The last race of the only triple-header of this year's Formula 1 World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix, takes place at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. It's going to be a special event for several reasons. First and foremost, the grandstands should be packed out with fans, whereas last year spectator numbers were limited because of Covid-19 regulations. The circuit will also be looking its best as it celebrates its 100th anniversary. Built in 1922, the Italian venue is widely regarded as one of the classic motor racing tracks, the only truly high speed Formula 1 track, following the changes made to the Hockenheimring. In the past, there were no chicanes to break up the straights and the track has witnessed some of the closest finishes in history, with overtaking on every lap, thanks in part to the effect of slipstreaming the car in front. The current configuration alternates fast corners and long straights, with chicanes to slow down the cars, which subjects them and their drivers to heavy braking forces. The most famous corner is the Parabolica, which last year was named in honour of Michele Alboreto. It is a long, very fast hairpin that leads onto the start-finish straight where good traction and car efficiency are the key requirements. The first chicane is also challenging, given that the cars have to brake from 340 to 80 km/h in just 150 metres.
The cars run with low aerodynamic downforce, aiming for maximum speed down the straights, which is vital for a quick lap time and for overtaking, but when finalising the set-up it is important to ensure one does not lose too much traction. There are two DRS zones: on the main straight and between the second Lesmo and the variante Ascari. The race runs over 53 laps, equivalent to 306.72 kilometres.
Sunday's race will be the 93rd Italian Grand Prix, the 73rd to count towards the Formula 1 World Championship. All races have been held at Monza, apart from the 1980 edition, hosted at Imola. Over the years, Scuderia Ferrari has won 19 times, started from pole position on 21 occasions and has a total of 69 podium finishes to its name. The cars take to the track on Friday at 14 local time for the first hour of free practice, followed by the second at 17. The final free practice begins at 13 on Saturday, followed by qualifying at 16. The race gets underway on Sunday at 15.
Three questions to... Mattia Binotto
What prompted your love of motor racing and Ferrari?
MB: "It began when I was a child. The one who was really keen on cars and Ferrari in my family was my grandfather and he passed onto me that enthusiasm for the Prancing Horse and brought me closer to Formula 1. He never missed a race on TV and I watched them with him. Gradually, as I was growing up, I was drawn to the Scuderia, its people and drivers. I was a huge Gilles Villeneuve fan, because he always gave it his all, whatever the car he was given to drive. Growing up in Switzerland, Ferrari was a bit like the national team for me. Every time it won, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and I felt really proud of being Italian".
Tell us about the characteristics of the Monza track.
MB: "This circuit holds a unique place on the calendar as it is a super fast track, the only one of the season, which makes it particularly tough on engines and cars. Here, the power unit is at its maximum for four fifths of the lap and it has to work perfectly. The race flies by, with 53 laps run at a very fast pace, so there is no room for mistakes from the drivers, because usually there's no time to recover".
At last, there are no restrictions on spectator numbers. What do you think that will feel like?
MB: "Monza, which actually celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, is an iconic motorsport venue. The Italian Grand Prix is special for all Italian teams, particularly so for us and I believe it is also for Formula 1 in general. One of the reasons all the teams like coming here is the fans. The tifosi are demanding and knowledgeable. They can also be wild and, personally, I will never forget witnessing the track invasion from the pit wall after Charles won here in 2019. They give you all their love, they support you even when things aren't going your way and so they push you to do better and better. Seeing them rush to stand under the podium is a really special emotion and this weekend, we will be doing our utmost to give them the result they want".
Ferrari at the Italian GP
GP entered 72
Debut 1950 (A. Ascari and D. Serafini 2nd; P. Whitehead 7th; C. Biondetti ret.)
Wins 19 (26.39%)
Pole positions 21 (29.17%)
Fastest race laps 19 (26.39%)
Total podiums 69 (31.94%)
Italian GP: facts & figures
2. The number of times the "Corsa dei due mondi" (race of two worlds) was held at Monza. This event was run on the circuit's high speed oval, the idea being to bring together European and American motor racing, with both Formula 1 and IndyCars allowed to compete. The Americans came out on top: in 1957, Jimmy Bryan won in an Offenhauser-powered Kuzma. The following year, Jim Rathmann won in a Watson-Offenhauser.
3. The number of Ferrari cars that feature "Monza" in their name, confirming the strong links between the Maranello marque and the Autodromo Nazionale. The first was the 750 Monza of which 31 were made between 1954 and 1955 and then came the 860 Monza, of which just three were built in 1956 and finally, the Monza SP, available as a single or dual seater (SP1 and SP2), of which 499 were built in 2018.
6. Italian Grand Prix winners currently racing in Formula 1. They are Lewis Hamilton with five victories to his name (2012, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018), Sebastian Vettel on three (2008, 2011 and 2013), Fernando Alonso with two (2007 and 2010), Charles Leclerc in 2019, Pierre Gasly in 2020 and Daniel Ricciardo in 2021.
30. The number of years in which there have been two World Championship races held in Italy, more than any other country. The first time was in 1957 when, apart from the Italian Grand Prix at Monza there was also the Pescara Grand Prix, run along the city's seafront. The second nation on this particular list is Germany with 13 pairs of races in a year, in between 1984 and 2006. The third is the United States with 12, the first time dating back to 1959, the last this year with Miami and COTA.
58. The number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy. The World Heritage tag was established in 1972 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation adopted a policy to protect sites of cultural and natural heritage around the world, deemed to be of outstanding value to humanity. In 1979, the first place to be defined as such in Italy was the rock art of the Camonica Valley where there are over 140 thousand symbols and signs, known as pitoti, carved into the rocks that tell of the life of prehistoric man. Situated in Lombardy, the region in which Monza is located, one of its most famous signs is the Rosa Camuna, carved around a hundred times into the valley rocks, a reworking of which is now the symbol of the Lombardy region.
75 years ago
Midway through September 1947 Scuderia Ferrari is finalising preparations for the Circuito di Modena race due to take place on the 28th of the month. In Maranello, fine tuning continues on the 159 S. At the same time, Enzo Ferrari is already planning ahead for 1948, given that the current racing season ends in mid-October. In preparation are the 166 F2, a single-seater designed for racing's second level category and a 125 F1.