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WATCH: Magical Monza - 11 unforgettable Italian Grand Prix moments

31 Aug 2016

F1's famous 'Cathedral of Speed' has seen its fair share of drama over the years - much of it involving home favourites Ferrari. Here are 11 moments sure to stir the soul of any devoted member of the tifosi...

Hamilton slides past Raikkonen, 2007

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Ahead of the 2007 race at Monza, with tensions between McLaren and Ferrari running high both on and off the track, Lewis Hamilton had spoken of his desire to beat the Scuderia on their home turf. And in the end the Briton got his wish, with team mate Fernando Alonso taking victory and Hamilton ensuring a famous one-two for the Woking team after stylishly putting Kimi Raikkonen to the sword with a fabulous lunge at the first chicane. Coming from a long way back, locking the brakes and effortlessly controlling a slide - this was Hamilton the rookie at his brilliant best.


Senna tangle gifts Ferrari emotional one-two, 1988

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“Even today, nearly 30 years after the event, Jean-Louis and I always enjoy a humorous exchange on the subject whenever we meet.” He may be able to laugh about it now, but back in 1988, when race leader Ayrton Senna had his infamous clash with the lapped Williams of Jean-Louis Schlesser at Monza, McLaren head honcho Ron Dennis wasn’t nearly so amused. The clumsy coming together, which occurred just two laps from home, spoiled the Woking team’s hitherto unblemished win record - not that the locals cared. All around the famous old autodrome they were too busy celebrating, for Senna’s retirement allowed the scarlet cars of Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto to come through for a wholly unexpected Ferrari one-two. But the cherry on the cake for the tifosi was that the victory had come in the Scuderia’s first race on home soil since the death of their illustrious founder Enzo Ferrari, a month earlier. Emotional doesn’t begin to describe it.


Schumacher wins over the tifosi, 1996

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Though he was an out and out winner and double world champion, Michael Schumacher’s arrival at Ferrari in 1996 wasn’t greeted with universal praise from the tifosi, many of who saw the German as lacking in the certain je ne sais quoi they’d loved in the likes of Gilles Villeneuve and Jean Alesi. But unlikely wins in Spain and Belgium in the ungainly F310 helped win over the doubters before the German cemented his place in their affections with victory on the hallowed ground of Monza at his first attempt, sparking delirious scenes. “Below me was a sea of red - and it was so incredible to see all those people going completely crazy,” said Schumacher of his podium experience. “Never in my life have I seen so many people have so much emotion. It gave me goosebumps all over my body.”


Vettel and Alonso square off at Curva Grande (take 1), 2011

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Though not quite as fearsome as it once was, Curva Grande remains a formidable corner, and one where there’s little margin for error. So when Sebastian Vettel tried his luck around the outside of Fernando Alonso at the long right hander in the 2011 race, he knew was taking a chance - especially as his arch rival could afford to be ruthless. "He is leading the championship by 100 points so when we have to defend we will be a little bit harder with him," said Alonso. Ultimately, though, the Spaniard was unable to keep Vettel’s flying Red Bull at bay, the German keeping his foot in to complete one of the most spectacular Monza passes of recent years. “He didn’t give me much room there,” said Vettel afterwards. “I was half-way on the grass but it was just enough!”


Vettel and Alonso square off at Curva Grande (take 2), 2012 

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In a moment of amazing symmetry, Alonso and Vettel found themselves fighting for position on exactly the same stretch of asphalt a year later, only this time the roles were reversed, and the Spaniard was the man in a hurry. Just as Vettel had done, Alonso attacked on the outside line and ended up off the track, but whereas the German had still been able to sneak by his rival, Alonso remained behind. Had Vettel defended too robustly? The stewards - acting after a push from the FIA to clamp down on defensive driving - said yes, and the Red Bull driver was handed a drive-through penalty for not leaving Alonso a wide enough gap.


Distraught Hakkinen gets himself in a spin, 1999

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Mika Hakkinen often used to look as if he had ice water running through his veins, but at the 1999 Italian Grand Prix his emotions were painfully clear for the world to see. In the midst of a tight championship battle with Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine, Hakkinen threw away a near-certain race victory - and the chance to extend his points advantage - when he made an uncharacteristic mistake at the first chicane and spun into retirement. “It was a terrible moment for Mika, but in a way I also felt relieved, because I don’t like this picture which is sometimes given about F1 drivers that they are cold people, like robots,” said Hakkinen’s then wife, Erja. “For once he shared his feelings with the fans.” Maybe so, but the vast majority of the partisan crowd at Monza were glad to see the Finn’s misfortune.


Hamilton forces Rosberg error, 2014

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If, in the second half of the 2014 season, Lewis Hamilton was the hunter and championship-leading team mate Nico Rosberg was the hunted, then nowhere was this more perfectly distilled than at Monza, where Hamilton recovered from a poor start before roaring onto the German’s tail and pressuring him into an error at the first chicane. "Lewis was quick, coming from behind," said a disappointed Rosberg afterwards. "I needed to up my pace and then as a result just went into the mistake. That was very bad and lost me the lead in the end. Monza is one of the most difficult tracks for braking because of the low downforce and the highest speeds of the year. That isn't an excuse, that's just the way it is. Unfortunately I got it wrong."


Vettel waltzes to wet-weather victory, 2008

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Rain is a great performance leveller, but even so, no one expected a Toro Rosso to challenge for victory in the 2008 race at Monza, Red Bull DNA or not. But as Sebastian Vettel would prove, with a precociously talented driver at the wheel and a car perfectly dialled into the conditions, anything is possible. Having grabbed a shock pole in dismal weather on Saturday, the then 21-year-old German backed up his superstar credentials with a poised drive on a similarly drenched track on Sunday, comfortably seeing off the opposition to become the sport’s youngest-ever winner. “This is the best day of my life,” said an overwhelmed Vettel. “I will never forget these feelings. It is so unbelievable.”


Plucky Perez humbles home favourites, 2012

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Early in the 2012 season Sauber’s Sergio Perez almost pulled off one of the biggest giant-killing performances in history when he challenged Fernando Alonso’s similarly-powered Ferrari for victory in rainy conditions in Malaysia. Alonso held him off that day, but several months later at Monza the Prancing Horse star was powerless as the Mexican utilised his supreme tyre management skills to sweep past both him and team mate Felipe Massa and take an inspired second place. “It was really enjoyable,” beamed Perez afterwards. “One of those races where you have the pace and you are the one attacking.”


Raikkonen battles back from horror start, 2015

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Having claimed his first front-row grid slot in over two years in qualifying, Kimi Raikkonen saw his hopes of challenging for victory in last year’s race end in a matter of seconds as he endured a nightmare getaway which dropped him to last. What was needed was an epic fightback, and the Finn duly obliged, recovering to 14th on a mesmeric opening lap (which, as the video above shows, included no fewer than six overtakes) before eventually going on to finish a fighting fifth. 


Last-lap crash wrecks Hamilton’s podium hopes, 2009

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If ever there were evidence that Lewis Hamilton is a racer through and through, it came at Monza in 2009 when the Briton threw away a guaranteed third-place finish on the final lap in the hope that his dogged pursuit of Brawn’s Jenson Button might net him second. "Every lap I was pushing like a qualifying lap so it's to be expected,” said a disappointed Hamilton. “We didn't have the pace and I was pushing as hard as I could. I can only say I'm sorry to the team.” But he needn’t have worried, for McLaren backed their man wholeheartedly. "[It was] simply the result of his never-give-up attitude, his unquenchable desire to fight until the very last metre of the very last lap,” said team principal Martin Whitmarsh. “[Lewis] knows that if you explore the limits then occasionally you go over them…”