Italian GP: Preview - Aston Martin


Describe your emotions as you prepare to take the wheel of the AMR23 at Monza?
Felipe Drugovich, Test and Reserve Driver: "It's great to have the opportunity to get back behind the wheel of the AMR23 this weekend at the venue where I secured my F2 title last year. A few months after that, I made my Free Practice debut for Aston Martin at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and it was an unforgettable experience. The physical and mental demands of driving a Formula One car are on another level - the feeling is like no other - and I can't wait to experience it again at Monza.

"FP1 on Friday will be a chance for me to learn more about the AMR23; I'm curious to see how it has evolved since I drove it in pre-season testing at the beginning of the year."

What will the FP1 session at the Italian Grand Prix have in store for you?
FD: "Pirelli's Alternative Tyre Allocation is being trialled again this weekend - so Hard, Medium and Soft tyres must be used in Qualifying on Saturday - which means we have fewer sets of tyres available for practice sessions.

"It's therefore likely that I'll spend a long time on one set of tyres in FP1, but it's still a great opportunity for me to learn."

What are your objectives on Friday?
FD: "To learn as much as I can, give precise feedback to the team, and to help with the initial set up of the car before Lance gets back behind the wheel for FP2. Those are my main goals."

What are the biggest challenges of a lap around the Temple of Speed?
FD: "Monza is a very fast track. Everyone runs very low downforce to reduce the drag and be as fast as possible on the straights. Driving an F1 car in a low-downforce specification will be a new experience for me; previously it's always had a high, or quite high, downforce setting.

"I'm eager to see how an F1 car behaves with a low wing level - just sliding around a little bit more - and the key focus will be to maximise my exits out of the corners and speed down the straights.

"When I'm not behind the wheel, I'll be trackside watching Lance and Fernando and trying to learn as much as I can from them."

How will you work with Lance and Fernando over the weekend?
FD: "There's always a lot I can learn from both of them. I'll study Lance and Fernando's data to see what they're doing, how they're getting the most out of the AMR23 and compare their telemetry with my performance in FP1.

"Obviously, it will be difficult to make direct comparisons because I'm not driving at the same time as them and the track will have evolved. That's why Free Practice One is so important for me this weekend, so I can create a solid reference point and improve my own performance too."

Monza is a special circuit in that it requires a low-drag set-up. This is most evident on the rear wings of the cars where a cursory glance reveals shorter main planes and therefore smaller aerodynamic surfaces, which reduce the amount of drag - but also the amount of downforce - produced by the wings.

There is a trade-off between straight-line speed and cornering speed - a dilemma which presents itself at every circuit - and at Monza, straight-line speed is prioritised, with drivers spending more than 70 per cent of the lap at full throttle. If rain is expected, set-up might be tweaked to add a bit more downforce and drag, and give the drivers an advantage in slippery conditions.

Given the amount of time spent at full throttle, it's also imperative to ensure that the engine and related components are in top condition in a bid to maximise power and reliability.

The long run to the Rettifilo chicane gives drivers plenty of time to nail their braking point at the hardest braking zone on the circuit - made even more tricky with a low-downforce set-up. A perfect exit out of Turn Two is key to gaining an advantage through Curva Grande and onto the short straight that follows.

Then comes the high-speed Della Roggia Chicane, where it's tempting to take plenty of kerb. However, the run-off area and its gravel comes quickly and can trigger a spin, so it's important not to use too much of the exit kerb. The high-speed Lesmo corners follow: Turn Six is slightly cambered which allows drivers to carry more speed into the corner and the track is even more cambered into Turn Seven - but the run-off area is once again waiting to punish any drivers who take too much exit kerb.

The short DRS zone follows the Lesmos into Turns Eight, Nine and 10 - the Ascari Chicane. This requires precision and a hefty use of the kerbs on corner entry to position the car to take plenty of the inside kerb and outside kerb on exit of the chicane. Finally, drivers blaze into Curva Alboreto, a constant radius corner, where it's important to get on the throttle early for a rapid run down the main straight.

Insight and Speed with Cognizant

• Race interruptions: Stoppages are likely to occur and provide a prime opportunity to pit: In the last five dry Grands Prix at Monza, there has been an average of one Safety Car and one Virtual Safety Car per race. Last year, both were deployed during the Grand Prix.

• Overtaking: Although the Autodromo Nazionale Monza has many long straights, overtaking difficulty hovers around the season average. The best opportunities are into the opening chicane, although Turns Three and Four, and down the shorter DRS zone into Turn Eight.

• Strategy: The tyres are a step softer than last year - C3, C4 and C5 - and the Alternative Tyre Allocation is in place meaning that teams get three sets of Hards, four sets of Mediums, four sets of Softs, and two fewer sets of tyres overall per car for the whole weekend. Hards must be used in Q1, Mediums in Q2 and Softs in Q3.

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Published: 30/08/2023
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