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Monza: The history behind one of F1's most iconic venues

Monza: The history behind one of F1's most iconic venues

F1 News

Monza: The history behind one of F1's most iconic venues

Monza: The history behind one of F1's most iconic venues

When it comes to racing circuits with a rich history, they don’t come any richer than Monza.

Built in 1922, Italy’s most famous race track and home of the Italian Grand Prix since 1949 is known as the ‘Temple of Speed’ for a reason – it’s simply the fastest track on the F1 calendar.

Monza is, by Formula 1 standards, uncomplicated. It’s simplistic in shape and consists of some very long straights and tight chicanes, which means the key to a good race is blistering pace, good stability and brakes that work perfectly (otherwise known as an RB19).

READ MORE: Monza ‘CURSE’ looming over Verstappen ahead of Italian Grand Prix

It’s one of the longer tracks in F1 at 3.6 miles (5.8km) and with the cars at full throttle for around 80 per cent of a lap it places a huge strain on their engines, hence there being a disproportionate amount of DNFs at Monza compared to other circuits.

The Famous Monza Oval

While today there is just one ‘Monza’, back in the day there were three adjoined circuits on the site. In addition to the track we recognise today, there was a 1.5 mile junior track and a 2.6 mile oval with high-speed, banked corners in a US Indy Car style.

In fact, in the track’s first eleven years (1922 to 1933), both the grand prix track and the oval were used in the same race, with a double width home straight enabling the cars to leave the final bend of the main track and then do a loop of the oval before completing their full lap.

Thrilling it may have been but it was also deadly and over the years, and despite several attempts to make it safer, several drivers and riders – it was also used for motorcycle racing – perished on the steep banking. Following a horror crash in 1933, the complete track - including the oval - was not used again until the 1955 grand prix when it was brought action after some safety modifications.

Unfortunately, these changes were only limited in their effectiveness – the bumpy surface of the banking played havoc with the tyre wear – and following the 1956 race it was again deemed unsafe before another attempt was made in 1960. Unfortunately horror struck that year when a crash by German driver Wolfgang von Trips killed him and 11 spectators.

The End of the Banking

Monza has played host to some historic races in Formula 1's history

The Monza banking was used in F1 for the final time in 1962 before being officially ‘condemned’ for all races in 1969. While it’s no longer used and has for many years been derelict, recently part of it has been restored for its historical significance, but it’s the road circuit that hosts the races of today.

Among its many famous features are the Curva Grande, the Curva di Lesmo, the Variante Ascari and the Curva Alboreto (formerly the Curva Parabolica), but to this day the track is still criticised by drivers for its lack of run-off areas.

Unsurprisingly, the track has produced thrills and spills aplenty over the years and some classic races, including in 1971 which produced what is officially the closest F1 finish of all time. It was won by Peter Gethin in a BRM, who beat Ronnie Peterson’s March to the line by just 0.010 of a second, but incredibly the top five all crossed the line within just over half-a-second of each other.

Ferrari Joy

Charles Leclerc claimed victory at the 2019 Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari

The 1988 grand prix was also memorable as it produced an unexpected Ferrari one-two just weeks after the death of the Prancing Horse founder Enzo Ferrari.

In a highly-charged atmosphere, even by Monza standards, the Ferraris managed to produce the only non-McLaren win of the season when Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto gloriously benefited from Alain Prost’s mechanical failure and a rare driver error from Ayrton Senna.

Ferrari wins in Monza have been something of a rarity of late, although the Tifosi did have plenty to celebrate in the early 2000s when Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barichello won five championships between them in the red of the Prancing Horse.

Since that purple patch, and a win for Fernando Alonso in 2010, they have had just a single win to celebrate - Charles Leclerc taking the chequered flag in 2019.

While there looks only a slim chance of the red flags flying in celebration on Sunday, it wouldn’t be the first time Monza has delivered a surprise for the Tifosi.

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