Monza remains a circuit like no other on the Formula 1 calendar. The Temple of Speed continues to live up to its name as the fastest venue in the championship, its layout still dominated by long straights in spite of the chicanes that now intersect them.
Historically, these long straights have generated some very close races; the slipstream effect often helping to keep multiple cars in the fight for victory until the very end. A five-year period spanning the late 1960s and early 1970s produced three particularly memorable finishes, In 1967, John Surtees beat Jack Brabham by 0.2 seconds: a margin that also covered the top four drivers when Jackie Stewart defeated Jochen Rindt, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Bruce McLaren just two years later. Then, in 1971, came Formula 1’s closest ever finish, when Peter Gethin triumphed in a five-way battle, with just 0.01s separating him from second-placed Ronnie Peterson.
These days, as speeds have increased, overtaking at Monza is not necessarily as easy as one might imagine; the power of the slipstream being reduced by the fact that cars run with lower downforce at Monza than anywhere else.
But the racing is still close as the last two Italian Grands Prix have demonstrated, when drama for the usual frontrunners opened the door for two unlikely winners. In 2020, Pierre Gasly achieved his first win for AlphaTauri after keeping the McLaren of Carlos Sainz at bay, before McLaren returned to the top step in 2021 with a one-two finish for Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris.
On paper, Monza looks straightforward, but its high-speed layout brings challenges of its own. The aforementioned chicanes are crucial to lap time, or to setting up an overtake in the race.
Bravery under braking is important, especially as the cars’ low-downforce configuration reduces the influence of drag when slowing down. Making use of the kerbs is also key to the fastest route through the chicanes, and they provide some of the biggest stresses for the tyres around Monza too.
Perhaps the most challenging and important corner during a lap of Monza is the last one, the Parabolica, which since 2021 has been named in honour of former Ferrari driver Michele Alboreto. The long and fast right-hander takes drivers onto the pit straight and produces sustained lateral loads, with the reduced downforce levels increasing the importance of mechanical grip. It’s a place that rewards commitment and bravery – which is what the fans come to see.
You don’t have to be a tifoso to make the most of everything that Monza has to offer and to feel the magnetic draw that this small town to the north of Milan holds over so many people. Back in the day, Monza was a remote countryside outpost for Italy’s royal family, with the Villa Reale (which is open for guided tours) being a favoured hunting lodge. Nobles chased their prey on horseback in the surrounding park, but these days the same park - one of the largest gated parks in Europe at around 688 hectares - resonates with a different form of horsepower. The circuit has been a feature of Monza for exactly 100 years now, but there’s plenty else to see and do nearby: especially with Milan being in such close proximity by train, bus, or car. The classic Milan tourist destinations include the famous Duomo and da Vinci’s Last Supper, but for many people the main attraction is shopping – with Milan being the fashion capital of the world.
Monza actually has its own version of the Duomo too, which houses an incredible collection of artwork. For those focussed on less spiritual matters, Monza contains plenty of typically Italian places to eat and drink: try the Vineria Dei Tintori or Il Mulino for wines, and the Derby Grill or Vecchia Ostuni for food. For pasta lovers, Uova & Farina – which describes itself as a pasta laboratory – is a must.
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