Reports

Italian 2017 Grand Prix

2017 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX – SET UP

Built in 1922, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza epitomises the history and drama of the Formula 1 World Championship. Only once, in 1980, has the circuit not been included on the F1 calendar and the 5.793km/3.600-mile lap remains the fastest of them all, with an average speed approaching 259km/h/160mph. The old banking – last used in 1961 – is still clearly visible, as are many of the old grandstands. Aptly, the track is called ‘La Pista Magica’ by the fanatical Italian racing fans 

NEED TO KNOW

Race title Formula 1 Gran Premio Heineken d’Italia 2017
Circuit name Autodromo Nazionale Monza
First race 1950

TRAVEL

City Milan
Time zone CET/BST +1
Population 1.6 million
Surprising fact Monza is twinned with another motorsporting Mecca, Indianapolis in the USA. It is also the home town of former F1 driver Vittorio Brambilla
Local speciality Cassoeula, a pork dish that’s been linked to the Lombardy region of Italy for centuries. Virtually every part of the pig is used in the dish – ribs, trotters, head and skin – and it’s cooked in a casserole and mixed with savoy cabbage. It’s a pleasure that furnishes the soul as well as the palate, according to a local writer
Weather The humidity of mid-summer has usually started to subside by September, leaving fresh and warm autumnal days. Recent temperatures have been higher than the seasonal average, with the weather forecast for the race weekend predicting temperatures in the high 20s

Track

Track length 5.793km / 3.600 miles
2016 pole position Lewis Hamilton - 1:21.135s
2016 winner Nico Rosberg, 53 laps - 1:17:28.089s
2016 fastest lap Fernando Alonso - 1:25.340s (lap 51)
Lap record 1:21.046s (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)
Tyre choice Red Supersoft | Yellow Soft | White Medium
Distance to Turn One 380m / 0.236 miles
Longest straight 1.12km / 0.696 miles (on the approach to Turn One)
Top speed 370kmh / 224mph (on the approach to Turn One)
Full throttle 75 percent (highest of the season)
Brake wear High. There are only six braking events around the lap, but all are from high speed and generate high brake temperatures
Fuel consumption 1.89kg per lap, which is average
ERS demands Medium. There are four long straights, along which the cars exceed 330km/h/205mph, and only a couple of heavy braking zones in which to harvest braking energy
Gear changes 46 per lap / 2438 per race

RACE

Laps 53 laps
Start time 14:00hrs local / 13:00hrs BST
Grid advantage Monza is used for racing throughout the year, so the track is clean and there’s less of a grid advantage than at some tracks. But the racing line – and pole position – is on the outside of the track, so it’s likely to be slightly cleaner
DRS There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to Turns One and Eight
Don't put the kettle on... Mercedes were the only points-scoring team to complete last year’s race with one pitstop. Their drivers made their only visits to the pits at half distance. The stop-stop runners changed tyres, typically, on laps 16 and 33, but with this year’s harder tyre compounds, a one-stop strategy is expected to be within reach of most cars
Pitlane length/Pitstops 420m/0.261 miles (A pitstop takes 21s, but the time loss to those on-track is the biggest of the season because they are travelling at 370km/h/205mph, while those in the pitlane are either limited to 80km/h/50mph or are stationary)
Safety Car 45 per cent, which is low
Watch out for... Turn 11, the Parabolica. It’s a 180-degree right-hander that eases towards the exit and it’s crucial for the drivers to get back on the power early because the longest straight on the lap follows

THE DRIVERS

FERNANDO ALONSO

“Like Spa, Monza is one of those legendary tracks where everybody loves watching cars going racing. With the new wider, faster cars this year, it will definitely be another circuit where we’ll see a new fastest lap and some incredibly high speeds on the straights.

“It’s the fastest circuit on the calendar in terms of outright speed, and for a driver it’s an incredible feeling racing down those iconic straights punctuated by the tight chicanes and big, fast corners that require a huge amount of commitment. We’ve always said this circuit wouldn’t suit our package, and we expect a tough challenge. Although it’s power-hungry like Spa, it’s also different in many ways. Spa is a long race; the Monza circuit is short and sharp and the race always feels like it’s over very quickly. 

“The thing I love most about Monza is the fans. Even when you’re not dressed in tifosi red, the fans come out in force and they’re all super passionate about racing and motorsport. The Italian Grand Prix is a favourite for many people and it really deserves its legendary reputation as a magic circuit for race fans.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

“Monza is a really cool place. I’ve driven there in Formula Renault 3.5 and also in GP2, and I won there in both series, so I know the circuit well and have always really enjoyed racing there. The fans are great, they show a lot of passion, and you feel like you’re swept up by their enthusiasm the whole weekend. 

“Spa was definitely a tough race for us, and we’ve always identified Belgium and Italy as two difficult weekends for us. It was hard to manage our pace with the rest of the pack on the straights, and we’re preparing ourselves for the same thing at Monza, but of course we’ll push hard every day throughout the weekend to try and give ourselves the best chance of a good result. 

“As usual, the important thing is qualifying, but it’s in the race where we need to work on our pace and make sure we can maintain our position throughout Sunday afternoon. We worked really well as a team in Spa to try to we maximise our progression through qualifying and hopefully influence our prospects for the race, and I hope we’ll be able to do more of that this coming weekend.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“The Italian Grand Prix is always a ‘must-see’ for any racing fan, and Fernando, Stoffel and McLaren all have very happy memories of great victories there. There’s a huge amount of history at Monza and the venue holds an important place in the calendar: scene of legendary drivers, hugely passionate fans and incredible racing. 

“This weekend will also be the last time we’ll see the McLaren Brand Centre this year, as we conclude the final race of the European season and head east to Asia. The double-header of Spa and Monza are an incredible combination, but one which we knew we would find challenging. Spa was undoubtedly exactly that for us, and although we are certainly managing our own expectations for Monza, we also go to Italy with our usual fighting spirit, and will work together as a team to get as much as we can from the weekend. 

“It’s clear to see there’s still a lot of work to be done before we can feel confident on these kind of power-hungry circuits. However, but we look forward to hearing and witnessing the support from the passionate Italian fans, and as usual will give it our all, not only to get the best possible result, but also enjoy our final racing sojourn in Europe of 2017.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“After a challenging weekend in Belgium, we’re now heading to Italy for our final race in Europe for this season. 

"The layout is mostly long straights except for couple of chicanes and corners. It is a notoriously power-hungry circuit, with some of the highest average speeds on the calendar. With the nature of the track, we will doubtless face another tough weekend. 

“Furthermore, this race will be the 50-year anniversary of Honda’s victory in the Italian Grand Prix in 1967. It was our second victory in F1, with the RA300 winning its debut race with John Surtees behind the wheel. We’re planning a demonstration run in Monza on Sunday before the race, and I hope everybody will enjoy the Formula 1 sound of old.”

2017 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE

"A VERY POSITIVE START TO THE WEEKEND"

In a session where rain threatened for most of the morning – and eventually appeared at the end – both drivers completed their FP1 programmes with no major problems. The team used the session to execute its scheduled handling and set-up changes, and both cars ran a number of tests in preparation for the weekend ahead. Fernando also did his first run of the day in his MCL32 complete with halo fitted to the cockpit.

Fernando will take a 35-place grid penalty on Sunday for a power unit change, and, like in Spa, the team is electing to maximise our its opportunities on at this power-hungry track by implementing a tow strategy using each car’s slipstream. Stoffel and Fernando practised this in the final stages of FP1, before Fernando ended his running 20 minutes before end of the session to allow his crew enough time to change his engine ahead of FP2.

The team worked hard over lunch to switch Fernando’s engines, and he made it back out onto the track just a few minutes after the start of the second session. Both drivers covered a lot of mileage with minimal stoppages, both completing 31 laps. Fernando had a small glitch early on when he reported a loss of power, but this was quickly rectified through software management. The team once again opted to practise towing with both cars, as well as evaluate set-up configurations for the race. Stoffel ended FP2 in a strong seventh position, with Fernando just two-hundredths behind him in eighth.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-05
FP1 1:24.015s (+2.478s) 17 laps 15th
FP2 1:22.968s (+1.562s) 31 laps 8th
FP3 No Time Set - 12th

“Today has been a very positive day, with a good feeling in both sessions. We did find some performance here, which was a little bit unexpected because coming to such an unfavourable circuit for us we weren’t hoping much, but we have both cars in the top ten 10 and this is very good.

“We’ve tried some interesting things and there’s been some good learning, and hopefully tomorrow we can put more into qualifying and repeat the result, even though it will be more difficult.

“Stoffel helped me in Spa, when he had penalties, and here I’m starting last due to penalties again, so I will try to help him as much as I can by doing some towing, and hopefully put him in the best position for Sunday.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-04
FP1 1:23.465s (+1.928s) 24 laps 9th
FP2 1:22.947s (+1.541s) 31 laps 7th
FP3 No Time set - 13th

“It’s been a bit of a surprising Friday for us as a team. To be inside the top 10 with both cars has been a very positive start to the weekend, especially on a track like Monza where we know the engine deficit plays a very big role. I think it’s been a very positive Friday, but, as we can see, the lap-times are very close behind us, so we need to keep working – to keep fighting for every tenth, hundredth, thousandth we can find – because it’s easy to lose a lot of places here.

“We would be extremely happy if we can carry forward today’s performance into tomorrow, but I think we might go backwards a little bit as the others probably have a bit extra in hand with engine modes. But, we just need to benefit from others’ mistakes, really focus on our own performance, and hopefully we can carry this momentum through to tomorrow.

“The weather forecast doesn’t really worry me. So far today has been dry – I haven’t yet seen the weather forecast for the rest of the weekend – but we’ll see what happens and you never know how it will affect our running.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“Today’s been encouragingly productive for the team, as we’ve managed to complete important tests and cover our scheduled programmes for the day. The mechanics worked really hard to change Fernando’s engine between sessions, and for that I’d like to thank them for yet another day of hard work at the track, and for the speed at which they managed to complete it.

“Both sides of the garage have had a solid day’s running, and we were able to conduct some useful towing practice ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying session. On a track so notoriously fast and power-hungry as Monza, we have to utilise every tool we have in our armoury tomorrow to give ourselves the best chance on the grid for Sunday. There are other cars that will also be out of position due to penalties, so it’s all to play for.

“Unseasonal rain had been threatening all morning, but this afternoon we enjoyed more typical Italian sunshine, with higher track temperatures and dry running allowing us to gather important data ahead of Sunday’s race. We were able to shift our attention to longer running at the end of FP2 – despite a brief Virtual Safety Car period – and also complete the usual pitstop practice, so overall I’m pleased with what we’ve done today and I hope we can translate that into a positive day tomorrow.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“Despite the unstable weather conditions today, especially this morning, we were able to run through our practice programme as planned.

“We brought an updated PU to Italy this weekend, which Fernando ran in FP1. Although we will receive a penalty for the race on Sunday, it was important for us to introduce this new update as soon as possible, and to test its performance on track. I can confirm that we saw a positive result in the performance as expected.

“Fernando’s PU was switched out before FP2, and he will run the remainder of the weekend with his Belgium race PU. I would like to thank the team for their hard work to get Fernando back out on track so quickly.

“Stoffel also ran through his programme as planned and finished the day seventh quickest overall, which was a very good start to his weekend.

“Although the power-hungry nature of this track means we’ll no doubt have another tough grand prix, we’ll continue to prepare and push for Q3 in qualifying tomorrow.

2017 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

“EXCELLENT WORK FROM BOTH THE TEAM AND DRIVERS”

On a washed-out Saturday morning in Monza, FP3 became little more than an exploratory test bed for the cars ahead of qualifying. With torrential rain delaying the start of the session until 15 mins before its scheduled end, the teams and drivers could do little more than watch and wait for the water levels on-track to subside, in the hope of at least getting one lap out on track to get a handle on the conditions. 

Both drivers did just that, Fernando doing one run on Wet tyres, and Stoffel two, before the necessary install checks. Neither driver set a time. 

By qualifying, the rain had intensified significantly. While the track went green at 14:00 as scheduled, it was quickly deemed too wet and Q1 was red flagged only five minutes after it had begun. After a long delay, qualifying was finally restarted at 16:40 and all three sessions ran without any further stoppages. 

In Q1, both drivers executed perfect run plans, and as the track began drying out changed from Wets to Intermediate tyres. Both got through to Q2 without any drama – Stoffel in 10th and Fernando 12th. 

In Q2, Fernando – knowing his grid penalty meant he wouldn’t be able to make a difference to his starting position - did only one run right at the end of the session, qualifying in P13, although he’ll start last. Stoffel did two longer runs of five laps each – staying out to take advantage of any change in track conditions – and progressed through to Q3 with a fantastic final lap. 

In Q3, Stoffel once again read the conditions well, and opted to begin what would be his only run of the session on Wet tyres. Once again the plan was to stay out and take advantage of track conditions and position, and had settled into a good rhythm despite a lot of traffic as the rain increased. Unfortunately, while he was looking good for a quick lap, he lost power and was forced to box early, ending his session. He qualified 10th, but will start eighth due to penalties for Verstappen and Ricciardo.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-05
Q1 1:39.134s (12th) Wet tyre
Q2 1:38.202s (13th - Will start 30th due to 35-place penalty) Intermediate tyre

“The car was great today in wet conditions, especially compared to the dry. We were much more competitive and we made it into Q2. Obviously, we didn’t want to push too much in qualifying because there was no point – we’ll start last anyway, due to the penalty – so we just saved the tyres and used the engine in a lower power mode, but we still did a decent qualifying. We needed to keep an eye on Stoffel’s position too, as we didn’t want to be in Q3 with the wrong car! 

“We missed the opportunity to use the tow today because with wet conditions you don’t want anyone in front, as the visibility is so poor. We’ll save it for some future races. 

“I think we were potentially top five or top six today, so we hope for these conditions tomorrow. It’s apparently going to be sunny though, but we’ll see what we can do from there.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-04
Q1 1:38.767s (10th) Wet tyre
Q2 1:37.471s (9th) Intermediate tyre
Q3 1:39.157s (10th - Will start 8th due to penalties for VER and RIC) Wet tyre

“For us to be in Q3 on a circuit like Monza means it’s been a pretty good afternoon, especially as it wasn’t so easy out there and there were pretty difficult conditions. 

“I’m happy with my performance today. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to have a proper go in Q3 – we had a loss of engine power so I had to abandon my quicker lap, and we don’t know what the problem is at the moment. It’s a shame because I really think we could have pushed our way further up. We could have taken more time to find the limit and taken a few more risks, but we didn’t get that chance. 

“With penalties we’ll probably start P8, which is inside the top 10, and we’ve been running strong in the dry. I think tomorrow should be dry, so we’ll need a good start and to keep in touch with the group in front. There’s some quick cars in front and some quick cars behind, but once we’re in position hopefully we can stay there. Tomorrow is when the points are distributed, and I’m optimistic in the race we can have a good go.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“After a chaotic Saturday in Monza, and some excellent work from both the team and drivers, it was a shame we couldn’t capitalise more on a great Q3 performance from Stoffel. Despite a long delay, a lot of patience, and very difficult conditions on track, both drivers did a sterling job to keep their cars on the black stuff and in one piece in heavy rain, and it was encouraging to see us comfortably progress through to Q2. 

“In Q2, we opted to run Fernando late in the session since we knew his grid position was less critical than Stoffel’s due to his penalty. His run was solid on the Inters and he could have gone quicker still, but made sure Stoffel was able to leapfrog him for the best chance to get into Q3. He did the best job for the team under the circumstances and I’d like to thank him for his efforts. Stoffel did a great job too, clocking progressively quicker lap-times as the rain started to subside, and he maximised everything to slip through into Q3 on his final flying lap. 

“Q3 had all the hallmarks of a topsy-turvy result with the rain getting heavier, and there was definitely scope for Stoffel to pull a surprise out of the bag in the dying moments as each car navigated through the worsening conditions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, and Stoffel was cruelly robbed at a final shot at a higher grid slot, when he was forced to cut his final run short – while on a faster lap – due to a loss of power, which is still under investigation. Nevertheless, Stoffel drove fantastically and we hope he’ll be able to start from a stronger grid position tomorrow.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“It was an extremely disrupted qualifying session for the team today with a delay of more than two-and-a-half hours due to rain. 

“The weather varied all afternoon which meant it was also tricky for the drivers, as the majority of their running was done in unstable track conditions. Despite this both drivers did a great job and Stoffel put his car into Q3 for the third time this season. 

“In the end Stoffel qualified P10, but we think he could have improved and finished further up the grid had it not been for a PU issue right at the end of the session. We’re not sure at the moment what caused the problem – we need to do more investigating and then decide on our strategy for the race tomorrow. 

“Fernando’s qualifying strategy was different to Stoffel’s because he was always destined to start from the back on the grid, but he also did a great job in the conditions. 

“And of course thank you to the team for their good job with the strategy, which made all the difference. We expect tomorrow will be another challenging day for us, but as always we will come out fighting.”

2017 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX – RACE

“A FRUSTRATING AND DISAPPOINTING WAY TO END OUR ITALIAN GRAND PRIX WEEKEND”

A disappointing day for the team at Monza. Before the day had even begun, the team discovered an issue with Stoffel’s MGU-K yesterday evening. While changing this element alone within the PU is possible, it’s extremely time-consuming, and due to the parc ferme restrictions the team judged that this would not be possible in the time allotted. Therefore, the team elected to change Stoffel’s engine in its entirety, bringing in a new MGU-K, MGU-H, ICE and turbocharger to the mix, and therefore an associated 25-place grid drop for the race today. This meant Stoffel started in 18th place, just ahead of Fernando in 20th, following his 35-place engine penalty. 

At the start, both drivers made excellent progress from their grid slots and quickly made their way through the pack. For Fernando, the progress was short-lived, as he struggled with upshifts due to an issue with the gearbox sensors. He drove an aggressive race despite a car that was difficult to manage, and fought his way up to 11th place before his one and only pit-stop of the race. The gearbox issue progressively worsened and the team lost the ability to monitor it due to the sensor issues, and opted to retire his car on lap 51 as a precaution.  

Conversely, Stoffel – who also made a great start – was running strongly from the first lap, making solid progress through the pack, including a decisive move on Sainz. He ran much of his race inside the all-important points-paying top 10, reaching as high as seventh on lap 19. Cruelly he was robbed of any reward for his strong performance, as he reported a loss of power owing to a further suspected MGU-K issue within the new power unit. He retired from the race on lap 34.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-05
Started 19th
Finished DNF (50 laps - Gearbox issue) Classified 17th
Fastest lap 1:25.871s (lap 44) +2.510 (13th)
Pit stops One - lap 30 (3.17s) Prime > Option

“Our bosses were here today and, unfortunately, we could not deliver a good result. It’s very disappointing to have a double DNF. 

“I had problems with upshifting from the very early stages of the race, which at some points was costing me a lot of time – almost a second a lap. We tried to fix the issue by changing some settings, but the shifting never worked as it should have, and it hampered my race.  

“Starting from the back of the grid was never going to be easy here. We made up a few places during the race, but there was little chance we could make it into the points today. 

“Now we are looking forward to Singapore, which is a more suitable track for us.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-04
Started 18th
Finished DNF (PU issue)
Fastest lap 1:26.912s (lap 30) +3.551s (19th)
Pit stops None

“We only knew on the lap that I retired that there was any sign of a problem, as I lost power. It’s a similar issue to yesterday, and it’s a shame because we changed the engine overnight for a brand new one today. To have another problem in a race which was going very well is obviously frustrating. Hopefully it will be better in Singapore. 

“It’s pretty difficult to draw positives from a weekend like this. From my side, it had actually been a really positive weekend in terms of my driving and the performance I’ve put in – it’s been very strong. The last few races have been very strong for me, in fact. It’s just such a shame to finish with another retirement, and not have any reward for all of that. And we’ve had another issue today, but we have to move on. 

“I guess it’s possible I’ll have another grid drop in Singapore, although we don’t yet know exactly what the issue was today, despite it looking like a similar problem. We’ll have to wait and see.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“Today, as we have seen so many times this season, the talent of our drivers shone, and we held onto hope that we would be able to achieve a positive result against the odds this afternoon. Once again, we were left dejected and dissatisfied. Both drivers made excellent starts and held their own in the pack for as long as they possibly could, on a track where we knew we’d be facing a tough challenge. By the end of lap six, Stoffel and Fernando were sitting in 13th and 14th positions respectively, and began progressively pushing forwards as other cars began to pit. 

“Only a few laps into the race, Fernando began to struggle with gearbox issues, which we suspect derived from sensor problems. Although his engineers worked hard throughout the race to instruct Fernando with software management tools to try to rectify the issue, it became more and more difficult to monitor the gearbox remotely due to the sensor failures, so we had no choice but to retire the car as a precaution. Fernando had been on the back foot for most of the race, and had found it tough to maintain pace and momentum in a car that was tough to manage. Under the circumstances, he drove an excellent, very spirited race fraught with challenges, and it’s a shame we couldn’t get him to the flag. 

“For Stoffel, his day ended with heartbreak. His performance all weekend has been stellar, and this afternoon he was running in the top 10 for the duration of his race – at one point as high as seventh from 18th on the grid. It’s both frustrating and a huge shame that once again engine reliability issues have meant that he was not only forced to waste the opportunity to start the race in eighth place on the grid, but that all the hard work he would ultimately put in to make progress through the pack and aim for points would be rendered pointless. Like yesterday in Q3, he lost power with what we suspect is the same issue as in qualifying, and he had to retire the car. 

“For the whole team – who have all worked so hard to give us a fighting chance on this most challenging of tracks – it’s an utterly frustrating and disappointing way to end our Italian Grand Prix weekend and the European season.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“We had a beautiful Italian blue sky today, the exact opposite of yesterday’s cold and rainy day. Unfortunately, the on-track action didn’t improve for us and the race turned out to be extremely disappointing. 

“The day started with a PU change on Stoffel’s car as a result of the MGU-K issue in yesterday’s qualifying session. This meant Stoffel started the race from the back of grid in P18 alongside Fernando. Despite the tough circumstances, Stoffel had a good start and was having a strong race within the top ten before his retirement. Unfortunately, he lost power supply from his PU and we’re investigating the cause of the issue. 

“Fernando also started the race from back of the grid. He showed a consistent pace during the race, but the team eventually had to retire his car as the ability to monitor his gearbox was lost. 

“Although it’s disappointing we were unable to finish the race, it’s still slightly positive that we showed good pace here in Monza, even though this is one of the more challenging circuits on the calendar for us. 

“The next race in Singapore is on a circuit that suits the characteristics of our car, so we will focus there on pushing for much-needed championship points.”