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How the F1 teams will approach the Italian Grand Prix
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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Sep 2012   |  9:10 pm GMT  |  47 comments

With an average lap speed of over 250km/h, Monza is the fastest circuit in Formula 1. The cars run in low downforce mode here with thinner wings than usual. The aerodynamic package for this event is unique in the season.

So what are the key considerations the engineers and drivers will go through during practice and in strategy briefings when preparing for Sunday’s race?

From a strategy point of view, Monza is quite straightforward. It’s not particularly hard on the tyres as there are few fast corners to put energy into them. The track is basically a series of long straights, punctuated with chicanes. There are only three corners in a traditional sense; the two Lesmo bends and the Parabolica.

However the wheel rotation speeds are very high so overheating can be an issue and if the track temperature is high, this can create problems. Pirelli counter this heat build up by using a thinner gauge on the tread block; it is 0.3mm thinner. This year they are bringing medium and hard compounds, last year it was soft and medium.

Because the tyres are more conservative than last year, the track is fast and the pit lane time is long at over 22 seconds, the teams aim to make as few pitstops if possible, ideally trying to do the race in one stop. Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel did it at Spa last weekend on these tyres, so its should be straightforward at Monza, unless it gets hot.

Last year the FIA decided that there should be two DRS zones in the race, so the pursuing car could open his rear wing to shed drag and attempt an overtake. One was on the main straight, the other between the Lesmo bends and Ascari corner. One of the key decisions was how to balance the use of the DRS wing (giving a 6-8km/h speed boost) while not hitting the rev limiter which is set at 18,000 rpm.

Falling behind a car which has good top speed, but is slow on lap time is very damaging for the strategy as we saw last year with Hamilton stuck behind Schumacher, so qualifying and starting well are vitally important.

There is a lot of hard braking at Monza. Although stability under braking is critical, brake wear is not the problem it used to be because of improvements in cooling systems. The long straights give the brakes a chance to recover.

When you have read the strategy briefing why not go to our Race STRATEGY CALCULATOR to see if you can find the fastest strategy for the Italian Grand Prix?


Track characteristics

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 – 135 kilos (ave). Fuel consumption – 2.5kg per lap (ave)

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/high)


Form Guide

The Italian Grand Prix is the thirteenth round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.

After an early season where the wins were spread around, recently things have consolidated with McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari taking the spoils, with Lotus challenging too. McLaren has now won four races, Red Bull and Ferrari three each, Mercedes and Williams one apiece.

Red Bull has never had the best straight line speeds, but managed to win the race last year due to clever gearing which kept Vettel ahead on acceleration out of the chicanes, so the pursuing cars couldn’t get close to him. He will not enjoy that luxury this year. Jenson Button took a dominant win in Spa last weekend and has been competitive in Italy the last few years.

From a driver perspective, Fernando Alonso won the Italian Grand Prix on his debut season with Ferrari in 2010, his second Monza win.

Michael Schumacher won the race five times for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel won in a Toro Rosso in 2008 and again last year in a Red Bull.

Weather Forecast

The weather forecast predicts a warm and sunny weekend with temperatures of 29 degrees. This will be a relief to teams, who have lost three and a half Fridays in the last four Grands Prix to rain.


Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Monza: medium (white markings) and hard (silver markings). This combination was seen in Malaysia and Belgium.

Monza is not a track that causes high wear rates on the tyres. What the teams have to watch out for is thermal degradation caused by very high wheel rotation speeds. When the car is travelling at in excess of 330km/kh, it’s easy to overheat the inside shoulder of the tyres, causing blisters. The stress from this in Monza will be 30% higher than Spa.

Track temperatures tend to fluctuate a lot at Monza, as it is the early Autumn so with cloud cover the temperature drops, while it quickly heats up in direct sun. With this year’s temperature-sensitive Pirelli tyres, this could cause some problems for some teams.

The medium tyre is expected to be around 0.2 secs per lap faster than the hard tyre in race conditions.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Monza was always a one stop race in the past when refueling was allowed in F1 – the tank size and design was based on what would be needed to stop once at Monza – and the signs are with this year’s more durable Pirelli tyres that the target will be to one-stop again.

The main reason is that the time needed for a pit stop at Monza is on the high side at over 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 over 300km/h.

With tyre wear not expected to be a major problem, the likelihood is that teams will start on the medium, stop once around 20-23 laps moving onto the hard compound for a stint of around 30 laps.

Drivers who qualify out of the top ten positions and have new tyres at their disposal will have a small advantage in the opening stint, being able to run a little longer. This could help a team like Sauber which has good race pace and good tyre life.

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 from 2007- 9.


Recent start performance

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. Much can change. In Hungary, for example, only three drivers completed lap 1 in the same position as their grid slot.

As far as 2011 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows:

NB – Belgian Grand Prix start not included in sample as many cars eliminated in first lap, skewing the sample results

Gained:

+25 Massa *****
+ 23 Glock,
+19 Perez***
+18 Alonso, Kovalainen
+15 Senna * *****
+14 Vergne
+13 Pic
+11 Raikkonen
+10 Karthikeyan
+7 Kobayashi****
+5 Schumacher* ******
+4 Hamilton , Maldonado****
+3 Di Resta *****, De la Rosa ****, Petrov*****
+2 Button

Held position: Vettel, Webber

Lost:
-1 Hulkenberg Rosberg
-3 Grosjean** **** *****
-15 Ricciardo*
Note- This table is intended as an indicator of trends. Where drivers have had first lap incidents which dropped them to the back of the field, they are not included above, but are detailed in the notes marked * below. This affects other drivers’ gains, but the sample still shows prevailing trends of places won and lost at the start.
* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap
***Perez punctured on lap 1 in Spain and went to back of field
**** Eliminated by or involved in first lap accident in Monaco
***** Di Resta eliminated lap 1 at Silverstone, Petrov did not start
***** Massa, Senna and Grosjean involved in first lap collisions dropping them to the back
****** Schumacher forced to pit lap 1 in Hungary (lost six places)


Pit Stop League Table
Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams. The record is a 2.31s stop in the German GP by McLaren.
It is clear that the field has significantly closed up in pit stops.
The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Belgian Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it. The league positions from the previous race are in brackets.
1. McLaren 2.5 secs (2)
2. Toro Rosso 3.1secs (4)
3. Lotus 3.12secs (6)
4. Ferrari 3.13secs (3)
5. Red Bull 3.21secs (1)
6. Mercedes 3.36secs (8)
7. Marussia 3.48secs (10)
8. Force India 3.52secs (9)
9. Caterham 4.01secs (11)
10. Sauber 4.50secs (7)
11. Williams 4.52secs(5)
12. HRT 4.896secs (12)

Now you have read the strategy briefing why not go to our Race STRATEGY CALCULATOR to see if you can find the fastest strategy for the Italian Grand Prix?

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading F1 teams’ strategists and from Pirelli

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47 Comments
  1. Irish con says:

    James been watching a repeat of spa tonight actually and a graphic popped up with pip stop times. It shows Ferrari did a stop for massa at 2.8 seconds. I just don’t understand how your table is different to the one that popped up on screen.

    1. James Allen says:

      They time it differently, doing a subtraction of pit lane time from overall time, different from the way the teams do it. We use the team’s timings.

  2. Daniel MA says:

    Didn’t Paul Hembery say that last year’s soft is this year’s medium?

    1. James Allen says:

      More or less, but the tyres are a notch harder this year, more conservative

  3. FerrariFan says:

    I am hoping for an Alonso win. If that doesn’t happen then a dominant win from Hamilton to bring him closer to Vettel.

  4. Msta says:

    Hi James,

    What have you heard about the Lotus device? Are they foxing about not using it until Suzuka?

    1. Kay says:

      It’s been said many times previously.

      Monza is such a low downforce and drag track that there is little gain and point in using the device.

  5. Esplanadist says:

    Pardon me for raising this, but bad boy Maldo looks to have a great chance here, which, nevertheless, I doubt he will take.

    First, he has a 10 place penalty, so even if he makes Q3 he can sit it out with a good Q2 time and save 2 sets. Then, the Williams has good pace, and with fresh rubbers in every stint, will have the extra laps, plus good speed, to undercut the leaders who will have used every tyre in the pole shoot out.
    It will require a very mature, cool-headed drive: he did one in Barcelona, but that so long ago. Now, it’s a big ask. Can he do it? Already, doubts are flooding in. Glad I’m not F.W.

    1. Kay says:

      Before they can see how things go in the race, first gotta see if the grid can make it through the first chicane without Maldo smashing up pieces of carbon fibre whiping out anyone.

      1. tank says:

        Lets hope not, I’ll be sitting right there…

    2. Chris says:

      I think everyone will have fresh rubber for their 2nd stint and its only a 1 stop race so…

    3. WiLL says:

      If he sits out Q3 then he will be starting 20th…so wont stand a chance of doing well

    4. Ahmed says:

      So, if Maldonado skips Q3 to save tyres and every other driver runs in Q3, that would mean Maldo would be P10 and then the 10 place grid penalty so P20. Am I missing something here?

    5. Esplanadist says:

      corrected: he will start from the back. But the Williams set the fastest lap in Spa and that was Bruno, and Bad Boy made p3 on the grid, so the car is speedy

      It would be really good for FW’s blood pressure if Maldo finishes the race, but also if he can beat one force India and one Sauber to p8 or higher [no reason why not] Frank’s faith in S America will be restored. Still, I’ve a feeling PM will end up even better….

  6. Leali says:

    Hi James, I know this has nothing to do with the topic but Auto Action ic claiming that Lewis is moving to Mercedes from next year. So did you hear any rumors regarding this news, it just happens that Monza was the place where Shumi announced his first retirement, are we gonna have that repeat again or is it just that a rumor. Thanks James.

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ve written a story on this, below!

      1. Leali says:

        lol havent seen that one, it seams rumor mill speeds up every hour. New piece of gossip is that Lewis was offered $63 mill to join mercedes but the new piece of gossip is that he’s move wouldnt be dependent on Schumi retiring apparently he could replace Nico(which would be better option, he’s got nowhere in his career 100+ races and 1 win speaks volumes)so till October we are gonna be bombarded with rumors…

  7. Liam in Sydney says:

    Its a pity the teams need to use both types of tyres during a dry race. It would have been funny to see whether they could have done NO stops for the entire race.

    1. Milos Nikolic says:

      Vettel pretty much did this in 2010 from what I remember (albeit on the indestructible Bridgestones): He ran on the primes from the start till lap 51 or so, then pitted for options only because he had to.

  8. Glennb says:

    Unlikely, but I’d love to see Felipe win this one :)
    Step 1. Make Q3…

  9. JC says:

    James, wasn’t Ricciardo on -15 places for his start last race? Shouldn’t it be -5 as he started 16th and was 6th by the end of the first lap in Spa?

    1. James Allen says:

      It says we aren’t including Spa as the pile up skews the sample

  10. Ian says:

    When you say “the cars run in low downforce mode here with thinner wings”, I presume you mean the angle of attack is smaller rather than the thickness of the metal/carbon fibre being less?

  11. Morten says:

    I’m predicting a MS podium. The Mercedes is near all about top speed and trying not to wear out the tires; what this track is all about. Wouldn’t that be something :)

  12. DMyers says:

    One other option which you haven’t covered, James, is the possibility that someone might do something similar to what Button did in 2009 by running a larger than normal rear wing. OK, they had the f-duct to stall the wing on the straights, but if there are two DRS zones again this year, someone might run a compromise in order to get more downforce in the corners and get the advantage of the DRS. If they combine that with the use of similar gear ratios to those used last year by Vettel, they might spring a surprise!

      1. Andrew M says:

        Button should have won that race, they gifted it to Alonso.

  13. Robert says:

    James,

    Do you think there will ever be a time where mechanics are swapped on pitlane ability alone? For instance Red Bull taking Toro Rosso mechanics as they seem to be marginally quicker then the ones they currently have?

    1. James Allen says:

      No. It’s all about 1) pit equipment and 2) training

  14. Andrew M says:

    Will be interesting to see if McLaren continue their run at the top. Also, Hamilton has never really shone at Monza, and has never (I believe) beaten his teammate there. Button has finished second for the last three years (behind Barrichello, Alonso and Vettel respectively).

    1. Robert Gunning says:

      Hamilton should have beaten Kovalainen in 2009, but crashed on the last lap when running 3rd.

  15. Rudy says:

    Sounds odd but according to the Strategy Calculator, a 2-stop plan is faster than a single stop. First stop on lap 13 for NEW primes then on lap 34 for USED options. It’s about 2-3 secs faster than the JA on F1 call. With NEW options it’s about 6 secs faster. As Kimi always says: “we’ll have to wait and see”…

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, but what about track position? One stop will be ahead after 2stopper’s final stop, right

      1. Jessapina says:

        But one stop would be on fresher rubber! Throw in a little bit of traffic for the leaders..Mclaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and even Lotus to an extent it’s a one stop no brainer but for a cheeky Schuey, Force India, Sauber etc if they qualify high enough it’s worth a punt for good points and or a podium…..

      2. Jessapina says:

        I mean two stop on fresher rubber btw…

      3. TitanRacer says:

        I have worked out a “sensible” 2 stopper worth ~ 8 seconds at the end. but it would certainly require monster in and out laps, very impressive pit stops, a ballsey 3′rd stint drive for the ages, and a bit of luck with traffic and maybe even a few competitor mistakes or retirements to actually pull it off due to the probable number of cars that need to be passed in dirty air on the last stint.

        I LOVE playing with this calculator, but I also realize its extreme limitations compared to unfolding real-time data acquisition and Team super computers :)

        kinda looking like a 1 stopper for most with the possibility of a traffic jam on pit lane!!

      4. Nigel says:

        If your calculator is right, James, tyres are very marginal on a one stop strategy.
        Teams looking at one stopping will have to be very confident of their tyre management (Sauber ?), and probably won’t try it if they are anywhere near the front of the grid – the possibility of getting caught out in the last few laps is just too high.

        Q2 dropouts starting on fresh tyres with little to lose might have a go, but it looks a lot more difficult than at Spa.

      5. James Allen says:

        That was the case in Spa too only 2 front runners managed a 1 stop

  16. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    I love these reports.

    It seems everybody can do mistakes, except Hamilton, because he could fade in the standings while he is negotiating the new contract.

    James, in your opinion could the driver take less risks in such scenarios to avoid a DNF or a bad result?

    1. Nigel says:

      No – Hamilton will want the win.

  17. Bruce says:

    Hi James,
    I wish that you would put the speeds down in English: i.e. miles per hour. As I have written before, surely the majority of your readers are English speakers and understand mph and how fast that is, but how fast are speeds in km/h?
    To give you, and other readers of this column here are the speeds in mph in the order you have written them:
    Average speed at Monza: 250km/h = 155mph.
    Aerodynamic setup – Low downforce. Top speed 340km/h = 211mph (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 334km/h = 207mph without.
    Monza is not a track that causes high wear rates on the tyres. What the teams have to watch out for is thermal degradation caused by very high wheel rotation speeds. When the car is travelling at in excess of 330km/kh = 205 mph, it’s easy to overheat the inside shoulder of the tyres, causing blisters. The stress from this in Monza will be 30% higher than Spa.
    The main reason is that the time needed for a pit stop at Monza is on the high side at over 22 seconds. It’s a long pit lane and the cars on track exit the final corner at over 200km/h, = 124 mph, and go down the pit straight at over 300km/h = 186 mph.
    Now we can understand how fast the cars are really travelling!
    Bruce

    1. Jessapina says:

      That’s a bit Brit-centric??? Kilometres is the speed F1 is measured in and also it’s what most of the world use and recognise. Besides your post indicates you are more than capable of working it out for yourself. I mean do you measure temperature in celcius or farenhiet? Probably celcius right but you know as a well educated English person that there are other scales of measurment out there and can work one out from the other (water freezes at 32 and boils at 212 etc).
      So in short James I’m with you KPH all the way….
      (PS I am the nerd who actually changes my F1 playstation game setting to KPH from MPH because it bugs me soooooo much!).

    2. collin doyle says:

      KPH works fine for those of us in Canada, I thought only the Americans we still stuck in MPH? I couldn’t tell you what MPH is really so keep up the good work LOL.

      Again i ask, is it possible to have the calculator available for ALL tracks? really puts a smile on a gamer’s face ;)

      1. Jessapina says:

        nope in GB we are forced to use miles when everything else is metric by law!!! You can’t buy a pound of bananas but it’s still 100 miles to London for me! I was born in Canada so transition through all weights and measure pretty easily because we use pounds, kilos, inches, centimeters etc etc…

  18. Kenny Gordon says:

    The calculator is quite engaging, James. Thanks! I came up with a 1 stop for the new primes on lap 25. If I’m interpreting the chart correctly, it may be just a second or two quicker than your 24 lap approach. Please see me right if need be.

  19. Petrolhead says:

    Bruce
    UK goes metric inch by inch.

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