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Your introduction to Monza and the 2015 Italian Grand Prix

Dev Tyagi
667   //    03 Sep 2015, 16:29 IST
Cars approach Parabolica at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza

Monza, the home of the Italian Grand Prix, is going to host its 64th race since its inception in 1950. It remains a keenly followed sporting event and among the most interesting races in F1's calendar year. What will this second last outing at Monza bring to fans and to its contestants? Will the home team bounce back or will race leaders Mercedes continue to show this dominant performance here at the home of the Italian GP. We take a look back at the track's checkered history and its interesting features.

The Lombardy region of Italy is one of the most extensive and most fascinating in the whole of the country. Replete with natural resources, Monza offers a touristic paradise to millions of visitors who come each year to soak in some sun and bask under the glorious bounty of nature of the district, which houses as many as 10 million people.

Nestled amidst rivers, green valleys and uplifting bountiful view of the mesmerizing Italian countryside is a city known as Monza, located right at the banks of the river Lambro.

If you are a local then you don't need to be told about the most fascinating aspect of this beautiful city apart from its serene Garden Park, the plethora of museums that house some fascinating works of art dating back to the 19th century and off course, the gorgeous Monza cathedral.

But if you are a motorsport fan and someone who remains in awe of the thrilling racing contests held at circuits that perhaps enable cars to touch the 360 K/hr speed charts, then you will definitely be aware about the iconic racing track called Monza.

Welcome to Monza, the home of the Italian Grand Prix

We are now at the cusp of the 12th round of the Formula One World Championship 2015 season here at the track, known by its full name, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. Undoubtedly the fastest race track out there and one that exhibits a potent combination of fast speed and low downforce, this is surely going to be one of the most exciting races to witness in the year.

The season is at a very interesting stage with the competition between constructors’ championships frontrunners Mercedes and the intensely competitive Ferrari. This is helping on its way to pump up the adrenaline through the race weekend.

No one doubts the prowess and technical proficiency of Mercedes, and this has again helped them peak right from the start of the season. They have come to dominate race after race save for Hungary, Bahrain and Malaysia where Ferrari and Red Bull's late fight back left the competition leaders wanting. The race track, a magnificent ensemble of high speed corners, tight chicanes and challenging hairpins tests not just the most capable race drivers out there but presents Formula One fans with interesting and edge of the seat entertainment all through the race weekend.

The superbly designed and incredibly clever race track has a great share in the history of the motorsport.


One of the most historic racing circuits of F1

The first race here was held a few years after the furore of the First World War, among the most volatile events that shaped the course of Europe's history forever. Although the first race was held here at Autodromo Nazionale Monza in a keenly contested event way back in 1921, it wasn't before 1950 that the circuit truly came to life being the part of Formula One's inaugural year.

One has to admit that amidst all the spectacular fanfare and the imposing competition that this 53 lap contest tasks the race drivers with, one can visibly see an extra effort yielded by drivers at the Italian Grand Prix in a bid to win the massively interesting contest.

The Monza race circuit has been in consistent operation offering a delightful yet highly competitive racing challenge year after year to the ten teams that contest a bid to claim the Formula One World Championship.

A decorated history

F1 legends Giuseppe Nino Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio at Monza

The circuit was first put to consistent use from the period of 1950 to 1979 – a massive 29-year period. Monza sprung back into action and continued to offer an exciting challenge to drivers to claim victory here after a two year break. Right from 1981 onward to the present race day that arrives this Sunday, September 5, Monza will be holding its 34th successive race here in the heart of Italy, thus taking the tally of overall races contested to a staggering 64.

With 6 decades of rich history and extensively competitive battles that demand nothing but pure thrill, long bouts of concentration and immense technical handling from drivers, you win here at Monza and you  place your name alongside one of the most historic race tracks in the whole of Formula One.

Circuits definitely hold unique challenges and here at Monza, possibly the last racing circuit in the F1 calendar year that imposes the stiff high speed- low down-fore challenge, it is not just the driver's stamina but their cars durability and effectiveness that comes to be tested in a thrilling ride that covers a distance of 306.720 kilometers.

Last year's heartbreak for Rosberg

Nico Rosberg narrowly missed out on victory last year, finishing in 2nd behind his teammate

Monza has always been at the centre of some of the most thrilling race contests over the years of its checkered history, where it has seen the likes of established race drivers come and hunt what they call a really sublime racing contest. This year is not going to be any different, one can concede. In what may sadly be the second last race to be held at this historical racing track, with the FIA subsequently announcing that it may not hold a race post 2016 F1 season, we may be witnessing an intense battle yet again.

Last year, highly charged up Nico Rosberg was leading Mercedes' assault over his team-mate Hamilton who despite having started from pole lost mid way in a contest that was certainly going the German's way until Hamilton piled on the customary pressure toward the end and succeeded in driving his Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid to finish as race leader and on top of the podium. In the process, the victory was a sore spot for Rosberg, who finished the race after suffering with completely worn-out tyres.

It wasn't the first time that double world champion Hamilton tasted glory at the Italian Grand Prix. He has won the ultimate test of nerves here back in an imposing 2012 Formula One race, one that saw the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull being spectacularly outpaced by Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes.

Coming home second that year at Monza was Perez, followed in closely by Alonso at third.

Pirelli, the official tyre supplier to F1, have gone on to confirm better results and significant improvement in the tyre compounds going into the Italian Grand Prix, following Sebastian Vettel's heartbreaking tyre burst during the final stages of the Spa Francorchamps challenge, which was the last F1 race before the contingent arrived here at Monza. 

It remains to be seen what will become of the Hamilton vs Rosberg saga at this crucial 53-lap challenge.

What to expect at Monza              

Rubens Barichello(R) and Michael Schumacher, who both found success, finishing 1st and 2nd at Monza in 2004

In one word, raw pace. That is what one can expect from the likes of established and highly accomplished racing drivers here at Monza. The fastest lap set here during the 53 lap contest at the Italian Grand Prix was Hamilton's 1:28.004, which he set on lap 29.

But if you wind the clocks back a bit and run into the record books of the fabulous 2004 season where Ferrari dominated at Monza, the fastest lap was set by the home team's Rubens Barrichello who set an unprecedented 1:21: 046 lap record during the 2004 Italian Grand Prix. While the record seems invincible given the current Formula One racing cars run on significantly slower yet power packed hybrid engines, the top record bagged by Rubens was during the era of the V6 engines, a stark reminder of F1's bygone era.

Out of the present list of drivers, most visibly Max Verstappen from Toro Rosso, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Infinity Red Bull's Danil Kvyat will be targeting to out-pace one another in what will be Verstappen's first competitive F1 race here at Monza. Though Kvyat has driven here before as has Hulkenberg, their main adversary who hitherto has only test driven a Formula 3 car will be raring to go.

Last year, it was Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo's highly accomplished drive that enabled his car to touch the top speed of 360.2 kms, a threatening speed that may yet be repeated if Red Bull or the likes of Williams Mercedes manage to get a grip on their race performance.

How the present greats stack up at Monza

A young Sebastian Vettel won the 2008 GP ahead of Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica

Among the more established and top notch drivers, we have the likes of Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, all of whom have run at least 8 to 10 races at the historical venue. Among these sterling names, only Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg have never won here at Monza. Raikkonen, despite a flurry of impressive podium finishes during 2006 (2nd), 2007 (3rd) and 2009 (3d) has yet to conquer the Italian Grand Prix.

If his present motivation and form are an indication, he may just manage to find himself on the podium in a bid to reward Maurizio Arrivabene's faith in signing the top driver for 2016 season, which may well be the Iceman's last season at F1. Vettel on the other hand, who will be driving for the first time at Monza as part of the home team would be eager to use his past experience to triumph over Mercedes rivals Hamilton and Rosberg giving them a run for their money.

His brilliance at Monza is unquestionable as it was here at Monza that he became the youngest ever driver to put his Toro Rosso on pole in 2008. He will be reminded of his glory days here at a circuit the German relishes and one where he won on 3 occasions – 2008, 2011 and 2013. The last two dominant wins came at the cost of holding Ferrari's Alonso's significantly under-powered Ferrari in his Red Bull triumphs of 2011 and 2013.

Hamilton will be the most confident driver here and having won last year, he will be hoping to show a repeat of his impressive 2014 victory over rival and teammate Rosberg. It is a pity that Alonso, who seems to be driving the least efficient and highly uncompetitive Honda-powered McLaren, may not be able to do something special on Sunday, despite having tasted victory in 2007 and 2010, the latter being an outstanding victory that consolidated him as Ferrari's top draw in his debut season back in those glory days.  

This is a race track that the Formula One fraternity cannot afford to lose, especially in the important construct of it being a magnificent contributor to F1's rewarding and memorable journey. Being the home to its most avidly followed team also helps a great deal.

Who knows what will happen on race day. On Sunday corner 11, the Parabolica, , will be offering no easy car maneuver from these top drivers, who will be as eager to conquer the trickiest corner in the circuit as driven in their prowess to emerge on top of the Veriante della Roggia, where the straights and chicanes will certainly produce an awe inspiring battle to the very end of the circuit past the chequered flag.