you’re trying to get the throttle down, the car is unsettled, so the rear is squirming around. It’s a unique challenge.”
Team-mate Magnussen has fond memories of racing in junior categories at Monza, including during his championship winning season in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series last year when he finished second in both races, and the Dane admits to always wanting to race an F1 car around the legendary track.
“I last raced at Monza in the World Series by Renault 3.5 back in April last year,” said Magnussen. “I was runner-up in both events, and took a pole too. I’m looking forward to getting back there: it’s such a great racetrack, and it’s a grand prix I’ve watched since I was very young – it’s a place where I’ve always wanted to race a Formula 1 car.
“With this year’s hybrid cars, I think Monza will be spectacular, too. We’re expecting to see top-speeds in the region of about 345km/h (214mph) – and that’s without a tow – which ought to be the fastest speeds we’ll have seen so far this season. That will be great for the fans.
“I think we showed at Spa-Francorchamps that our low-downforce package has kept us in the mix, and I’d like to come away from the Italian weekend with some good points for the team. I certainly think we’re making progress, and it would be good to pull it all together over the course of a single weekend.”
Racing Director Eric Boullier insists the team are still focused on developing this years car, despite Honda coming on board in 2015 to replace Mercedes as their engine supplier. He remains optimistic something good can come with the MP4-29, and hopes to at least consolidate their current championship positions in the remaining races.
“Any weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is a special one, and the Italian Grand Prix is always a unique, flat-out and exciting event,” said Boullier. “Arriving in Italy at the end of the European summer always feels like a turning-point in the season – it’s the race at which we tend to start look towards the end of the year, and contemplate how the season will run out over the last remaining fly-aways.
“The last third of the season is always an incredibly tough challenge for the race team, both mentally and physically, so it’s important that we maintain our focus. Our aim for the remainder of the season is both to consolidate our position in the constructors’ championship by bringing both cars home in the points at each and every race, and also to continue to push hard to improve and refine the MP4-29.
“There will be no easing off on the gas in terms of development, as everything we learn this year will roll into next year’s technical package. I feel that the spirit within the team is strong: we’re continuing to push forwards, and I’m optimistic that we’ll see an improvement to our fortunes before the end of the year.”