Monza presents a unique challenge for an F1 car. It's known as the 'Temple of Speed' for the simple reason that it's by far the quickest track of the year. It's so extreme that all teams have to develop bespoke aero packages to make their cars slippery enough to be competitive over the 3.6 mile lap. The old Hockenheim used to present a similar challenge, but today Monza stands alone as the only track on the calendar where the cars race flat out at speeds approaching 215 mph.
To get an idea of just how quick the lap is, it's worth noting that the main straight at Monza is over 0.8 miles long - that's the distance over which the cars are at full throttle after exiting the Parabolica. The straight between the second Lesmo and Ascari also sees the drivers flat out for 911 metres. So it's little wonder that 73% of the lap is spent at full throttle - more than at any other circuit - with an average speed approaching 155 mph.
The downforce stats make for equally impressive reading: a Monza-spec Renault R30 has 25% less downforce than was used at Monaco. That allows a top speed of 212 mph at Monza versus just 180 mph at Monaco. But good straight-line speed comes at the expense of aerodynamic grip and it's something the drivers will need to adjust to. The first few laps during free practice will feel particularly strange, even for experienced drivers, and they will all being crying out for more downforce.
In terms of the bespoke low downforce package for Monza, the teams focus their attention on the front and rear wings. But it's a costly exercise because these wings only get one outing a year.
"We know we have to do it every year," says Renault Technical Director, James Allison. "And because wings take a long time to make, we take a first look at the low downforce package in the wind tunnel as early as May. Two or three wind tunnel sessions of a few days each see the final package specified in July. This year we also have the f-duct as a potential alternative for Monza and we're still evaluating whether we can make the device work for Monza."
On paper, Monza looks like it should be a track where overtaking is relatively easy. After all, long straights usually encourage slipstreaming and hence overtaking, and there is no shortage of straights at Monza. The reality, though, is quite different, as The French team's Chief Race Engineer Alan Permane explains: "The trouble is that most of the corners leading onto the straights are high-speed corners where it's difficult to follow another car closely. For example, take the final corner, the Parabolica: it's a long 180 degree corner where the cars experience lateral acceleration for 441 metres and an apex speed in excess of 125 mph."
Monza also has a reputation for being especially demanding on brakes with 11% of the lap spent braking. In fact, the braking demands are the toughest of the year, on a par with Montreal. That's because there are so many big stops, which put enormous energy through the brake system.
The first chicane is the most severe of all with the cars approaching at 215 mph and shedding 150 mph in as many metres. And this year with the cars running on full tanks of fuel, there will be 10% more energy going through the brake system compared to last year. So don't be surprised to see all the cars running the largest brake ducts they have available to try and keep the disc temperatures at manageable levels.
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