Reports

Italian F1 Grand Prix

2016 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX – SET UP

Circuit stats
2015 winner Lewis Hamilton, 53 laps, 1:18:00.688s
2015 pole position Lewis Hamilton, 1m23.397s
2015 fastest lap Lewis Hamilton, 1m26.672s (lap 48)
Name Autodromo Nazionale di Monza
First race 1950
Circuit length 5.793km/3.600 miles (sixth longest of the season)
Distance to Turn One 380m/0.236 miles (longest of season: Barcelona 730m/0.454 miles)
Longest straight 1.120km/0.696 miles, on the approach to Turn One
Top speed 370km/h/230mph, on the approach to Turn One (the fastest of the season)
Pitlane length 420m/0.261 miles, estimated time loss 24s (longest of season: Silverstone, 489m/0.304 miles)
Full throttle 75 per cent (the highest of the season)
DRS zones Two, on the approaches to Turns One and Eight
Key corner Turn 11, Parabolica, a 180-degree right-hander to end the lap. The cars approach the corner at 330km/h (206mph), slow to 1180km/h before clipping an early apex and getting on the power as quickly as possible because the longest straight on the lap follows
Fastest corner 295km/h (183mph), Turn Three
Slowest corner 80km/h (50mph), Turn One
Major changes for 2016 None, except for a few changes to the kerbs
Fuel consumption 1.89 per lap, which is average
ERS demands Medium. There are four straights along which the cars exceed 320km/h (199mph), but only a few slow corners at which to harvest energy under braking
Brake wear High. There are only six braking events around the lap, but all are from high speed
Gear changes 46 per lap/2,438 per race

Circuit facts
History lesson Monza has staged more world championship grands prix than any other circuit. It was built in 1922 by the Milan branch of the Italian Automobile Club and only once, in 1980, has the track not been on the F1 calendar. It’s located inside the walls of a royal park and it remains the fastest circuit on the calendar.
What makes the track unique The long straights. The cars exceed 320km/h (199mph) on four occasions around the lap, resulting in the highest average speed of the season – 255km/h (158mph).
Grip levels Low. Straight-line speed is vital at Monza, so the cars run in their lowest downforce configuration of the season. As a result, they produce less aerodynamic grip and become more of a handful to drive, especially under braking.
Run-off Average. Until the death of Wolfgang von Trips in 1961, Monza was a flat-out oval. In an effort to slow the cars, the layout was changed to a road course in ’62, and 10 years after that, the first chicane was added to slow the cars further. The most recent change in the name of safety was the addition of asphalt run-off at the exit of Parabolica in 2015.
Watch out for… Turn Seven, the second Lesmo. This is a deceptively fast right-hander (280km/h/174mph) and it’s vital to maintain a good exit speed because it’s followed by the second longest straight on the lap, along which the second DRS zone is located.

The drivers on: the circuit

#14 Fernando Alonso

“As we saw in Azerbaijan, the developments that have been made to these turbo cars mean they’re now incredibly fast, and we’re going to see some serious speeds along the straights at Monza. This is always such a quick race – it’s over in a flash – and while it’s not always the most enjoyable to race with such low grip, the feeling of speed is phenomenal.”

#22 Jenson Button

“I love the notion of coming to a racetrack that’s distinctly different from the others. We saw that in Spa last weekend – it’s no secret that, along with places like Monaco, Singapore and Suzuka, it’s also one of the circuits that the fans most love – and Monza is no exception. People often think that Monza is all about the straights, with tight, small corners – but that’s not really true: corners like the Lesmos, the Ascari chicane and Parabolica are big, fast corners that require precision and commitment. It’s a great track.”

Event stats
Start time 14:00hrs local/13:00hrs BST
Race distance 53 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/40 laps)
Safety Car likelihood Low. There is only a 43 per cent chance of a Safety Car
When to press record The start. The track is very wide along the start-finish straight, which gives the cars plenty of room for manoeuvre on the long run to Turn One. The cars are travelling at close to 300km/h (186mph) by the braking point, which usually results in some excitement as they slow for the slowest corner on the track
Don’t put the kettle on Between laps 20 and 30. Every car in the top 10 made only one pitstop last year, stopping at around half-distance. Drivers try to do as few stops as possible at Monza because pitstops are very expensive; the pitlane is long and the cars are limited to 80km/h (50mph), while rivals pass on-track at 370km/h (230mph)
Weather conditions now 23 degrees
Race forecast 24 degrees
Tyre choices Supersoft/Soft/Medium, the same combination that was used at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix

Event facts
First Italian Grand Prix 1950
Slogan La Pista Magica
Italy’s F1 heritage The country is steeped in racing history. Monza is the third oldest permanent circuit in the world, after Brooklands in the UK and Indianapolis in the USA, and Ferrari is the sport’s oldest team. Given such a long-standing passion for racing, it’s one of the great anomalies that there has been no Italian world champion since Alberto Ascari in 1953.
Smallest winning margin 0.01s, in 1971. It was the last of the classic slipstreaming races, prior to the first chicane being installed in 1972. Peter Gethin won from Ronnie Peterson, with the top five home separated by just 0.61s.
Sporting legacy Until 2006 there were often two grands prix in Italy, one at Imola and the other at Monza. Now there’s only one race, at Monza, and it’s usually a sell-out. There’s always a fabulous atmosphere in the grandstands, as exemplified by the enormous crowd under the podium at the end of the race.
Did you know? Statistically, pole position is more important at Monza than at Monaco. The winner of the Italian Grand Prix has started from pole in 13 out of the last 17 races, compared to only 10 occasions in Monte Carlo.
Don’t forget McLaren has won the Italian Grand Prix 10 times, most recently in 2012. Fernando Alonso has won the race twice, in 2007 with McLaren, and again in 2010; Jenson Button has finished second on three occasions.
Fan zone: Claire, aged 27, from London, asks: “How much work goes into the low downforce specification used at Monza?”
McLaren’s answer: “A bit of windtunnel time goes into perfecting the aero performance of the car, but not as much as in the past. Monza is now the only true low-downforce track of the year, and you cannot single out one race more than the others. A lot of work goes into brake cooling because you want the ducts to be as small as possible for aero purposes, but big enough to keep brake temperatures under control.”

The drivers on: the event

#14 Fernando Alonso

“Obviously, I have plenty of happy memories of racing in Italy, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been the subject of both the Tifosi’s approval – and also their disapproval! But they are some of the greatest fans in the world, and their passion is what makes coming to Monza each year such a legendary experience. In many ways, Monza traditionally brings the curtain down on one part of the season, and the beginning of another – so it’s always an exciting place.”

#22 Jenson Button

“What is there left to say about Monza? It’s a unique, incredible racetrack – I love that its history surrounds the place – you just can’t ignore it. I also love that unique blend of Italian passion – and chaos – that engulfs the weekend. It also signals the end of the European season – which seems to have disappeared in a flash – so it’s a time of year when you really start to narrow your focus before the final fly-aways.”

Hear from the management

Eric Boullier

“As double-header races go, the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and Autodromo Nazionale di Monza are a pretty epic combination. Both are dauntingly fast, achingly beautiful motor racing arenas, where the sport’s giants have triumphed, and where some of the greatest stories in Formula 1 have been forged.

“After Spa, we head to Monza with the knowledge and understanding that it won’t play to the full strengths of our latest package, but keen to further demonstrate the progress we’ve recently been making. Monza is likely to be another tough test, but we’re confident of the momentum we’ve gathered, and it’ll be interesting to see where we stand at a venue that favours out-and-out power above anything else.

“Still, there’s a determination and vigour within all at McLaren-Honda to see out the European season competitively, and to continue fighting as we head into the end-of-year flyways.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

“Monza is a high-speed, power-hungry, classic and legendary track with the longest full throttle percentage per lap on the 2016 calendar. The long straights and the nature of the turns will undoubtedly give us a difficult time over the race weekend, but we cannot deny the strong pull Monza has for everyone in F1, including Honda. The fans are incredibly passionate about the sport, and the atmosphere is nothing short of electric come race day. It’s always a special feeling to be part of the pinnacle of racing in Italy.

“The team did a great job pulling our strengths together last weekend despite Spa being a challenging track, and with the reliability issues we faced. The team was tested many times, but owing to their hard work and perseverance, we had a decent weekend.

“We will continue to target finishing in the points in the race, however tough it may be this weekend. We’re still investigating the problem with Fernando's power units, but we’ll learn from our experiences and hopefully have another good weekend in Monza.” 

2016 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX – PRACTICE

"A positive day & reasonably happy"
A busy first day’s practice at the fabled Pista Magica.

At the start of FP1, Jenson conducted a short installation run using the Halo – it was the first time the team has run the head protection system, which has been under development since the start of the year. At the end of the morning session, 

Fernando’s car suffered a hydraulic leak, which took the entire lunchbreak to fix. Happily, his mechanics got the car back on the track less than half an hour into FP2. 

Both drivers ran Pirelli’s development rubber, then conducted runs on the Option, Prime and Back-Up tyres.

FERNANDO ALONSO, MP4-31-04
FP1 1m25.507s (+2.548s) 14 laps 13th
FP2 1m24.259s (+1.458s) 24 laps 7th
"It was a positive day."

“We didn’t have perfect reliability today – there are still some concerns here and there – but it wasn’t anything really significant, which is good news. Nonetheless, we need to take care of every last detail because we don’t want to lose out on scoring some points when it matters most. 

“It was a positive day. We need to go away and look at what we’ve tested today – we ran some interesting prototype parts that are being evaluated for the future – but we’re reasonably happy. 

“We didn’t expect to get both cars into the top 10 at a high-speed track like this, but we need to keep our feet on the ground as we know that we tend to slip back a little on Saturday afternoons. 

“We wouldn’t realistically expect to get into Q3 tomorrow; so, if we do, it’ll be a nice surprise.”

JENSON BUTTON, MP4-31-03
FP1 1m25.351s (+2.392s) 23 laps 11th
FP2 1m24.549s (+1.748s) 28 laps 10th
"I'm pretty happy"

“The halo trial this morning was okay – there were no major issues with it. Perhaps it could be a little more difficult to see the lights on the start-line and in the pit-stops, but there are still so many possibilities to move things around. It feels a little strange: at 200mph, instead of focusing on the next corner, you’re focusing on something dead ahead of your eyes – which can make you a little cross-eyed. 

“It could be possible to get into Q3 tomorrow: we didn’t do anything different today to what we normally do on a Friday, so it’s definitely possible. The car’s working reasonably well – I’m pretty happy. Long-run pace still needs some work if we’re to fight for points, but if we can get on top of it, we should be looking all right.”

ERIC BOULLIER
"“Both drivers enjoyed a relatively smooth day"

“It’s always a fantastic feeling to be here in Italy in late summer, and at Monza – one of the greatest and most historic racetracks in the world. 

“Both drivers enjoyed a relatively smooth day – Fernando had a small hydraulic leak right at the end of FP1, which minimally impacted on the start of his afternoon programme. Then he had a minor clutch issue once the car had been rebuilt and sent back out on the track – but both were routinely resolved. 

“It was interesting to get the opportunity to test the halo for the first time. We ran it on Jenson’s car, for a short run at the start of FP1, and, aside from a couple of minor observations, he didn’t report any drawbacks with it. As we know, it’s still in development, and McLaren will play its role in providing feedback to the FIA and the Technical Working Group as it’s refined ahead of its introduction in 2018.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA
"It was a good sign to be able to stay within the middle of the pack on this power circuit."

“Both of today’s free practice sessions were very busy, focusing on matching the balance of the car with the low downforce set-up and the power unit, and adapting to the fast circuit of Monza. 

“On the final lap of FP1, Fernando’s gears would not engage due to a hydraulic leak on a connector. We replaced this small part between the two free practice sessions, and, owing to the swift work of the mechanics, we were able to get him out for another busy running session in FP2 with only a slight delay. 

“As it is with every Friday, it is hard to determine our performance in comparison to other teams, but it was a good sign to be able to stay within the middle of the pack on this power circuit. We gathered lots of information today, so we will work hard to analyse and apply to the power unit for tomorrow’s final practice session and qualifying.”

2016 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

“We’ll make it good tomorrow”

Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Saturday September 3

Fernando Alonso will line up 12th and Jenson Button 14th for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix. 

Despite showing impressive pace throughout the practice sessions, neither driver was able to progress beyond Q2, but both gained one position owing to a gearbox grid penalty for Romain Grosjean.

FERNANDO, MP4-31-04
FP3 17th 1m24.658s (+2.658s) 12 laps
Q1 16th 1m23.783s (on Options)
Q2 13th overall* 1m23.273s (on Options) *will start 12th following a five-place grid penalty for GRO
This was probably about where we expected to qualify.

“This was probably about where we expected to qualify. We went very well in practice yesterday, so I think we were brought back to reality this afternoon. Q1 was hard for us, and we went for a single new-tyre lap in Q2 and pushed to the maximum, so we have to be happy with ourselves. 

“We always expected Monza to be hard for our package, but it’s still a bit disappointing to be fighting against a Manor.

“We’ll study the strategy overnight, but we’ve got the choice of starting tyre, so will try and take full advantage of everything tomorrow.”

JENSON BUTTON, MP4-31-03
FP3 12th 1m24.104s (+2.096s) 11 laps
Q1 14th 1m23.666s (on Options)
Q2 15th overall* 1m23.399s (on Options) * will start 14th following a five-place grid penalty for GRO
I still think we can race better than we qualified

“This was always going to be a tough weekend for us, but I thought today might have been a little bit better. It didn’t go quite as well as we might have hoped: I didn’t do a perfect lap – I drove some better laps through practice – and Fernando pulled out a little bit on me in Q2

“But we’ll make it good tomorrow. I still think we can race better than we qualified – that’s been a strength of ours for the past few races – and our starts have been good recently, so hopefully we’ll push forwards during the race.”

ERIC BOULLIER
We’re more than capable of mounting a stronger challenge in the race

“We always knew that qualifying at Formula 1’s fastest circuit would be difficult for us, but it nonetheless feels disappointing not to have been able to mount a stronger challenge to move into Q3. 

“Still, we know that we’re more than capable of mounting a stronger challenge in the race – and, with freedom of choice over our starting tyre, we’ll be looking to make progress both on track and in the pit-lane. 

“We’re hopeful of a better result tomorrow.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

"We knew coming into Monza that this would be a difficult race weekend for us, but finishing in P13 for Fernando and P15 for Jenson in qualifying is still a little disappointing. 

"Both McLaren-Honda drivers drove well today, both in FP3 and qualifying. However, the gruelling fast circuit did not help, and we were out-paced on the straights, which led to a larger than usual gap to the frontrunners. 

"As with most tracks, the long-run stability of our cars should help us to do better in the race than in qualifying, and we also have the option to choose the best tyres to start the race, so we will strategise tonight with the team to aim for points in tomorrow’s race."

2016 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX – RACE

“I couldn’t have wished for anything better”

Neither McLaren-Honda finished in the points at Monza this afternoon, despite spirited scraps from both drivers throughout the race.

Jenson’s afternoon was compromised by a messy first lap, but he recovered brilliantly, putting his head down to carve back through the field and finish on the tail of 11th-placed Romain Grosjean.

Fernando made a strong start, but was delayed by a pit-stop traffic-light issue at his first stop. He was passed by Jenson, who ran a set of Options in his third stint as opposed to Fernando’s set of Primes, then elected to make a late stop to fit a set of Options. He enlivened a somewhat uneventful afternoon by blasted away to set the fastest lap of the race.

Another notable landmark was achieved today: our timing system measured a 2.15s stop for Fernando on lap 33, our fastest-ever tyre stop.

FERNANDO ALONSO, MP4-31-04
Started 12th
Finished 14th
Fastest lap 1m25.340s Lap 51 Fastest of the race
Pit-stops Three Laps 13 (5.21s), 33 (2.15s) and 49 (2.62s) Option-Prime-Prime-Option
We finished the race on a positive note, by setting the fastest lap

“We didn’t do a perfect race today – we made some mistakes here and there, including having a problem in the first pit stop, when the green light didn’t work. We lost a little bit of time there which probably compromised the stint.

“We didn’t really have the pace to be in the points today, so finishing 11th or 14th didn’t really make much of a difference. But at least we finished the race on a positive note, by setting the fastest lap.

“We fitted new tyres for the last two laps and I just went out and maximised the grip. It doesn’t make for much difference – it’s only good for the stats – as we were basically never in the running for points today. 

“This was a circuit where we always knew we wouldn’t be competitive, but I think good times are coming our way from now on, as most of the remaining tracks on the calendar should better suit our car.”

JENSON BUTTON, MP4-31-03
Started 14th
Finished 12th
Fastest lap 1m26.354s on lap 40 +1.014s 6th
Pit-stops Two laps 15 (4.45s), and 28 (2.70s) Option-Prime-Option
Singapore will definitely suit us better than here

“There were a few mistakes on the first lap. I got a bad start, then, at the first Lesmo, one of the Saubers pushed me wide, then forced me off the circuit and into the gravel. I was last at the end of the first lap… 

“After that, I couldn’t have wished for anything better: I had a lot of fun out there and pulled off some good overtaking moves, including one around the outside of Parabolica – something that doesn’t happen very often!

“I’m very happy with my performance. To come through and finish 12th isn’t great, but it wasn’t too bad considering the first lap. There’ll always be ifs and buts: if I hadn’t gone off on the first lap, I think we could have got into the points today.

“Singapore will definitely suit us better than here – this is our toughest circuit of the year, so to be that close to the top 10 wasn’t too bad, really.”

ERIC BOULLIER
Both our cars ran flawlessly, reliable from lights to flag

“We always knew that Monza was going to be one of the toughest races of the year for us from an overall car performance point of view, so the fact that we finished 12th and 14th today isn’t a surprise.

“Having said that, both our cars ran flawlessly, reliable from lights to flag, and our race pace was reasonable throughout.

“Jenson and Fernando had a good dice at one point – hard but fair – and I’m sure their battle must have made for great viewing for TV viewers and grandstand spectators alike. It sometimes looked a little too close for complete comfort from our pit-wall, but McLaren always lets its drivers race, and rightly so. After all, our drivers are both super-experienced professionals and they know exactly what they’re doing. Equally, we may be a very serious and focused organisation, but we should never forget that we’re also in the entertainment business.

“Talking of entertainment, we were happy to allow Fernando to make an extra pit-stop and take on a new set of Supersoft tyres just before the end of the race, the result of which was that he was able to record the afternoon’s fastest lap – the 22nd of his Formula 1 career.

“Next we go to Singapore, a diametrically different kind of racetrack. We’re always aware of the danger of over-promising, so I won’t do so; but it’s likely that the twisty streets of Marina Bay will suit our car rather better than the wide-open curves and flat-out straights of the Autodromo di Monza have this afternoon.

“We’ll be gunning for points, make no mistake about that.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA
I think we had a good race at a tough circuit

“As we expected, this was a difficult race.

“We definitely saw improvement and stability in race pace from our qualifying, although we still weren’t able to challenge the teams ahead of us.

“It was unfortunate that we couldn’t finish in the points today, but we showed potential to do so. Both the drivers and the team did a great job, and I think we had a good race at a tough circuit, so I’m not unhappy.

“We’re already looking forward to the next race where we hope we can have a better result.”