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Italian Grand Prix Preview: A Classic Event

James BoltonContributor IISeptember 7, 2011

Monza: It's all about Ferrari
Monza: It's all about FerrariMark Thompson/Getty Images

The Italian Grand Prix is a classic event on the international motorsport calendar. The Monza circuit is legendary and has hosted the Italian Grand Prix every year since 1950, except for in 1980 when the race went to Imola. Before the Formula 1 World Championship, the circuit hosted the Italian Grand Prix from 1922.

Monza was traditionally all about slipstreaming: the art of getting a tow from the car in front in order to slingshot past. With no chicanes until 1972, the races frequently featured epic slipstreaming battles. It wasn’t enough to simply slipstream past a car and work your way up to the front. After passing a car, you would have someone behind you–and in your own slipstream.

So, there was a real strategy to consider as you sought the best moment to make the pass.

The advent of chicanes changed the nature of racing at Monza substantially. However, the circuit is still the fastest on the calendar and requires an ultra-low downforce set-up, which would be useless at any other circuit.

In the past, the teams would have a big test session at Monza in the weeks leading up to the race. This is no longer the case with the in-season testing ban. And so, the Formula 1 teams will arrive at the circuit on Friday with a limited idea of how they will fare.

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This gives added precedence to free practice, with decisions to be made on the effectiveness of the wings (do they work as the wind tunnel suggested?) and the brakes (their ducting/cooling in particular).

Ferrari fans at Monza...
Ferrari fans at Monza...Mark Thompson/Getty Images

With DRS and KERS, picking the correct gear ratios will be of the utmost importance.

The movable rear wing can be opened anywhere around the lap during qualifying, requiring a high top gear ratio, but in the race it can only be opened in the two specified DRS zones, if you are within one second of the car ahead.

Therefore, you will need a lower gear ratio for the majority of the race. It’s a fine balance, but DRS opens up the prospect of a return to the thrilling slipstreaming Grands Prix of the past.

Last year’s race can be cited as the point at which Lewis Hamilton began to falter. He crashed into Massa at the second chicane on lap one as his teammate, Jenson Button, went on to battle Fernando Alonso for the win.

At the next race in Singapore, Hamilton made contact with Mark Webber and went out of the race. Since then he’s driven some great races, but has made a mess of too many others.

After crashing out in Belgium two weeks ago he will be looking to bag a win, but the aero supremacy of Red Bull could stifle his plans. Mercedes are thought to have the best DRS and Michael Schumacher is driving very well at the moment. He’s one to watch, as is the Toro Rosso team who appear to have made a set-up breakthrough and could pick up some points this weekend, after their disastrous race in Belgium.

Perhaps more importantly, heavy rain showers are predicted for Sunday. It’s a classic event which drips with passion and occasion; the whole of Italy will be watching so make sure you do too.

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