In the refueling era of F1, Monza was always the track around which the engineers used to design the fuel tanks, as the objective would always be to make it large enough to do a one-stop race at Monza.
Strategy has always been central to this race.
Last year we saw Sergio Perez move up from 12th on the grid thanks to a bold strategy of starting on the hard tyre, running a long first stint and then picking off cars struggling for pace, using the faster medium tyres. It worked perfectly and he finished second, a result that set him up for the McLaren move.
This year, with the new lower pit lane speed limit of 80km/h, the teams will be even more likely to stop only once. But how you attack the race, what tyre you start on and when you make your stop will still be pivotal to the outcome.
With an average lap speed of over 250km/h, Monza is the fastest circuit in Formula 1. Monza 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 character. The cars run in low downforce mode here with thinner wings than usual. The aerodynamic package for this event is unique in the season. This makes it an outlier in the calendar and teams do not always devote much resource to developing a package for this one-off race.
For this reason, it can be a race where smaller teams can do well, as they sometimes do decide to focus some resource in it, in the hope that it can give them a chance to shine.
From a strategy point of view, Monza is not particularly hard on the tyres as there are few fast corners, which 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. Also the cars hit the kerbs hard and this means that the construction needs to be robust.
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.
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 – 74% 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)
Total time needed for pit stop (at 80km/h): 23 seconds (ave/high)
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.35 seconds (ave/high)
The Italian Grand Prix is the twelfth round of the 2013 FIA F1 World Championship.
So far Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso have all won races, while only Hamilton, Vettel and Rosberg have also been on pole position.
Red Bull has never had the best straight line speeds, but managed to win the race in 2011 due to clever gearing which kept Vettel ahead on acceleration out of the chicanes. His wins in Belgium and on the low downforce track in Canada this year indicate that he and Mark Webber should be very competitive.
From a driver perspective, Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton are the ony drivers in the field who have won the Italian Grand Prix. Alonso and Vettel have won it twice, Hamilton once.
The long term weather forecast predicts a hot and sunny weekend with temperatures of 27-28 degrees.
Likely tyre performance and other considerations
Pirelli tyre choice for Monza: medium (white markings) and hard (orange markings). This combination of revised specification tyres was seen in Belgium.
As it is a low downforce circuit, the tyres will tend to slip under traction out of the low speed chicanes and this increases the degradation.
With the two hardest compounds in the range brought to this race, we should not see 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.
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. This can have a marked effect on performance.
Number and likely timing of pit stops
Last year’s pre-race simulations showed that one stop was faster than two stops by 10 seconds. However one notable factor was the wear on the inside shoulder of the right front tyre. This was showing signs on some cars of wearing down to the nylon, so managing that was crucial.
If it turns out that drivers have to stop twice, the ones who plan it from the outset and space out the stops ideally will have an advantage over those pushed into it by fading tyre performance.
For top ten cars that start on the medium tyres, the target will be to reach lap 20-24 and then use a set of hard tyres to the finish. There will be opportunities to “do a Perez” for any quick car that finds itself outside the top ten after qualifying. Having new tyres at your disposal makes the challenge easier, thanks to the extra laps of life.
The time needed for a pit stop at Monza is on the high side at over 23 seconds thanks to the new regulation that pit lane speed limits are set at 80km/h. 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.
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, especially at Monza, where the cars arrive at speed and are sorted out in a tight first chicane. Incidents are common.
As far as 2013 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows:
+17 Van der Garde*****
+12 Di Resta
-15 Vergne ****
*Webber dropped from second to seventh after a clutch problem in Australia ** Hulkenberg did not start in Australia *** Sutil suffered puncture from contact with Massa in Bahrain ****Vergne retired following collision. *****Van der Garde and Maldonado made contact in Monaco. ******Bianchi started from pit lane in Monaco after stalling
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.
However with recent safety measures introduced by the FIA, following a loose wheel incident in a pit stop at the German Grand Prix, teams seem to have slowed the process by a second or so and closed up considerably in performance.
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.
1. Ferrari 22.444s
2. McLaren 22.465s
3. Mercedes 22.682s
4. Red Bull 22.685s
5. Sauber 22.712s
6. Toro Rosso 22.871s
7. Williams 23.411s
8. Lotus 23.445s
9. Force India 23.475s
10. Marussia 23.916s
11. Caterham 23.998s
The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several F1 team strategists, from JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan and from Pirelli.