Insight: A look at the likely race strategies for the Italian Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Sep 2011   |  1:15 pm GMT  |  105 comments

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

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 – 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.

Form Guide

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.

Weather Forecast

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.

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.

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 *
+13 Liuzzi

+9 Glock, Kobayashi**,
+7 Ricciardo
+6 Rosberg*****, Heidfeld ******,
+4 Alonso***,
+3 Massa
+2, Petrov,**** Di Resta,

Held position
– Trulli D’Ambrosio

Lost places
-2 Kovalainen, Chandhok
-3 Hamilton, Vettel,
-4 Sutil ##
-7 Button, Senna

-11 Barrichello
-12 Alguersuari####
-16 Maldonado
-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.

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Great article. Given DRS, isn’t there scope to run more rear wing to assist round the fast corners, and deploy DRS on the two long straights?

Hence the wing settings may be less low drag than previous years?


NO, last year the F Duct could be used all the time, now DRS can only be used twice a lap if you are close enough to another car. So you have to make sure you’re quick in a straight line


brilliant overview James; please keep doing that for next races, great start for racing weekend;

looking forward to hearing your commentary again on live broadcasts if there will be chance for that;

all the best,

andrej, toronto, canada


Monza was always a track were overtaking was easy or easier than other tracks. At least that’s what I noticed.

So why are there 2 DRS zones. Even with lesser DRS boost, it will make overtaking much much easier. DRS was already a big mistake in Spa

I hope I’m wrong but I think that DRS will make it too easy. If it’s the case we might see many miedfielders saving the soft tyres for the race.


I just got home from there last night, it was cold and wet, the locals, fantastic people, told me “the summer is now over” and the clouds agreed, it very much looks like a 20 degrees, possibly wet race.


340km/h WITH DRS? Wow. Back in 2007 I belive Heidfeld hit 346km/h in qualy, of course with less grip, more downforce and no DRS or KERS.

That has to be down to a much higher emphasis on reliability and lower rev limiter on todays engines? They are still 2.4L V8’s after all.


Hi James,

Love the work. Are you surprised that more teams haven’t got the compulsory tyre change out of the way at the 1st stop more often this year to cover off for say safety cars where track position could be crucial?

I’m also suprised cars haven’t conceded position just prior to the DRS detection zones so they can then bomb back passed in that zone… no brainer I’d have thought…


No, because it’s always hard to give up track position


Agreed, but for example, say it was the last lap at Spa, could you not let someone through at La Source and maintain a .2/.3 gap, and then nail them down Kemmel straight with DRS, therefore with a better chance of being in front at the end of the lap rather than be a sitting duck with DRS?


I meant to add, as well, sorry for so many posts… that surely track position is important when the flag is out, at the end of the last lap. Its like the championship table. It only matters after the last grand prix… prize money isn’t given out until after the last grand prix…

I know I have explained it in a poor, inarticulate way, but hopefully, the point I was trying to make has come across!


Reading this has just given me goosebumps! I’m flying to Milan tomorrow morning for the whole weekend and going to the race and its my first race ive attended! Considering im a Ferrari fan, im hoping for a fernando win, but just reading this article means i cant wait to get there!!!


Hello James and my fellow F1 fans!

I have stumbled today into an article about the date when F1 is going to race in the US, 18th November 2012.

Here is the link: I hope there’s no problem sharing this.

This article points out couple of major aspects which I fail to understand why F1 bosses haven’t thought about them.

What are your thoughts on this James?


I agree with James, there wasn’t a lot they could do regarding finding a ‘good’ date. I’m glad they made it the end of the year and am surprised at how many people still talk about ‘moving it back to mid-year for subsequent years’ – missing the point that it’s too bloody HOT in Austin then! Also, the Montreal-Austin distances don’t make a date tie-up particularly advantageous for the teams logistically.

And I’m glad many people replied to that website article making the point that not EVERYONE is Nascar-crazy and so there will still be some people attracted to F1 and the event. It might take a few years to finally take off, and true, it could nose-dive and die if we have another disaster like the 6-car Indy ‘race’, but that’s unlikely… It’s just up to USA now to produce a worthy American F1 driver to boost the viewing figures.


I have seen it. It’s a shame that there is this date clash, for sure. But there probably wasn’t much they could have done about it, given that the season needs to end in Brazil.


I don’t think they’re too concerned… there’s not much of an overlap between F1 and NASCAR fans, and even less so for NFL fans; they’d likely think that Formula One is a hair-colouring product for men.


haha. You’re probably right.


James, back in the Bridgestone days with refuelling it was calculated that a 1 stopper was faster over a 2 stopper by a handful of seconds or something and it certainly worked in respects to Kimi in 2007 and I think Rubens in 2009. Could we expect Perez to attempt a 1 stopper at Monza?


That’s right. Monza was the track teams designed fuel tank size around as 1 stop was the way to go. With Pirellis and no refuelling, I think that’s stretching it.


Excellent work, as ever. Thanks.

A small comment about start performance. Statistically you’d expect those who regularly qualify near the front to have a worse start performance than those further back simply because there’s less scope for them to make up places: if you’re on pole you can’t do better than stay there. The opposite effect occurs for those at the back, of course. There might be some way of factoring this into your statistics.


Your point is meritorious. BUT would serve to paint Webber’s performance even darker. All acknowledge my grandmother would beat Marko off the line, but… WHY??


Hi James,

Really good work and a great article to read! Well done!

However, as a lot of people who read your site are British I expect that we would like to see the speeds in MPH rather than KMH, or perhaps both?


Who’s Raymond? I presume he is a F1 Team Manager.


Unfortunately I’m not an F1 team manager. However I do work in the engineering sector 😉


James, your excellent feature mentions a good weather forecast for the weekend but BBC Weather predicts thundery showers for sunday. What effect are those likely to have on your predictions?


We will see. I’ve always trusted over BBC. Also forecasts change. I took it Tuesday am. It’s now Thursday. Teams have to deal with what comes, that’s weather!


It’s Wednesday today :))



I trust For Saturday it says: “A couple of morning showers; otherwise, partly sunny”, and for Sunday: “Episodes of sunshine with a couple of thunderstorms around”.


James, today is Wednesday – or perhaps you are bending time and space!


LOL! So used to travelling out on Thursdays. It’s Wednesday, as you say


James, do you know what’s the distance from the start-finish line till the first chicane?


Roughly 600 metres, judging by Google Maps. 😉


Hi James

Just my 2 cents here, but as far as I recall, Monza are famous for the abrasiveness of the asphalt. It is interesting to see that Pirelli decided to use soft and medium tyres as Bridgestone decided bring the hard tyres in 2010 due to heat as well as durability

Same case in GP2 as well

My question is simple : are you sure it is not hard on tyres???


Bridgestone were rediculusly conservative on tyres, a single set of softs could have done the full race at Monza last year (and did with Vettel) so it wouldnt surprise me to see Pirelly going Soft and Medium.


What I think will be very interesting is that in qualifying, at least Q3, I think a lot of drivers will be braking super late into Parabolica and getting the car straight super early for a massively late apex. That will allow them to deploy KERS AND DRS VERY early on; maybe near the “usual” early apex of Parabolica, and gain them a massive boost into their flying lap.


I don’t think the lines will change much through Parabolica for qualifying. With the cars accelerating hard there, they will be more stable, allowing the drivers to activate DRS with less of a penalty in stability.

I think there would be more of a penalty in taking the corner slower in order to get the car straight earlier than would be made up by the benefit of getting DRS open earlier.


I have a feeling we’re talking about the same thing here, just that we’re describing it in different words. The shape of Parabolica; as far as I know; makes drivers take an early apex (as the shape is skewed to one side).

With such a circular line; I doubt they would be able to get DRS open.

However, if they braked later and took a late(r) apex; they would then be able to go through the whole Parabolica corner with KERS and DRS both activated. That will give them a very good boost into the start finish.

In fact if you look at the Nurburg- and Hungaro-rings this year, you’ll see that drivers are braking VERY late into the last corner; all the way to the edge of the track and on the marbles, getting a very tight turn, and making a very late apex to slingshot them into the start finish straight.


Brad-youre too kind 🙂 Vettel did, but that is a circuit where the cars run much more downforce. With the wings so skinny anyways, and such light levels of downforce, there is a very critical shift of balance to oversteer when you activate DRS.

Malcolm-I have no doubt that the flying lap will take the normal circular line around the Parabolica. I understand very much so that entry is very important. However I’m talking about the outlap here, not the flying, where they just want to present the car with the fastest possible speed onto the main straight. We didn’t see that with the F-duct, yes. But the F-duct effect is far less than DRS. DRS will take away about twice the amount of rear downforce, and take away twice amount of drag, given identical wing designs. Of course that’s a very gross generalisation, but you get my drift I’m sure.


Nope, we’re not talking about the same thing.

There is a penalty to running a slower line through Parabolica in order to get the car straighter. There is a benefit to exiting the corner with straighter line in order to activate DRS and put more power down. What I am saying is that the benefit of DRS is less than the penalty of the slower line required to do so.

With a late apex, you lose time on the entry to the corner. The old adage of “slow in, fast out” is long outdated, as they realized the run into the corner is usually just as important as the run you get out of the corner (except in specific circumstances, like a sequence of tight corners leading onto a long straight, or a long straight leading into a sequence of tight corners).

By taking a late apex into Parabolica, they would be throwing away easily 3-4 tenths, and early DRS and KERS activation would likely only give them a tenth.

There was the same effect last year with the F-Duct, and we didn’t see very different lines through there. At most, you might see the cars trying lines that are about 15 cm different than usual, and not much more.


Hi Raymond, you really know your technical stuff. I was thinking back to Isanbul turn 8, Vettel using DRS before the 3rd apex that’s why I thought it maybe possible for Parabolica.


We have no data on how much downforce each team produces so to say it as “definite” is a bit pushing it. However it certainly is a we have possibility, however unlikely it may be. We have to remember though that being flat through Parabolica with the wing up is on the edge; and DRS activation might be just enough to push it over that delicate edge.

Also, having a late apex into the corner would minimise the amount of tyre drag on the car (or what most commentators call “scrubbing speed”). Which is why a lot of commentators say that straightening the car out is good for acceleration- there are less longitudinal friction forces generated by the front tyres


“With such a circular line; I doubt they would be able to get DRS open.” The Red Bulls maybe. No wait… Definately


Thanks James – interesting read as always.

I’d be interested in how this stat is measured: #### Alguersuari was doing well with a +6 record prior to Spa, where he was hit by another car and lost 18 places.

Poor Alguersuari barely made the first corner.


At the first sector. Accident at Spa was Turn 1 as you said


So he is counted as a bad starter for getting a good start and being rammed?

That is really quite horrible logic.

Thats like saying you started a marathon and someone jumps from the sidelines and tackles you. And you call that a bad performance from you????


No, that’s why its important to explain the circumstances.


I’m a huge RBR/Webber fan but would love to see Alonso on pole here. My predictions:

Alonso – win

Hamilton, Vettel – podiums

Button – will complain with lack of grip 😉

Webber – will go backwards off the start.

Great report James.


Have you noticed that Button hasn’t complained about ‘no grip’ lately? Or at least I haven’t heard it.

He didn’t complain much about his 2 recent DNFs either.

Funny how people get ‘type cast’ as a moaner, a bad overtaker, a crasher or a car breaker.

A couple of similar mistakes & you’re tarred with it for life.


Button is in the form of his life at the moment. Loves the car and is doing a great job with it


Please forgive this Off-Topic question here:

Whatever happened about the story from May about the situation surrounding the injury sustained by Renault F1′s Eric Lux at the hands of Force India driver Adrian Sutil in a Shanghai nightclub? Has it all blown over, or awaiting some distant court case?


The top speed will be the same, DRS or no DRS. cars will be on the limiter at the end of the main straight without DRS.


They probably wouldn’t.

If you’re seriously setting your car up with a wing angle (vs gear ratio) that allows you to hit the limiter on the main straight, that means that the drag resistance you’re facing is still smaller than the peak power output of your engine. That will cause problems as that power still has to go somewhere; probably heat. Heat bad.

You would be better off cranking a bit more wing on to even limit yourself to 17,999 RPM. You never want to EVER be hitting the limiter in 7th in normal conditions. I have never heard, nor heard OF a car hitting the limiter in 7th gear in F1, except this year of course when they’re activating DRS in quali. Even then it only touches the limiter very lightly. Of course, same if there’s a tailwind.

Next, you would be overstressing the engine. With DRS activated that’s a WHOLE LOT of power then, that is not going into fighting drag. Again. Heat. And reliability. The engines would probably go pop by the end of FP2 in that configuration.

I’m sorry mate; I don’t see the logic in your suggestion


Thanks for your comment, I don’t agree with you
First point, the gearing must take into account that the speed of the car is different from start to finish, it will not hit the limiter with high fuel ofcourse, but will do so on the last laps, the gearing setup will be the best comprimise, not just setup to avoid the limiter on the last lap, that would result in a very tall gearbox for the race start. Point 2, there is no extra heat generated at the limiter, as the limiter is effected by cutting fuel injector supply, it is an FIA limit, not a physical limitation of the engine. Point 3, it is routine this season for cars to sit on the limiter for several seconds in qualy and common to do so for a second or so at the end of races on low fuel. Point 4, reliability is a factor ofcourse but not a big issue as these engines are designed to run quite reliably at over 20,000 rpm for short periods, they did this routinely before the FIA limited the RPM available, to suggest they can’t cop an 18,000 redline for 2 free practice sessions is just incorrect.


Fair point on your comment on reliability. I forgot that these engines were just about kissing 21000rpm back in 06!

However I must disagree with you on top speed. Weight plays a very little, if not negligible, factor on an F1 car’s top speed. Drag is a much bigger issue. Which is why terminal velocity is the point where engine power = aerodynamic drag.

I would buy your story if you said they geared the cars so finely they hit 17,999 at terminal velocity, and have no power to go even faster, but not the limiter


If the number of new tyres are so critical, is there any chance we’d see one of the top teams try to use the same set of tyres for Q1 and Q2, or does Q1 take too much out of them?


The top teams will use the medium tyres for Q1 and maybe Q2 since they only intend to use one set during the race, and save as many new sets of Softs for Q3 and the race as possible.


Assuming volume is about even with weight on F1 fuel (which it likely isn’t) that’s about 50L/100km that an F1 car gets. First time I calculated that number.

Also, while back we went to Indianapolis driving there and back. Rented biggest SUV we could get for the drive to go in comfort – Lincoln Navigator. If I remember right, that monster took 100L of fuel on board at refill. F1 car carries 50% more at start. Interesting. Not in the environmental aspect – just for scale considering you could darn nearly put an F1 car in the back of the Navigator if you fold the third row seats. 🙂

Grayzee (Australia)

50lt per 100km? Can anyone verify that?

It seems rather excessive. Surely they don’t use THAT much fuel….. such a small engine, though very high revs….hmmmm(and to think I complain when I get 12 lt/100km from my road car! 🙂 )


Sounds about right. Most race cars are about 5 miles per gallon when really pushing, so it makes sense.

Might be closer to 40-45, but still in the ballpark.


I went a bit lazy of 1KG = 1L for water. F1 gasoline is lighter. I think 0.7g/cm3 is closer. So I think that there would be more volume in the weight.

151.2KG x 1000 to get to grams

151200 / 0.7 to get to volume

216000cm3 – which gives us 216L

Assuming that’s what they need for race distance of 310km or so – it’s actually closer to 70L/100km.

Am I flaking the math somewhere?

Is 70L/100km or so correct?

4L for each lap average gives me about the same 70L/100km.

So it looks like it’s actually 70L/100km. Right?


3.3 Miles per Gallon


Thank-you James,

Do you think Webber will use the same tyre stratagy he used in Spa?

With Webber having so many problems with his starts. How does he get to practise them with the testing bans?

Great artical


One thing you didn’t mention was the possibility of teams running higher downforce than normal (a la Button last year) to give better cornering performance while using the DRS (in qualifying and practice at least) to negate the drag created by bigger wings. Admittedly the advantage of the unrestricted use of the F-duct is greater than with two DRS zones, but some teams may try to risk it.


The F Duct allowed the leading car to use it on straights to defend.

Lets see same scenario like last year, alonso couldn’t pass because of that. This year button would be sitting duck, with big wing against DRS they would breeze past him, and we might struggle to stay inside the 1 sec to use it again.

Since the gap of the DRS is limitted as far as i know, even with DRS open he would still be slower than guy in front.

Other thing, guys like Mercedez with DRS closed in SPA were as quick as Mclaren with DRS open. Not sure how the setup will be for this race, but i believe that mclaren will sacrifice again Qually performance for race performance in terms of Gear ratios.


DRS is only activated when you’re behind someone. Without the top speed, you’ll likely never get close enough to even activate DRS.


It might probably not work out. A large part of what made Button’s strategy perform was that he had unlimited use of the F-duct; which is not possible with the current DRS


Hmmmm, very interesting… Probably too daring – the difference with Button last year is indeed the unrestricted use of the F-duct. No, I’d say it wouldn’t work. With just three high downforce corners in Monza while 75% of the lap is on full throttle, the gain on those corners should not compensate the additional drag on the the rest of the circuit (but in the DRS zones). But it would be very interesting to see/find out!!!

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