The Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix gets underway in Monza tomorrow and for many the oldest track in motor sports is the highlight of the F1 calendar. Swide chooses five reasons why the Autodromo Nazionale Monza is so special.
The AUtodromo Nazionale Monza is the oldest in use motor sports venue in the world and the tarmac of this great track is thick with the tire marks of sporting history.
The Villa Reale in Monza Park
The Royal Villa of Monza was built between 1777 and 1777 when Lombardo was part of the Austrian Empire for Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. The park is the fourth largest enclosed park in Europe with one third of it covered with woodland and the rest lawn. The Autodromo Nazionale
Monza race track is positioned inside the park providing a certain plush formality amongst the scene of sweeping landscaped period gardens and manicured woodland. The timing of the race in September when the summer heat has passed and the autumn is creeping in, the leaves on the trees starting to turn makes it one of the most beautiful of all F1 tracks. Many F1 fanatics choose to camp onsite in the park but the well-heeled choose any number of aristocratic villas for rent in Monza itself.
Juan Manuel Fangio wins the 1955 Italian Grand Prix
The track at Monza is a functioning monument to the history of Formula 1 and motor sports. Built in 1922 by 3,500 workers it has been an ever-present date on the motor sports calendar apart from the war years when racing was suspended. It would be impossible to recount the many historical Formula One moments that occurred on the tarmac of this track but Giuseppe Farina winning the first world championship for Alfa Romeo in 1950, Juan Manuel Fangio claiming Maserati’s first world championship win in 1953, Mario Andretti’s great come back for
Ferrari in 1982, Schumacher announcing his retirement in 2006 and Sebastian Vettel announcing his arrival with a first stunning victory in 2008 are just a few standout moments.
The first corner at Monza
The only predictable thing about the race at Monza is its unpredictability. The track provides long straights were drivers are at full throttle for 80% of the race. There only two proper corners on the track the two Lesmos and the Curva Grande so the cars are configured to go flat out on the straights and almost always ending in the tightest of photo finishes. The tight chicanes put a premium on braking stability and good traction. The Variante del Rettifilois entered typically at 340 kph and is the scene of many first lap accidents. It is important to accelerate out of the first chicane very quickly as it is probably the best over-taking opportunity on the track with a ‘slow corner, long straight, slow-corner’. The Curva di Lesmo (one and two) are not as fast as they used to be still should not be underestimated. The highlight of the track set-up is the famous Parabolica, which must be taken on, the right line on the tight and early apex or you risk going wide on the long exit and unable to accelerate down into del Rettifilo.
The Italian Grand Prix has recently been labelled a jinx to the winning driver. For 7 straight seasons no driver succeeded in winning the Italian Grand Prix and the championship in the same year. Over the past two decades only Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have won the race and the title in the same year.
The Tifosi, an army of obsessive Ferrari fans
Rome has coveted the premier motor sports event in Italy for some time but Bernie Ecclestone knows better than to meddle with the sacred Autodromo Nazionale Monza. It is the spiritual home of Italian motor sports and for the Italian obsessive Ferrari supporters it is a hallowed place for the purists that will always be part of Formula
One. When I think of Monza, I immediately see everything through a red veil. It is the beating racing heart of Italy, everything there lives and breathes Ferrari, and I must inevitably think of the good times I spent there," seven time world champion Michael Schumacher.
Alberto Ascari pictured in 1913
Monza has been the scene of many fatalities particularly in the early years claiming the lives of 25 drivers and 35 spectators. In 1928 Emilio Materassi crashed his Talbot into the Grandstand during the Italian Grand Prix killing himself and 27 spectators. In 1955 Alberto Ascari, one of only two Italian Formula 1 World Champions in the history of the sport and the only one to win both in a Ferrari was killed only four days after his car left the circuit and ended up in the harbour at Monte Carlo. 1924 was the year Count Louis Zbarowski crashed his Bugatti into a tree on the Curva Grande and was killed. James Bond author Ian Fleming wrote the book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang based on the romance of the Count’s exploits and the book was later turned into stage and film musical of the same name.
Even in the current safety obsessed age after the death of Senna, many drivers still claim that Monza is the fstest and probably the most dangerous of all Formula 1 tracks.For all the great legends of the sport of Formula One that have lost their lives here, Monza is a living monument to their bravery and daring and a sacred pilgrimage made by Formula One fans.
By Hugo McCafferty