Italian Grand Prix – The secret of getting that last bit of speed
Scuderia Ferrari
Italian Grand Prix – The secret of getting that last bit of speed
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Sep 2010   |  5:51 pm GMT  |  73 comments

The Italian Grand Prix at Monza is the fastest event of the season and it is a unique layout as far as F1 is concerned. The average speed of the lap is 250km/h and the top speed is 345km/h. It is essentially a series of long straights linked with chicanes. There are only three corners; the two Lesmo bends and the Parabolica.

Because of the relative amounts of time spent on the straights and in the corners, teams have traditionally chosen to run the cars in ultra low downforce configuration to minimise drag on the straights, considering this to be a greater gain than having extra speed through the corners. A car using Monza wings will generate 25% less downforce than the same car with Monaco wings on.

But this year the drag reducing F Duct rear wing has changed the game. This is a device which allows engineers to have their cake and eat it – in other words they can have low drag without sacrificing downforce.

Interestingly Ferrari’s top speed at the weekend was more or less the same as last year at 338km/h, but the lap time was 6/10ths faster this year. Much of that is to due to the F Duct.

Engineers I spoke who had carried out direct comparison tests on Friday found that the F Duct was up to half a second faster than the low downforce specification. But only those with an efficient system.

And as there is something to be gained from having a bit of extra downforce in the three corners and in stability under braking, there was an advantage to using the F Duct – but only if you have an efficient system, which sheds enough drag and doesn’t lose downforce.

Therefore a glance at the teams who chose to race without the F Duct – Mercedes and Force India being the most obvious examples – reveals the teams with the system which is the least efficient, and therefore they were too slow in a straight line with it fitted.

One of the things which made it such an interesting weekend was that there was a mix of solutions. And one of the secrets of success this weekend was having a Monza wing with an F Duct in it, rather than a compromise wing.

Button's F Duct, note steep wing angle

McLaren’s drivers went different ways. Jenson Button went for the F Duct and a higher level of downforce than any other driver, preferring the feel of the car in the corners, while Lewis Hamilton went the traditional route with skinny rear wings. After qualifying he was wondering whether he had made a mistake, as he was down in fifth while Button was second. We will never know how it might have panned out in the race as Hamilton crashed on the opening lap.

Hamilton's low downforce wing without F Duct

However on closer inspection it seems that McLaren might have got lucky at the weekend. They said some time ago that they were not planning on using an F Duct at Monza and the wing that they turned up with was actually the Spa wing with the F Duct, according to engineers I spoke to.

In other words, unlike Ferrari they had not built a specific Monza spec wing with F Duct. It worked well enough for Button, but one wonders whether that fraction of extra straight line speed for Ferrari might have just made the difference.

Ferrari’s solution featured a smaller air pipe inside the engine cover. Also the wing had a smaller flap with a completely flat profile, the main profile was completely flat.

Renault too had a Spa wing and it wasn’t fantastic, hence Kubica’s relatively poor 9th place on the grid.

Engine use
Most drivers opted to use a new engine for qualifying and the race. The engines are at full throttle for 73% of the lap in Monza, the most of any circuit, so a fresh unit is considered an advantage.

All drivers are allowed a maximum of eight engines per season and most of them took a seventh new engine at Monza, with the exception of the two Renault drivers (6th engine), the two Ferrari drivers (8th engine). Other exceptions this weekend were drivers who opted not to use a new engine, Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello, who have used six engines each and Pedro de la Rosa, who has now used nine. His car will be taken over by Nick Heidfeld at the next round and he will carry on with the same allocation of engines.

Engines used so far in 2010 season
01 McLaren Mercedes Jenson Button 7
02 McLaren Mercedes Lewis Hamilton 7
03 Mercedes Benz Michael Schumacher 7
04 Mercedes Benz Nico Rosberg 7
05 RBR Renault Sebastian Vettel 7
06 RBR Renault Mark Webber 6
07 Ferrari Felipe Massa 8
08 Ferrari Fernando Alonso 8
09 Williams Cosworth Rubens Barrichello 6
10 Williams Cosworth Nico Hülkenberg 7
11 Renault Robert Kubica 6
12 Renault Vitaly Pertrov 6
14 Force India Mercedes Adrian Sutil 7
15 Force India Mercedes Vitantonio Liuzzi 7
16 STR Ferrari Sébastien Buemi 7
17 STR Ferrari Jaime Alguersuari 7
18 Lotus Cosworth Jarno Trulli 7
19 Lotus Cosworth Heikki Kovalainen 7
20 HRT Cosworth Sakon Yamamoto 7
21 HRT Cosworth Bruno Senna 7
22 BMW Sauber Ferrari Pedro De La Rosa 9 (Nick Heidfeld’s car now)
23 BMW Sauber Ferrari Kamui Kobayashi 7
24 Virgin Cosworth Timo Glock 7
25 Virgin Cosworth Lucas Di Grassi 7

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For FA engine six has been used twice so they can still run it for say Singapore, engine 7 only did spa so they can run it for two more and engine 8 was used for monza only so it can be used for the remaining two races. They still have engine 1 which they can run in abu- dhabi too. All good!


i’m gonna be really surprised if the rule of maximum numbers of engine to be used is applied strictly.

i don’t really know about the penalties for exceeding 8 engines, but i can’t imagine ferraris, and especially alonso to be kept away from the competition. ferrari would talk.. a lot 😀

anyway, i wonder what James thinks about the rumours that Schumacher will quit at the end of this season. let’s not forget, the whole comeback story was started by the very same person, Eddie Jordan.

Schumacher couldn’t live up to expectations but as a devoted fan of him, i still (want to) believe he will improve..


Thanks for this info James – much appreciated!


Does this Mean Quick Nick will have to take a grid penalty at every race remaining this season? Look forward to more of his heroic drives through the field!


Quick Nick’s ‘heroic drives through the field’?!! I’m struggling to think of the times he did this can you remind me.


They were many and numerous mate – how many times have you seen drivers take two positions at once? Quick Nick did it 3 times alone in the ’08 season – twice in the same race. And it wasn’t donkeys like Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella he passed, it was proper racers like Alonso and DC (Malaysia 08) Raikkonen and Kovalainen (Silverstone 08) and Glock and Alonso (Same race). You need to watch this mate

– I doubt anyone else in F1 has overtaken Alonso as many times as the great man from Germany.



Thanks for the technical insight. However the bodywork mainly the wings change every race. I remember when McLaren had the ‘F-Duct’ or when Ferrari had the modified dustbin lid wheel covers that these couldnt be copied due to the homalgamation of the chassis. Mercedes also shortened the wheel base to suit Michael Schumacher.

So what is really meant by this “Homalgamation”, if teams are effectively changing their body work all the time?


THe chassis the safety cell the driver sits in. That is homologated. So are the wheels. The teams can change wings etc from race to race and shortening the wheelbase was done by angling the suspension differently



Quite a lot of questions here about engine use and penalties, particularly in relation to the front runners and Heidfeld’s inheritance at Sauber.

Can you clarify the regs for us all and how penalties will be awarded?


Back to rear wings at Monza for a moment – would JB have had a significant fuel weight disadvantage in addition to the lower top speed?


Yes. The high downforce car brakes later, goes around corners more quickly and has lower gearing as the top speed is less. So basically the car spends more time on 100 per cent throttle and averages higher revs.

On the straights the lower downforce car is using fuel at the same rate in terms of ml/s but it is going further each second.


A very interesting set of numbers James, thank you.

I’m no expert on engines, so this may be completely off the wall, but two points stand out for me:

1) there are four drivers with only 6 engines used and three of them are Renault engined drivers.

2) the teams seem to use up 1 engine every 2.5 races, on average. With five races left in the season, I would want two fresh engines left in the bank, not just one.



If a driver that already used 8 engines, has some sort incident during qualification and he is on the back of the grid, can he used a 9th engine without further penalty?

Taking Fernando’s incident in Monaco for instance, if this happens on the remaining 5 races.


Hi James,

I’ve been looking through the rules and wonder if I may have found a loophole. It’s a bit contrived, but rule 28.4 b) states:

If a driver is replaced at any time during the Championship season his replacement will be deemed to be the original driver for the purposes of assessing engine usage.

Therefore Nick Heidfield will be deemed to have used 9 engines. What if Redbull were to replace Vettel with Webber, and vice versa? Would Vettel now be deemed to have only used 6 engines?

Could McLaren allow Hamilton to use his spare engine while running button on old ones, then replace their drivers with each other and allow Hamilton to use Buttons spare engine? They would probably have to swap chassis to make it legitimate.

I can imagine all hell breaking loose if someone were to do this!

What if a driver changes team half way through a season? What happens then? It’s a bit ambiguous.


Ralph I know what you are saying, it used to go on in touring cars here in Australia where tyre allocations were based on car numbers (not drivers) so there were all sorts of fun and games until it got banned.

At McLaren, it could’t happen because the champion from last year must remain in car 1 (Button).


For an inter driver change – Yamamoto ran Sennas engines in Silverstone and has run Chandhocks since. But I don’t think what you are saying would work, they’d effectively have to swap cars and numbers. You wouldn’t actually be replacing the drivers so the FIA wouldn’t grant the swap.

If a driver changed team – happened last year. Fisi continued with Massas / Badoers allocation last year, he didn’t carry over Force Indias allocation. Liuzzi took on Fisis allocation at Force India.


So I would just say, Paffet (a reserve driver) would get Hamilton’s or Jenson’s engine allocation if anything were to happen to these driver, he would also be allowed to driver their chasis’. That is alot different from chasis and engine swapping with two drivers registered as the main drivers from the start of the season.


Senna did not race at Silverstone did he, and Chandok is no longer driving in F1.

As for Fisi situation, that was because Badoer and Massa were not driving in F1 at the time. Same for Liuzzi when Fisichella moved on.

It is pretty obvious each team has a allocation of engines, these engine allocations are given to their drivers. However, if both drivers are competitively racing in F1, driver swapping chasis’ and engines cannot go ahead.

Jenson would not get Hamilton’s engine, Hamilton would not get Jenson’s engine if something unforeseen happened to their allocations whilst actively in F1, it could only passed onto the reserve or new driver (like Paffet) or penalties will be imposed.


Could McLaren allow Hamilton to use his spare engine while running button on old ones, then replace their drivers with each other and allow Hamilton to use Buttons spare engine? They would probably have to swap chassis to make it legitimate.


Don’t be so silly, each driver is given their engine allocations for the season, and no driver can use each other’s chasis, that was ban ages ago. Basically no swapping allowed!

Why would Hamilton want to give up his slight engine advantage, seen as how he did not do more than one lap at Monza anyway?


In my personal opinion, had Mclaren made a “compromised” wing solution with the F-duct as Ferrari did I think both drivers would have gone for having the F-duct and then the race could have become a 4 horse race providing also Hamilton didn’t have his costly error at the Roggia chicane.

I think also in his defence he might have thought (in that very short space of time) that Massa or possibly even both Ferraris would run wide at the chicane due to their battling. Obviously they didn’t and the rest is history.

A lot of people say that Alonso was the driver of the day and for very valid reasons. The kind of performance he did was more like the usual (dare I say) “flawless” and complete Alonso we have come to know from previous seasons. In saying that, Button did a brilliant job of defending against Alonso despite having that straightline speed disadvantage and the damaged rear of the car.

He was unlucky to not have won the race, but I do have to agree with most that Alonso simply was faster than him. In addition, though, he still had enough speed to finish second, so plenty of spoils to him.

Some people have also questioned Button’s motivation or focus, but it was rather telling that during the race, he had to be radioed for a radio check because he hadn’t radioed in for anything. He was so focussed on the task of keeping Alonso behind in the hopes of increasing his chances of winning the race. Critics silenced.

Massa I believe is also back to a performance level we remember him from. He performed well in Spa in the changing conditions and he’s picked up an important podium for himself at Monza(not just for the team).

Overall some very good performances at a very good race at Monza.


Many thanks for the ‘engines used’ info James, however I’m a bit confused – if it is true that teams can re-use their engines, how is it that Pedro de la Rosa is on engine no 9 (given the maximum no of engines is clearly 8)?


Because he had engine failures


Quite interesting that Ferrari decided to build a Monza specific rear-wing\f-duct combination – that won’t be used at any further races this season. [Didn’t they bring slightly better\bigger turbos, in past years? ;-)]

Whereas McLaren re-used their Spa configuration (on Button’s car anyway), giving them more time to work on aero\floor\blown-diffuser updates to bring them more into play at the next few races. [I wonder how much development work had gone into their non-f-duct setup – used (albeit briefly in the race) by Lewis]

Singapore will be very interesting… 🙂


Hi James,

As always F1 likes to keep the information fans want hidden!! I have done my own sums based on whatever information I can find! Webber and Alonso both have 2 blown engines the difference being both of Alonso’s were quite low mileage at the time they blew. Alonso’s engines 4,5,6 all seem to be high mileage and 7 and 8 have had Spa and Monza on them respectively – the two circuits which take the most of the powerplant.

Think we are going to see Massa do a majority of Friday running from here on out for Ferrari. With at least 2000 km’s to be covered in the remaining 5 qualies and races it is a lot to ask of old engines – not to mention practice.


An engine needs to be able to do three races and qualifying sessions at a minimum and that is approximately 1100 km. You can add free practice on top of that, which might be another race distance across three sessions.

If you look at Alonso’s engine usage, he is on track to use engines 6, 7 and 8 three times each to the end of the season. If the engine from Bahrain qualifying is okay then that can be raced with in Abu Dhabi.


This is true except for FA’s engine that was replaced in Bahrain blew in practice 1 in China. It had completed only 516 km’s. Until Alonso took engine 4 in Spain; engines 2 and 3 covered an additional 2666 km’s and one of these blew at quite a low mileage (Malaysia Race).So on these three engines of which 2 are blown a total of 3182 km’s was covered.

To the end of Monza Alonso has completed 10,368 km’s with approximately 800 km’s on engine 7 and 530 on engine 8.

This means that engines 4,5,6 and whatever was left between 2 and 3 have covered just under 6000km’s. An F1 engines ideal life cycle is around 1800 km’s.

So my point – 2 blown engines which are unusable, 4 used engines all with high mileage only good for practices and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them blow and then 2 engines to last 5 races.

A driver will complete on average 100 km’s in qualification (assuming Q3 is reached) and 309 km’s in a race – just over 2,000 km’s.

So two usable engines both with at least a qually and race distance covered on the two tracks that punish the engine the most and a close championship battle – any way you look at this Alonso’s Practice running is going to be severely limited or he will be taking a penalty sooner rather than later.



If De La Rosa has used 9 engines (1 more than allowed) where does that leave the team in terms of penalties?

Has he actually used 9 new engines or are these just engines that have needed to be rebuilt?


Very interesting, as always James.

It is understandable that teams want to maximize car performance at each track, however, redesigning wings each fortnight seems a little over the top. Or are the challenges of Monza and Spa unique?

I read that F1 engine looses approx 2-3% performance over its life which would have put Mark and Rubens some 15-20 hp down.

Do you know if changing rev and mix levels can restore this deficit for a short period? Certainly looked like Vettel had his engine back on song despite a few gremlins.


Wow, there really was a huge difference in the McLaren wings.

With no F-ducts in 2011, what will we talk about next year! I’m starting to think it’s a shame they’ve been banned…


KERS is my guess.

F-duct will be missed, though.


Defs keep the engine count as a regular feature on this blog!!!

Interesting to hear Maclaren turned up with their Spa wing – does that suggest no development AT ALL for Monza? Over confidence thinking they would blitz the track? Or just not the development time? If it was a “must win race” according to Hamilton, it seems a very odd approach?

Huge thanks for the tech reports, i feel i have learned so much about the cars since reading them this season. And good on LG for sponsoring – has earned them good press in my mind!


Truly amazing how two tenths affect the whole race between the front runners. Alonso just couldn’t overtake Button after his bad start.

So eight tenths spells disaster. That’s what happened to Jense losing the lead at Monza.

Even better when it’s two thousands of a second.

That’s why I love this sport called F1. Live timing gives me a buzz. Lol.

There are indications of road closures in Singapore, the circus is arriving very soon.


I am massively impressed by Renaults lack of engine consumption, in both the Renault and Red Bull teams. Last year, especially in the Red Bull, i remember Renault engines blowing up all over the place. A considerable improvement!

It’s interesting how Ferrari are on 8 of 8, while Torro Rosso, is only on 7. You’d have expected Ferrari to have better engine management but i suppose it’s down to a lot of luck as to who has reliability problems.


James, it’s interesting you say that about McLaren and the wings they brought to Monza.

Quite early on in the weekend I said to a few people that I thought McLaren would have been even faster and essentially found an optimum setup if they’d of been inbetween the two extremes, i.e. run with F-duct and mid-low downforce wing, rather than no F-duct and very low downforce wing or F-duct and high downforce wing.

You quite rightly pointed out that Ferrari created an F-duct solution specifically for Monza and it paid off. I wonder if this means that Ferrari won’t bring as bigger update to Singapore.

Do you have any idea of McLarens big downforce update for Singapore?


one good thing for Hamilton now is that he has one new engine.because he used this one only in first lap and quali


Too true about Hamilton, he still has that extra engine good enough for a full race and some more, due to going out on the first lap.

I cannot believe Mark has only used 6 engines?


James, any chance of finding out what mileage teams have left in their used engine bank? I think that Red Bull toasted some of their early engines like Ferrari so don’t have headroom, whereas McLaren may have done some tactical changes.


What’s going to happen with Ferrari’s engine situation?


Having that extra engine might be of an advantage to Webber in the title hunt. I’m sure Ferrari, Mclaren and Vettel will manage their engines in the remaining races like Vettel did last year, but it makes for interesting reading.

That said I reckon Alonso could probably afford to take a penalty. He has driven through the field on more than one occassion this season to finish (or almost finish) in a very good position.


If the penalties don’t get progressively worse for each extra engine, the rule needs tweaking.

Wonder whether Ferrari just fixed the unused engines to solve the early season reliability problem or whether the problem engines (think Alonso used 3? before the problem was fixed) are eligible and/or usable.

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