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Italian GP: Preview - McLaren


The Autodromo Nazionale Monza is one of the most iconic racetracks on the Formula 1 calendar. It was built in 1922 and has staged more world championship grands prix than any other circuit in the world. Only once, in 1980, has the circuit not been on the F1 calendar.

Up until the early '60s, racing took place on a fearsome six-mile oval. But the death of Wolfgang von Trips and 15 spectators in the 1961 Italian Grand Prix resulted in future races taking place on a shorter road course, with the last true ‘slipstreaming' battle taking place in 1971, after which chicanes were installed to slow the cars.

The track is still the fastest in Formula 1, with today's cars exceeding 200mph (322km/h) on four occasions around the lap. The average speed is in excess of 150mph (241km/h), so the teams use one-off low-downforce aerodynamic packages to maximise straight-line speed. However, braking stability is important: there are a total of six braking events around the lap and on two occasions the cars slow from 200mph (322km/h) to 50mph (80km/h) in just two seconds.

There are two DRS zones; the first is on the start-finish straight and the second on the approach to Turn Eight, the Ascari chicane. But overtaking remains difficult because the impact of DRS is less at Monza than at other racetracks, due to the small rear wings being used by the cars. In fact, statistically, pole position is more important at Monza than it is at Monaco.

Pirelli is taking softer tyres to the race than was the case last year. The Soft (Option) and Medium (Prime) compounds will be used next weekend, as opposed to Medium and Hard in 2014, and this could result in more varied strategies than the traditional one-stop races that have prevailed in recent years.

McLaren has an enviable record at Monza. The team has won the race on 10 occasions, most recently in 2012, and both of our current drivers have good records at the track. Fernando Alonso has won twice before, while Jenson Button has finished on the podium on four occasions.

It's all about the race

Start time: 1400 (local) / 1300 (BST)
Race distance: 53 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75 per cent distance/40 laps)
2014 winner: Lewis Hamilton 53 laps in 1h 19m:10.236
2014 pole position: Lewis Hamilton 1:24.109 247.950km/h (154.068mph)
2014 fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton 1:28.004 236.976km/h (147.250mph)
Safety Car likelihood: Low. There is only a 43 per cent chance of a Safety Car
Don't put the kettle on... On laps 17 or 36, which would be a classic two-stop strategy. Last year this race was won using a one-stop strategy, but that could change this year due to Pirelli going one notch softer with its compound choices
Weather forecast: Temperatures in the mid-20s are expected, but we're now into autumn and the teams need to be prepared for big temperature swings during the day

It's all about the track

First race: 1950
Circuit length: 5.793km/3.600 miles
Run to Turn One: 380 metres/0.2 miles
Longest straight: 1.120km/0.7 miles, on the approach to Turn One
Top speed: 360km/h/224mph on the approach to Turn One
DRS zones: Two - on the approach to Turn One and, again, on the approach to Turn Eight
Key corner: Turn 11, a 180-degree right-hander called Parabolica. The corner opens up at the exit and is followed by the longest straight at the track, so the driver has to get on the power as early as possible
Pitlane length: 420 metres (0.3 miles), which is long. A pitstop takes about 25s
Major changes for 2015: None

It's all about the car

Fuel consumption: 1.8kg per lap, which is high - but not as high as Montreal
Full throttle: 74 per cent. The longest uninterrupted period of full throttle is 17s
Brake wear: High. There are only six braking events around the lap, but all of them are from high speeds
Gear changes: 46 per lap/2,438 per race

Only once since 1950 has Monza not staged a World Championship grand prix. That was in 1980, when the Italian Grand Prix was held at Imola.

Jonathan Neale, chief operating officer and acting CEO: "Monza is a demanding racetrack for several reasons. It's hard on the brakes, it's hard on the power units and it's hard on the drivers, due to the high top speeds.

Fernando Alonso: "Monza is completely unique - a fantastic circuit, so much history, great fans, and huge fun to drive. It's always special to go there year after year to experience the atmosphere, and the way the car feels when you drive on that track is completely different to any other.

"I have won at Monza twice in my career - once with McLaren in 2007 - and both times were incredibly special. For this race we have to manage our own expectations, as we know it won't suit our car.

"It will be tough, but we'll still push hard as usual, learn as much as we can about our package, and work on our low-downforce configuration to try and get as much as we can out of the weekend."

Jenson Button: "Monza is such a great place, definitely one of the most incredible races on the calendar for a driver, and always such a thrill to race on. It's completely unique in terms of the setup it demands, and I love the feeling you get when you hit the sweet spot in the corners - keeping the car controlled under heavy braking on the way in is tricky, and then on the way out it becomes very unsettled as you're trying to get the power down, so it's a great test of nerve.

"Spa was a very tough race for the team, and especially so on my side of the garage due to the deployment issues I had on the straights. We're working hard on this and we're optimistic that there won't be a repeat in Monza, as it really hindered any chance I had of keeping up with the rest of the pack. That said, Monza's high speeds will prove very challenging for us, but we'll give it our all and stay focussed as ever.

"The key for us will be getting the maximum from the car on Saturday, to give ourselves a fighting chance of a good battle on Sunday afternoon. Despite the issues, the car was well balanced in Spa and felt good to drive, particularly in qualifying, so we'll aim to make the most of that in Monza, too, before we head to the fly-aways where there'll be circuits that'll suit our car's strengths much better."

Eric Boullier, Racing director: "Firstly, on behalf of everyone at McLaren-Honda, we extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Justin Wilson at this incredibly difficult time. He was not only a much-loved member of the Formula 1 and motorsport community, but also well-known to many members of our team, and the tragic news of his passing puts all of our racing activities into sharp perspective. Rest in peace, Justin.

"As we move our thoughts to Monza, the race which marks the end of the European leg of the season, it's often a good opportunity to look further ahead to the end of the season and the final fly-away races of the year. It's certainly been a tough year for McLaren-Honda so far, but we're continuing to fight with our heads held high.

"Spa was a particularly unflattering race for our package, which disappointingly masked many signs of progress we were hoping to see after the summer break. However, we always knew Spa would be one of, if not the, most challenging grand prix of the season, and we were certainly proved right. On the other hand, we also took some positives from the weekend and we're working hard to ensure we achieve the same consistent tyre performance and improved car balance that we saw in Spa-Francorchamps.

"In terms of Monza's characteristics, it's another high-speed, low downforce track, and a unique challenge, with long straights and heavy braking. For this reason, we expect this race will be difficult for us in similar ways to Spa, but our aim is to finish the race with both cars and learn as much as we can from the weekend in anticipation of Singapore and beyond, where we're hopeful of demonstrating improved pace. In Monza, the passionate fans and incredible atmosphere that are always guaranteed there will surely provide us with a fantastic weekend of racing on this legendary circuit."

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport: "Monza is another high-speed track which unfortunately does not suit our package. The drivers are on full throttle for most of the lap due to the long straights and fast corners, and since maximum power and minimal drag are key we know we have a big challenge ahead of us this weekend.

"We know we still have a lot of work to do, but we also know we're heading in the right direction to start achieving our goals. As always, the team will continue to work tirelessly, and we will remain determined and focused on the job at hand."


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