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Italian GP: Preview - McLaren

NEWS STORY
01/09/2014

The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, known in Italian racing circles as 'La Pista Magica', is the next stop on the Formula 1 calendar. It's the fastest circuit in F1, and the passionate Italian fans give the race a unique atmosphere in which to see out the European leg of the 2014 season.

Monza has staged more world championship grands prix than any other circuit in the world. This year's race will be the 64th Italian Grand Prix to be staged at the track; only once, in 1980, has this iconic venue not been on the F1 calendar.

There have been various iterations of the track since it was built in 1922, including the infamous banked oval, which was used for the 'Race of Two Worlds' events in 1957 and '58, as well as for four world championship grands prix, using a combination of banking and the road course, in 1955, '56, '60 and '61. The last true 'slipstreaming' grand prix took place in 1971, when the circuit was last run for a grand prix without chicanes, which were introduced ahead of the '72 event. Today's 3.600-mile layout has remained unchanged since 2000.

The average speed is still in excess of 150mph, requiring teams to refine their low-downforce aerodynamic packages for the race weekend. However, it's important to retain stability under braking because there are seven significant braking areas around the lap, and on two occasions the cars decelerate from 200mph to 50mph in just two seconds.

There are two DRS zones around the lap; the first is on the start-finish straight and the second on the approach to Turn Eight, the Ascari chicane. However, history relates that overtaking might still be difficult because pole position is statistically more important here than at Monaco. This race has been won from pole position 11 times in the last 14 years, whereas Monaco has been won from pole on only nine occasions during the same period.

With so much emphasis on braking and traction, Pirelli are taking their two hardest tyre compounds - Medium (Option) and Hard (Prime) - to this race. When combined with the relatively long pitlane time, the durability of these tyres encourages drivers to make only one pitstop in the race.

McLaren has an enviable record t the Italian Grand Prix. The team has won the race on 10 occasions, most recently in 2012. Jenson Button has finished on the podium four times, while Kevin Magnussen is tackling the track for the first time in his F1 career.

The stats you need

Race distance: 53 laps (306.720km/190.596 miles)
Circuit length: 5.793km/3.600 miles

First championship race: 1950
What makes it special: The fastest racetrack on the calendar, staged in a beautiful parkland setting
Wins from pole position: 21
Track abrasiveness: Medium. The emphasis on braking and traction makes it hard on the rear tyres
Tyre choice: Medium (Option)/Hard (Prime), a combination last used at Silverstone
2013 winning strategy: One stop
Fuel consumption: High - 69 per cent of the lap is spent at full throttle. The longest uninterrupted spell of full throttle is 16s
Brakewear: High. There are seven braking events around the lap and on two occasions the cars decelerate from 200mph to less than 50mph in two seconds
Weather: Usually warm and sunny
DRS zones: Two - one on the start-finish straight and the other on the approach to Turn Eight
Turbo effect: High, due to lots of hard accelerations from low-speed
Safety Car likelihood: Low. Statistically, there's only a 45 per cent chance of seeing a Safety Car in this race
Grid advantage: The left side of the grid is the racing line, so it holds a slight advantage
Pitlane time: 23s, making it one of the longest of the season

Jenson Button: "I think every racing driver looks forward to Monza. It's one of the greatest circuits in the world, with a unique layout and an atmosphere and vibe that make it probably the most special place we visit each year. I'll never grow tired of going there.

"Driving out of the pits at Monza is always cool. You've been so used to the higher downforce levels that we run at most other circuits, that it just feels crazy when the speeds keeps rising and rising - it never seems to end. And, with ERS and DRS, I think we could have a very special Monza race.

"It's such a fast circuit that it really requires a different driving approach to any other circuit on the calendar. You're running such low levels of downforce that braking and accelerating are made much trickier - under heavy braking, the car is constantly trying to break away from you; equally, when you're trying to get the throttle down, the car is unsettled, so the rear is squirming around. It's a unique challenge."

Kevin Magnussen: "I last raced at Monza in the World Series by Renault 3.5 back in April last year. I was runner-up in both events, and took a pole too. I'm looking forward to getting back there: it's such a great racetrack, and it's a grand prix I've watched since I was very young - it's a place where I've always wanted to race a Formula 1 car.

"With this year's hybrid cars, I think Monza will be spectacular, too. We're expecting to see top-speeds in the region of about 345km/h (214mph) - and that's without a tow - which ought to be the fastest speeds we'll have seen so far this season. That will be great for the fans.

"I think we showed at Spa-Francorchamps that our low-downforce package has kept us in the mix, and I'd like to come away from the Italian weekend with some good points for the team. I certainly think we're making progress, and it would be good to pull it all together over the course of a single weekend."

Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "Any weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is a special one, and the Italian Grand Prix is always a unique, flat-out and exciting event.

"Arriving in Italy at the end of the European summer always feels like a turning-point in the season - it's the race at which we tend to start look towards the end of the year, and contemplate how the season will run out over the last remaining fly-aways. The last third of the season is always an incredibly tough challenge for the race team, both mentally and physically, so it's important that we maintain our focus.

"Our aim for the remainder of the season is both to consolidate our position in the constructors' championship by bringing both cars home in the points at each and every race, and also to continue to push hard to improve and refine the MP4-29. There will be no easing off on the gas in terms of development, as everything we learn this year will roll into next year's technical package.

"I feel that the spirit within the team is strong: we're continuing to push forwards, and I'm optimistic that we'll see an improvement to our fortunes before the end of the year."

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