Monza is the home race for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
The final European event on the Formula 1 calendar is a very important one for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, it being the home race for the Maranello-based team. The Scuderia makes the short trip to the Royal Park of Monza in good form, after Kimi Raikkonen gave Ferrari its first win of the season, ten days ago in Belgium. However, the main talking point over the weekend is likely to be the driver of car Number 3, as Giancarlo Fisichella, another star of the Spa-Francorchamps weekend, now has the honor and indeed the responsibility of being an Italian driver in a Prancing Horse car at the historic and atmospheric Monza circuit. By his own admission, driving a Ferrari Formula 1 car has always been a dream of his. Since being released from his Force India contract, the Roman driver has had sessions in Ferrari’s static simulator to acclimatize to the F60 cockpit environment and has been extensively briefed by the engineers, to be as well prepared as possible for the weekend ahead.
The two F60s, running the same chassis as in Spa, have no technical updates for this race, apart from the fact they will run Monza-specification wings, as this circuit requires the least downforce of any track on the calendar. The high speed characteristics means that KERS will be particularly advantageous here, as is confirmed by the fact that some teams, who either abandoned KERS earlier in the year, or had never used it so far, are contemplating using it here. Apart from the fact the power boost is useful on the long straights, the other feature of KERS at this track is that the heavy braking required for the chicanes means that “topping-up” the power is actually more efficient here than at other circuits, making the whole system extremely effective, more so than at fast tracks without too much heavy braking.
In recent years, riding the curbs, an essential part of a quick lap at Monza, especially for qualifying, was not Ferrari’s strong point. However, take the “b” out of “curbs” and you have KERS, which our drivers can rely on for some lap time advantage, which should allow them to take a more gentle approach to the curbs.
As we have seen in recent races – and the performance of our new driver, Fisichella, taking pole and finishing second in Spa is a prime example – it is almost impossible to predict which team might have the upper hand this weekend. Indeed, even Ferrari’s victory in Belgium was far from being a foregone conclusion. On top of this, Monza lap times are usually very close from the top to the bottom of the grid and, as this year generally, the entire field has been very bunched up, a combination of these two factors means that Saturday afternoon’s Qualifying could produce the most unpredictable grid of the entire year, decided by hundredths of a second.
High speeds also mean this track puts engines to a hard test and on this front, the Scuderia is in good shape, within the eight engines per season rule. With five races remaining, Ferrari is on target to meet the program established at the start of the season, whereby it could run more efficiently, running engines over lower mileages for the final part of the year, running an engine cycle based on one engine for two races. Tire usage has been critical for everyone this season, with different compounds and track temperatures playing a key role in overall performance. Bridgestone is bringing the same types of tire to Monza as was used in Spa-Francorchamps. However, at the moment, there is some chance of rain on Saturday, just to add a further unknown to the equation.
Coming to a Grand Prix, having won the previous race, is always good for team spirit and the Scuderia had a further boost to morale, with the good news from Brazil, that Felipe Massa successfully underwent a plastic surgery procedure on Monday morning and that his recovery is proceeding apace. On Wednesday evening in Maranello, all the drivers, Badoer, Fisichella, Raikkonen and Schumacher will attend the World Premiere of an exciting new car, available to selected customers, the 458 Italia. However, from Friday onwards, all the focus will be on the F60 at Monza.
The F60 is named to mark 60 years of F1 competition for Ferrari and this year will also be the sixtieth running of the Italian Grand Prix, the fifty ninth at Monza (Imola the only anomaly in 1980.) On seventeen of those occasions, a Ferrari driver has stood on the top step of the podium, the last victory being Michael Schumacher’s in 2006, although a Ferrari engine powered Sebastian Vettel to victory last year. Kimi has been on the podium twice in Monza, with a second place in 2006 and a third in 2007. Giancarlo secured a third place finish in 2005.