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).
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
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.
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.
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.