A technical look at Monza

In theory, a one stop strategy is quickest in Monza, venue to this weekend’s thirteenth round of the 2009 season, the effect of fuel weight is minimized by the relative absence of hard braking or acceleration. In practice, the quicker drivers plump for two stop strategies because they don’t want to compromise their qualifying performance (and, therefore, their grid position).

The difference between one and two stops is also amplified by the high speeds: refueling typically takes about 28 seconds, including time spent driving along the pit apron, and you cover a lot more ground during half a minute at Monza, where drivers average 150mph-plus, than you do elsewhere.

Average turn angle indicates the average angle of a circuit’s corners expressed in degrees. The higher the average turn angle, the more acute the corners in the circuit’s configuration and the greater propensity for understeer to compromise lap time. Average turn angle at Monza is 800 which is the 2nd lowest for the Championship and is indicative of the presence of 3 chicanes out of only 7 turns.

The end of straight (EOS) speed at Monza was 343kp/h in 2008. The Italian track ranks as having the highest EOS speed on the 2009 calendar, and this is one indicator of the wing level typically selected to optimize the downforce/drag ratio. Meanwhile, Monza also has the highest average lap speed of any of the tracks on the calendar.

The pitlane length and profile contribute to the determination of the optimum fuel strategy. The pitlane loss at Monza is approximately 25.0 seconds, which is the most penalizing pitlane in the Championship. To complete a normalized distance of 5km around Monza requires 2.18kg of fuel against an average of 2.42kg per 5km across all circuits this season, ranking the circuit as the least demanding in terms of fuel consumption.

Another key contributor to the determination of race strategy is the likelihood of safety car deployments, which are influenced by weather considerations, the availability of clear run-off areas that allow racing to continue while recovery takes place and the circuit profile, especially the character of the entry and exit into turn one at the start of the race. There have been 3 safety car deployments in the last 9 years at Monza, which means that there is a 33% chance that the circuit’s character will induce a safety car period.

As an example, it is a long observed tradition that drivers arriving at Interlagos complain about a lack of grip and an absence of engine power. Having become acquainted with a baseline of engine and aerodynamic performance during the season, the climb to 750 meters above sea level for one of the final races can, courtesy of the reduction in air density, rob a Formula One car of engine power, aerodynamic performance and cooling. The losses can come close to double digit percentages and thus have a very real impact on car performance.

Air density is a factor of the prevailing ambient temperature, which varies most significantly by season, air pressure which is closely linked to altitude and, to a much smaller degree, by humidity. Thus if races are run at the same time each year, the factor that tends to have the greatest bearing on air density is elevation. Monza is 160m above sea level and has the 5th lowest average pressure (997 mbar) of any race venue in the 2009 championship. As a consequence, the circuit’s ambient characteristics will result in a slight reduction in engine power.

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