Italian Grand Prix - technical preview 31 Aug 2005
The Italian Grand Prix circuit is the fastest on the Formula One calendar - in 2003, race winner Michael Schumacher averaged an incredible 247.585 km/h (154 mph). Its plethora of long straights, split by just a handful of fast corners and tight chicanes, means Monza requires a totally different approach to any other track.
Aerodynamic efficiency is paramount - drag must be minimised so as not to affect the top speed at the end of the main straight, where the cars can reach up to 370 km/h (230 mph). Last weeks Monza test gave us a pretty good idea of some of the steps the teams will be taking this weekend to ensure their machines cut through the air as cleanly as possible.
Ferrari chose to remove their distinctive central box wing, normally situated immediately below the F2005s nose (click here for drawing), while Toyota were also running a revised, more slippery, front-wing design, featuring a very narrow flap (click here for drawing). The Japanese team also tested their latest B-spec chassis, a key change being the position of the front supensions lower wishbones, which rather than being joined to a single, central keel, were connected to the lowermost corner of the chassis, in a similar fashion to the McLaren, so as to increase the airflow underneath the car.
BARs 007 also sported some interesting changes, one being a revised version of the cars turning vanes in front of the sidepods, which have now have lost the central plate close to the splitter (click here for drawing). Instead their width has dramatically increased and this latest low-drag design ensures more airflow beneath the car, without disrupting overall aerodynamic efficiency.
Besides low-drag aerodynamics, the other way to improve top speeds at Monza is through sheer horsepower. However, this years two weekend engine rule means that teams must perform a very delicate balancing act between power and reliabilty. The cars are flat out for almost 70 percent of the lap, the highest full-throttle ratio of any Formula One circuit. That is a big ask for an engine on its second race and even those drivers with fresh V10s know they must then face Spa - another very punishing circuit for engines - in just a weeks time.
The high speeds at Monza also require some pretty intensive braking. However, the long straights mean the discs do at least have time to cool between uses, hence fade should not be a problem. In fact, the teams usually run smaller-than-average brake ducts here, so as to keep drag to a minimum.
McLaren, and more recently Williams (click here for drawing), have introduced a clever solution this year to further enhance rear brake cooling by enclosing the disc in a sort of shell. The shells design allows the cool air coming in through the duct to be distributed more efficiently across the entire disc surface.