Here's all you need to know about the circuit that is champion team Ferrari's home track
After a scintillating Belgian Grand Prix a fortnight back, the Formula One circus heads to yet another classic circuit for the 2011 Italian Grand Prix this weekend. The Italian Grand Prix, which is one of the longest running races on the Formula One calendar, will be held at the historic and super fast Monza circuit.
Viroom: Ferrari's Fernando Alonso during the free practice session in
Monza yesterday. PIC/AFP
One would wonder what the 'history' is all about, so here's a bit of a statistic. The Italian Grand Prix was first held in the year 1950 and has been hosted at Monza ever since inception; which means that this weekend's race will be the 61st in Monza. The only other grand prix to share this feat is the British Grand Prix.
Adding to the history is Italy's most famous and legendary Formula One team, Ferrari, which is headquartered in Maranello. Monza is about 200kms from Maranello, which makes this Ferrari's 'home' grand prix. The Race Day atmosphere in Monza is much like watching the Indian Cricket Team play at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
Millions of fans
Ferrari fans, also called the 'tifosi', turn out in millions in support of their home team. 'Tifosi' is an Italian word to describe a group of fans, especially in sports. However, owing to Ferrari's unmatchable popularity in Italy, the term tifosi usually refers to Ferrari supporters! Over the years, the tifosi is known to show their support and loyalty towards Ferrari at the Italian Grand Prix by donning their scarlet red Ferrari t-shirts and waving enormous size Ferrari flags in the grand stands.
Away from history, Monza is also one of the fastest circuits on the F1 calendar. The circuit is known for its long straights and fast corners which result in F1 cars crossing the 320kmph mark quite easily. In fact, during the V10 engine days (early 2000s), F1 cars were capable of clocking over 370kmph in Monza.
The circuit characteristic calls for a low downforce setup on the cars and is one of the few racing venues where engine power matters more than the aerodynamic efficiency of the car. For this same reason, Monza is one of the few races this season where Ferrari and Mclaren possess a clear advantage over Red Bull Racing. (They have more powerful engines!)
'Curva di Lesmo', 'Variante Ascari' and 'Curva Parabolica' are epic corners in Formula One history and you will hear them be overused during the television broadcast. However, what is important to remember for this year's race, is that for the first time ever in the Italian Grand Prix, the FIA has announced two DRS (drag reduction system) zones for the Italian Grand Prix. This also means that one will see a lot of overtaking between these three corners on Race Day.
It is anyone's guess that we will witness a three-way battle in the race between Red Bull, Ferrari and Mclaren. Red Bull Racing have never won here in the past, so I am sure that they will go all out to claim their first victory here. However, the low downforce requirement in Monza will allow the mid-grid teams to fight with the teams at the top. So keep a close look on the Force India's, Saubers and Toro Rossos.
Ferrari have won here 19 times and Michael Schumacher has won this race five times in his entire career, making them the most successful team and driver at Monza. This season's championship contenders Hamilton, Button and Webber are yet to win at this historic circuit, whereas Fernando Alonso has won here twice. 2008 was when Sebastian Vettel scored his maiden F1 win with the Toro Rosso team. Also, Michael Schumacher announced his first retirement from the sport at the 2006 Italian Grand Prix. Do we see him repeat this feat in 2011? I think not!