Italian Grand Prix
Monza, September 9-11 2011
The Key Strategy considerations
• Track characteristics
• Form guide
• Weather forecast
• Likely tyre performance
• Number and likely timing of pit stops
• Chance of a safety car
• Recent start performance
Monza – 5.793 kilometres. Race distance – 53 laps = 306.72 kilometres. 11 corners in total. Average speed 247km/h. Historic race track in a Royal Park.
Aerodynamic setup – Low downforce. Top speed 340km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 334km/h without.
Full throttle – 75% of the lap (high). Total fuel needed for race distance – 151.2 kilos (high). Fuel consumption – 2.8kg per lap (ave/high)
Time spent braking: 11% of lap. Number of brake zones – 6. Brake wear- High.
Loss time for a Pit stop = 18 seconds (ave/high)
Total time needed for pit stop: 22 seconds (ave/high)
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.35 seconds (ave)
The Monza circuit is one of the great, classic venues on the F1 calendar. It has hosted a Grand Prix since the very first season of F1 in 1950 and provides variety to the calendar with its high speed nature. With an average lap speed of over 250km/h, it is the fastest circuit on the F1 calendar.
Monza features a series of long straights, punctuated with chicanes. There are only three corners in a traditional sense; the two Lesmo bends and the Parabolica, which put any real energy into the tyres. So the track is not particularly hard on tyres and this has a major bearing on race strategy, as it encourages teams to try to make less stops if possible. Another reason for this is the relatively long time it takes to make a stop at 22 seconds. The pit lane at Monza is pretty long.
Monza follows on from the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, another track which is very hard on engines. For this reason all the teams will use a different engine from their allocation of eight per driver per season.
The FIA has decided that there should be two DRS zones in the race, where the pursuing car can adjust his rear wing to shed drag and attempt an overtake. One will be on the main straight, the other between the Lesmo bends and Ascari corner.
However as the cars run a low downforce wing at Monza, the amount of overall drag there is to be shed will be less. Therefore the speed gain from deploying DRS will be less. Instead of the 20km/h we saw in Spa it could be as little as 6-8 km/h at Monza. This will not make overtaking significantly easier.
There is a lot of hard braking at Monza. Although stability under braking is critical, brake wear is not the problem it was because of improvements in cooling systems. The long straights give the brakes a chance to recover.
The Italian Grand Prix is the thirteenth round of the 2011 FIA F1 World Championship. With Sebastian Vettel winning in Spa, his lead in the championship is now almost unassailable.
Spa demonstrated that the Red Bull team has perfected its lower downforce package; Mark Webber’s car was the fastest through the speed traps, which was a surprise to the other teams. Traditionally Monza would not be considered a strong Red Bull track, but in light of their performance on the straights at Spa, they must start this weekend’s race among the favourites.
Ferrari has promised a strong performance this weekend, after failing to give their loyal fans, the tifosi, much to shout about during the season. Last year Fernando Alonso won the Italian Grand Prix on his debut season with Ferrari. He was pressed hard by Jenson Button’s McLaren.
Red Bull’s 100% record in qualifying remains, with eight rounds to go, it is a question of “if” as much as “when” another team will beat them to pole position.
As far as drivers’ form at Monza is concerned; Alonso won the race from pole last season, his second Monza win. Michael Schumacher won the race five times for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel won in a Toro Rosso, while Rubens Barrichello is a three times Monza winner.
The weather forecast for this weekend couldn’t be better; the three days will see sunshine with a temperature of 28 degrees and no rain is forecast.
Likely tyre performance and other considerations
Pirelli tyre choice for Monza: Soft (yellow markings) and medium (white markings). This combination was seen in Valencia ,Germany and Spa.
Although this is the same combination of tyres as we saw at Spa, the lack of high energy corners at Monza means that the lap time difference between the soft and medium tyres will be less; probably more like 1sec to 1.2 secs, rather than over 1.5 secs as we saw at Spa.
The soft tyre will still be the one teams favour as a principle race tyre, but they will not be as concerned about using the medium, especially as the track temperature will be high, so warm up will not be an issue.
After the controversy over camber angles in Spa, Pirelli has said that it will be reinforcing its recommendations in Monza. Teams find that if they run more camber – where the tops of the wheels lean inwards – it improves grip when the car turns into the corner. However with very high wheel rotation speeds at Monza when the car is traveling at in excess of 330km/kh, excessive camber overheats the inside shoulder of the tyres, causing blisters. The stress from this in Monza will be 30% higher than Spa.
In Spa, everyone had plenty of new tyres because of rain during practice and qualifying. In Monza we will go back to a situation where there is a real premium on new sets of tyres, so fast cars starting outside the top 10 and even outside the top 17, will have an advantage.
Number and likely timing of pit stops
The time needed for a stop at Monza is on the high side at 22 seconds. It’s a long pit lane and the cars on track exit the final corner at over 200km/h and go down the pit straight at maximum speed.
With tyre wear not expected to be a major problem, the likelihood is that teams will opt for a two stop strategy, with soft, soft, medium being the pattern. The first stint will be the hardest on the car, when it’s full of fuel, but once the first stop is made, around lap 12-15, the teams are likely to divide the rest of the race into two roughly equal stints of around 19 laps.
Drivers who qualify out of the top ten position and have new tyres at their disposal would be able to run a three-stop strategy quite effectively.
Chance of a safety car
The chance of a safety car at Monza is statistically very low at 43% and 0.4 Safety Cars per race. There was however a Safety car three years in a row recently; 2007- 9.
Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.
Starts continue to be a real problem for Mark Webber; prior to Spa he had lost 15 places on aggregate off the line and in Spa he lost five places with a slow getaway. It meant his strategy from there was one of recovery, rather than a shot at victory.
Sebastian Buemi is the outstanding starter of 2011. Even when he qualifies in the top half of the grid, he seems to make places at the start, going from 11th to 6th in Spa, for example. HRT continue to make good starts; in Spa Ricciardo gained 7 places and Liuzzi 5.
The Force India cars also make consistent gains at the start, as long as they avoid contact. Both cars gained four places in Spa
As far as 2011 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows:
+19 Buemi #
+17 Schumacher *
+9 Glock, Kobayashi**,
+6 Rosberg*****, Heidfeld ******,
+2, Petrov,**** Di Resta,
- Trulli D’Ambrosio
-2 Kovalainen, Chandhok
-3 Hamilton, Vettel,
-4 Sutil ##
-7 Button, Senna
-18 Perez ###
- 20 Webber,
* Schumacher had one bad start in Australia, losing 8 places but since then gained 16 places in five races. He lost four places in Monaco, but gained 9 in Spa.
** Kobayashi lost 10 places in Spain, prior to that he had gained 8 in 4 starts. In Germany he gained four places and three more in Hungary
*** After losing places in the first three races, Alonso has reversed that trend.
**** Petrov had a good record until he lost 4 places at the start in Valencia
***** Rosberg lost four places at the start in Silverstone.
****** Heidfeld had gained 20 places but lost 12 at the start in Germany
******* Di Resta had consistent start form and gained 7 places in the first nine races, but lost 12 at the start in Germany.
# Buemi made up nine places at the start in Hungary having started 23rd on the grid
## Sutil had a positive start balance until Hungary where he lost 12 places at the start
### Perez lost nine places off the start in Hungary.
#### Alguersuari was doing well with a +6 record prior to Spa, where he was hit by another car and lost 18 places.