PREVIEW: 2019 Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix – Autodromo Nazionale Monza

by Sudha Sundararaj

The fourteenth round of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will take place at the historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza race track in Italy this Sunday. The Italian Grand Prix (Gran Premio d’Italia) is the last race in Europe before the Asian-leg of the season starts with the Singapore Grand Prix.

The Italian Grand Prix along with the British Grand Prix has the distinction of being one of the longest continuously staged Grand Prix races. This is the seventieth running of the Italian Grand Prix with all but one race hosted at Monza (the race in 1980 was held at Imola). This is the fastest track on the Formula 1 calendar and hence the name “Temple of Speed”.

The original track built in the 1920s was 10-kilometers long and comprised of a road circuit and an oval track built in a densely wooded area in the city of Monza, near Milan in Italy. In 1950, the seventh and final race of the first Formula 1 World Championship was held at Monza. The redesigned 6.3-kilometer circuit was a high-speed track with long straights and fast corners.

The original oval track which formed part of the circuit had steep bankings and was the scene of many accidents and fatalities in the early years. The Formula 1 Grand Prix used different configurations of the road and oval tracks over the years.

In 1961, a collision between Wolfgang von Trips and Jim Clark resulted in the death of Von Trips and 15 spectators. After this tragedy, the oval track was abandoned for safety reasons. The old track with steep embankments still exists, albeit in a decayed state now.

After the death of the great Ayrton Senna in 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix held at the race track in Imola, the run-off areas were increased with new gravel traps at Monza. Since 2014, the gravel trap in the run-off area at Parabolica has been replaced by tarmac.

The Italian Grand Prix holds special significance for not only its history, but also as the home Grand Prix of the most storied team in Formula 1, the Scuderia Ferrari team. This year there will be additional festivities to celebrate the 90th year of Ferrari.

The passionate and vocal fans of Ferrari commonly referred to as ‘the Tifosi’ create a great atmosphere at this race. The noisy fans do not hesitate to make rival teams and drivers aware of their home support for Ferrari. The circuit has signed an agreement to keep the Italian Grand Prix at Monza till 2024 this week.

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

What happened at the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix?

Charles Leclerc scored his maiden Formula 1 Grand Prix victory at the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix. This was the first win for the Ferrari team in the 2019 season.

Leclerc was on pole position after he dominated the whole weekend. Sebastian Vettel joined him on the front row. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were on the second row. Max Verstappen and Kimi Räikkönen were on the third row. Sergio Pérez, Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean, and Daniel Ricciardo started at the front of the grid.

Leclerc made a perfect start to lead Vettel into Turn 1. Hamilton briefly overtook Vettel to take second position. But Vettel regained second-place even as Leclerc built a steady lead in front. Lando Norris made a blazing start to gain six places on the first lap and was running in a lonely fifth position for most of the race.

Behind them, Räikkönen and Verstappen came together at La Source that ended the Dutchman’s race. Räikkönen limped back to the pits but his race was compromised at that point. Vettel was constantly under pressure from Hamilton and pitted six laps earlier than the top four drivers. Leclerc, Bottas and Hamilton pitted on successive laps.

After the first pit stop, Leclerc was more than five seconds behind Vettel but caught up with his team-mate and Vettel was ordered by the Ferrari pitwall to let Leclerc pass him. Hamilton on his second stint on the medium compound tyres put Vettel under constant pressure but Vettel held him up for a few laps. Vettel had to pit for a second time and rejoined in fourth position.

In the penultimate lap, Hamilton was just 1.5 seconds behind Leclerc. But Leclerc held firm to take the first win of his career. Bottas took the final podium place ahead of Vettel. Norris after a well-crafted race had to retire with one lap to go with engine issues.

Alexander Albon started at the back of the grid and finished in a creditable fifth position in his first race for Red Bull Racing. Pérez finished in sixth position to be “best of the rest”. Daniil Kvyat, Nico Hulkenberg, Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll rounded off the top 10 positions.

What happened at the 2018 Italian Grand Prix?

Hamilton clinched a dramatic win at the 2018 Italian Grand Prix and extended his lead in the drivers’ championship over Vettel to thirty points.

Räikkönen started from pole position after a historic fastest lap ever in Formula 1 during qualification. Then team-mate Vettel joined him on the first row. Hamilton and Bottas were on the second row. Verstappen and Grosjean lined up on the third row. Carlos Sainz, Esteban Ocon, Gasly and Stroll lined up at the front of the grid.

Räikkönen made a good start with Vettel and Hamilton behind him through the first chicane. Hamilton picked up Vettel’s slipstream and pulled up alongside him through the second chicane. Vettel drifted towards Hamilton and the two cars collided. Vettel was spun around even as Hamilton streamed ahead behind Räikkönen.

After the first set of pitstops the order was Räikkönen, Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Grosjean, Ocon, Pérez, Sainz, Stroll and Vettel. Vettel made his second pitstop after he stopped on lap 1 after the clash with Hamilton.

Räikkönen in pushing hard to overtake Bottas after the pit stop damaged his rear tyres and blisters were visible. Hamilton was now within DRS-range of Räikkönen with fresher tyres and was in the perfect position to overtake and take the race win.

Behind them Verstappen and Bottas were also battling with each other in close proximity. On lap 43, Verstappen and Bottas made contact and the Finn took to the escape road. Verstappen was given a five-second penalty for the incident.

Vettel in the meantime battled his way to fifth position behind the pair after his second pitstop. Bottas got himself within DRS-range of Verstappen and the battle raged on track once again.

Verstappen was told to let Bottas by as he was losing time and Vettel was closing within five seconds of him. With the time penalty added at the end of the race it dropped Verstappen behind Vettel.

Hamilton recorded his 68th career win with his fifth win at Monza. Räikkönen finished second after a pulsating duel with Hamilton over the whole race. Bottas completed the podium places as Mercedes delivered a decisive blow to arch-rival Ferrari in front of a sea of disappointed Tifosi.

Vettel finished fourth as Verstappen dropped to fifth after the five-second time penalty was imposed. Grosjean finished sixth for his best ever finish at Monza. Ocon and Pérez finished in seventh and eighth positions respectively. Sainz and Stroll rounded off the top 10 positions.

The Circuit

The 5.793 km Monza circuit with 11 corners (7 right-hand and 4 left-hand corners) and very high-speed straights is the fastest track on the Formula 1 calendar with an average speed of over 250 km/h.

The track is essentially made of very high speed straights with chicanes to slow the drivers down. Monza demands the lowest downforce setup of all the tracks in Formula 1.

The cars are on full throttle 74% of the time and the fuel consumption is medium. The brake-wear is high with heavy loads placed on the engines. Most teams will use a new engine at Monza to gain a small speed advantage at this ‘Temple of Speed’.

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones

Sector 1 from Turn 1 to Turn 3 starts with the slow tight right-left chicane at the Variente Del Retiffilo (Turns 1 and 2) leading to the fast right-handed Curva Biassono (Turn 3, originally called Curva Grande) which leads to a fast and short straight.

Sector 2 from Turn 4 to Turn 7 starts with a tight chicane (Turns 4 and 5) leading to the two Lesmo curves. Curva di Lesmo (Turns 6 and 7) are two very high-speed right-hand corners which lead to the very long winding straight.

Sector 3 from Turn 8 to Turn 11 starts with the tight Variante Ascari left-right chicane (Turns 8, 9 and 10) leading to a long straight which leads to the iconic Parabolica (Turn 11).

On a flat track with no elevation changes there is a slight downhill gradient leading to the Parabolica. The drivers have to negotiate this tricky and fast radial right-hander which leads them to the long start-finish straight.

There are two DRS zones this year at this circuit with many overtaking opportunities at the slow chicanes that punctuate the high-speed straights

The first DRS detection point comes before the entry to Lesmo 2 (Turn 7), with the first DRS activation point situated along the straight after Turn 7. The second DRS detection point is located just before the Parabolica (Turn 11), with the second DRS activation zone on the start-finish straight.

The pole sitter has won most of the races recently at the Italian Grand Prix. But the 2018 race was an exception with Hamilton taking the win from third position.

Tyre Strategy

The white-striped hard tyres (C2), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C3) and the red-striped soft tyres (C4) nominated for this race is from the middle range of Pirelli tyres. This was the same compounds of tyres nominated for seven races in the thirteen races this season.

The drivers have chosen eight or more sets of the soft compound tyres (C4) in the thirteen sets allocated to them. Verstappen has chosen ten sets of the soft compound tyres. The newly-promoted Red Bull Racing driver Albon has chosen nine sets of the soft compound tyres. The Ferrari and Mercedes drivers have chosen eight sets of the soft compound tyres.

The race winner Hamilton and many of the top finishers executed a one pit stop strategy last year. If the rain comes as predicted for race day on this fast track a chaotic race similar to the 2019 German Grand Prix could unfold this weekend.

Credit: Pirelli Media

What should we look out for this year?

Ferrari will go into their home Grand Prix as favourites this year. The Italian team has not won at Monza since Fernando Alonso won in 2010. The Ferrari SF90 is well-suited to this power circuit and they go into this race in a buoyant mood after Leclerc registered their first win of the 2019 season in the last race.

Hamilton and Mercedes lead in both championships and will have the biggest challenge of the season at Monza. Hamilton joined Michael Schumacher on top of the Italian Grand Prix leaderboard for most wins with five wins last year.

Vettel is the only other driver on the current grid who has won at Monza with three wins. Vettel has to reassert himself as the Ferrari team leader after Leclerc’s win at Spa.

Verstappen will start the race from the back of the grid due to grid penalties imposed for taking on the new Spec 4 Honda Power Unit. Albon made a good start to his Red Bull Racing career with fifth position at the Belgian Grand Prix after he started at the back of the grid after grid penalties for his new Power Unit.

The Silver Arrows will hope to use their better tyre performance to close the gap to the faster Ferrari cars. Red Bull Racing will be on the backfoot at this power circuit.

McLaren leads the midfield teams and after a non-scoring race in Belgium will look to come back in this race. Haas F1 has struggled with the Pirelli tyres in race trim and after qualifying well in Belgium finished outside the points again.

Toro Rosso scored a double-point finish with Kvyat and the demoted Gasly at Spa. The Racing Point F1 team also did the same and will look to move up in the midfield battle.

Hamilton (268 points) is now leading team-mate Bottas (203 pts) by sixty-five points in the drivers’ championship. Verstappen (181 points) is in third position after his DNF at Spa. Vettel (169 points) and Leclerc (157 points) rounds off the top 5 positions in the drivers’ championship.

Mercedes (471 points) lead the constructors’ championship by 145 points over Ferrari (326 points). Red Bull Racing (254 points) is in third position. McLaren (82 points) leads the midfield teams in fourth position. Toro Rosso (51 points) is in fifth position in the constructors’ championship.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 6 September

09:00 GMT / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
13:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 7 September

10:00 GMT / 12:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
13:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 8 September

13:10 GMT / 15:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the Italian Grand Prix.

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