Monza Circuit - The Temple Of Speed
The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is the site of the Italian Grand Prix, 2020. Monza is commonly called The Temple of Speed because it is here where the pinnacle of motorsport - Formula 1 - achieves its top speeds. Cars will be near 350 kph (218 mph) at the end of the main straight.
Except for 1980, Monza has been home to the Italian GP since it opened in 1922. There have been nine iterations of the circuit layout, including a portion of banked circuit that the current circuit now crosses under.
The Monza circuit is old-school. It does not have the large tarmac runoff areas of newer circuits, instead it has gravel traps. This punishes drivers for getting a turn wrong, as it may not be possible for them to rescue themselves if they have an off into the gravel.
If as a race circuit Melbourne is a scalpel of precision, Monza is a sledgehammer of sheer brute force. It is a power circuit that punishes engines with long straights and sweeping turns. There are very few braking zones and cars run with as little downforce as possible. You’ll see tiny rear wings compared to other circuits, such as Singapore or Abu Dhabi, where much depends on downforce. It’s teams with powerful engines that can put the skinniest of wings on the cars that will go fastest here.
Have a look at Kimi Räikkönen’s 2018 pole lap and I’ll walk you through it.
Not long after crossing the starting line, Kimi eclipsed 200 mph only to brake with 5Gs of force at the first chicane. This chicane is where you can lose a lot of lap time so getting the braking, the entry, and the exit of it is critical. Next, a sweeping right-hander around the Curva Grande. Afterwards drivers are into a medium braking zone for the second chicane - a quick left-right. The exit here is important - get it right, and you are launched into the next turn, get it wrong and you’re into the gravel. Next up, two right-handers, Lesmo 1 and Lesmo 2. Lesmo 2 is much more tricky, and the exit kerbs punish those who run wide. Along the next straight, the drivers pass under the old banked circuit and then run through the Ascari Chicane - it’s a fast one, briefly braking and downshifting on initial entry and then back on the throttle and up through the gears all the way out. Now drivers have a pause while they’re on the long back straight. They’ll ease the car to the left side of the track, preparing for the mighty Parabolica. Down a few gears, be patient on turn-in, and then run the car wide while accelerating. Here drivers feel over 3Gs of lateral force on their neck for over 7 seconds. The finish line lies just ahead and, in qualifying, the lap is complete in just over 1 minute 20 seconds.
As an aside, if you’d like to hear older Ferrari F1 cars pelting around the Monza circuit with no spectators or commentary in a wonderfully recorded audio spectacle, I highly recommend 19Bozzy92 over on YouTube. Headphones on, volume to 11. There’s nothing quite like 18,000 RPMs of Prancing Horses on their home track. It’s 😚👌
Anyway, during qualifying you’ll see teams attempting to slipstream their cars off each other, using a lead car to punch a hole in the air for the trailing car in an attempt at gaining a few tenths of a second in qualifying.
While the power and speed of an F1 car on the Monza circuit are amazing, what makes The Temple of Speed truly come alive are the fans. Being Ferrari’s home grand prix and Italians being as boisterous and supportive of the Scuderia as they are, the grandstands are awash with an electricity you get at no other circuit.
The loyal Tifosi (Ferrari fans) with their Rosso Corsa apparel, flags, and enormous Ferrari banners make for a race experience like no other. And should a Ferrari driver end up on the top step of the podium - such as Charles LeClerc in 2019 - Monza is about the closest you can get to a religious experience at a motorsport event.
Unfortunately the Italian Grand Prix, 2020 won’t see fans at the Monza circuit, but as Ferris Bueller says, “If you have the means, I highly recommend it.” Perhaps next year, Monza. Next year.