Monza - the technical requirements 08 Sep 2007
Along with the British Grand Prix, the Italian Grand Prix is the only race to have featured in every Formula One world championship since 1950 - and 56 of those 57 races have been held at the historic Autodrome Nazionale di Monza, which dates back to 1922.
It is also the most expensive race of the year for the teams, as the unique layout demands the development and production of a one-off aerodynamic package. As well as being a unique test on the chassis side, Monza places severe demands on the V8 engines.
And while it may look deceptively simple for the drivers, the old circuit only gives away its secrets slowly, and the challenge of consistently finding the limit in low-downforce configuration demands skill and finesse. Here Renault describe how they aim to get the most from Monza
Monza is the fastest circuit on the calendar, with an average speed of around 250 km/h. Although the teams use low-downforce configurations in Canada and the USA, Monza demands the development of a one-off aerodynamic package, in order to attain competitive top speeds of around 340 km/h. This is often termed an ultra low downforce package, but the critical parameter is actually drag, and namely minimising its effects in order to achieve target top speeds. In the wind tunnel, the teams concentrate on ultra-efficient wing designs, which often vary quite significantly up and down the pit-lane. Naturally, these efficient low-drag wings also produce less downforce. The Monza aero package generates approximately 20 per cent less downforce at 250 km/h than the one we use in Monaco.
Mechanical grip, stability and ride are major set-up areas in Monza. This is firstly because the low downforce levels place a premium on mechanical grip, secondly because good braking stability is essential as the drivers spend nearly 15 per cent of the lap on the brakes, and thirdly to ensure the drivers can use the kerbs aggressively in the chicanes in order to gain lap time. The set-up compromise must provide the drivers with a good change of direction in the low and medium-speed chicanes, while also ensuring strong traction exiting the slower corners. Equally, it is important to achieve good braking stability in order that the drivers can attack the heavy braking zones with confidence. The engineers will try and run the cars as low as possible for maximum aerodynamic performance. To avoid touching at high speeds, when the bottom of the car effectively drags along the ground, we use bump rubbers in the suspension and the car will 'sit' on these at high speed.
The cars spend nearly 15 per cent of the lap braking, meaning this is an area in which lap-time can be gained. The mechanical set-up will be tweaked to improve the drivers' confidence in the car's braking stability, while the braking system itself is accorded special attention. The brakes are worked very hard at Monza, with similar braking energies to those achieved in Canada, and this is particularly the case into Turn One where the drivers experience braking forces that peak at 4.5g. The cars must negotiate four big braking events from over 320 km/h, and special attention is paid to brake cooling to ensure optimum performance for minimal drag penalty.
Monza has always been known as the ultimate test of a Formula One engine. The engines spend 77 per cent of the lap at full throttle, significantly above the season average of 61 per cent. Furthermore, the engine must be capable of operating effectively over a 275 km/h range, from a maximum speed of around 340 km/h on the pit straight to the minimum speed of around 65 km/h in the first chicane. The longest time spent at full throttle is around 15.5 seconds, from the exit of the Parabolica to the start of braking at the first chicane. The engine mapping must provide the drivers with good power delivery from slow speed, and is also tuned for smooth high-speed response on the exit of corners such as Parabolica.
In addition to the challenge of the heavy workload Monza imposes on the engine, the slow chicanes pose challenges for engine reliability. The drivers must use the kerbs aggressively and there is a risk of excessive use of the rev limiter when the cars are in the air and transmission damage when the spinning wheels land. Engine ancillaries must also be monitored to ensure they can withstand the severe demands of a lap at Monza.