Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monza: Formula One Soul

The historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza is nestled in the Parco di Monza just outside of Monza, Italy. It is a true relic of race tracks with the memories of an old sage. The site has three tracks, 3.6 mile Grand Prix circuit, the 1.5 mile Junior track and a decaying and defunct 2.6 mile high speed oval with steep bankings.

Built in 1922, Monza was only the 3rd permanent race track in the world at the time with the others being the famed Brooklands (no longer in racing use) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track has been renovated and re-profiled several times in its history but the basic layout of the Grand Prix circuit is essentially the same.

It has been home to many memorable F1 moments, both tragic and joy-filled. In 1961, Wolfgang von Trips died as well as 13 others after cartwheeling into the crowd after clashing with Jim Clark. In 1976, Niki Lauda returned to racing just a few weeks after his near fatal accident that left him disfigured by burns at the glorious but notorious Nurburgring. In 1988, a few weeks after Enzo Ferrari's death, Ferrari pulled off a magical 1-2 finish after McLaren's Ayrton Senna misjudged a pass on a back marker with only a few laps to go and ended up in the sand trap. It was McLaren's only loss of the 1988 season. In 2006, Monza was the place that it was announced that 7 times F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher was retiring, after another virtuoso win. His eventual heir-apparent, Kimi Raikkonen stood next to Schumacher on podium.

Monza has a simple layout but it is a difficult and very fast circuit. It puts a premium on engine performance and aerodynamic efficiency. Drivers are on the throttle 75% of the time but this is countered by some slow chicanes which will give engines and brakes a workout, so reliability is also a must. Coming to Monza is always a highlight, especially when the you see the sea of Tifosi, a common reference to the scores of Ferrari fans with their customary red attire and prancing horse flags. Teams recently completed a test, so data for teams should be very reliable and effective. (http://formulaoneamerica.blogspot.com/2008/08/formula-one-testing-monza-summary.html)

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