2012 Formula One Italian Grand Prix Preview I
Italy will host the 13th round of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship with the teams making the trip across the Alps to the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. Coming only a few days after an incident-packed Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, the season moves directly to another classic track for the final European race of the year.
Since the redesign of Hockenheim, Monza has stood alone on the F1 calendar as an ultra-high speed circuit. Low-drag aero packages will be on display as teams set up their cars to go faster than they have before this year. But it isn’t all about the figures at the end of the straight. Sebastian Vettel proved that last year; winning from pole at Monza despite being consistently toward the bottom of the speed traps times. Instead he was able to carry more speed through the chicanes and corners onto the straights.
Monza will see the first driver change of the year with Jérôme d’Ambrosio confirmed by Lotus as their replacement for the suspended Romain Grosjean. The Belgian driver competed for Marussia in the 2011 Italian Grand Prix and qualified 22nd. His race ended abruptly with a gearbox failure in the opening minutes. He has happier memories from Monza in 2010, when he finished the GP2 Series sprint race on the podium.
Fernando Alonso goes to Monza with his lead in the Drivers’ Championship greatly reduced after a first-lap retirement in Belgium. His advantage over reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel is down to 24 points. Both men are Italian Grand Prix winners with two victories apiece – though with the grandstands certain to be swathed in Ferrari red, there’s no doubt who the crowd will be supporting this weekend.
► The Italian Grand Prix is one of only two ever-present races on the Formula One World Championship calendar, the other being the British Grand Prix
► The 1971 Italian Grand Prix won by Peter Gethin is regarded as the closest contended finish in F1 history. Gethin beat Ronnie Peterson by 0.01s. François Cevert was third at 0.09s, Mike Hailwood at 0.18s and Howden Ganley at 0.61s. In 2002, when F1 had moved to a timing regime with three decimal places, the gap between Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher at the end of United States Grand Prix was timed at 0.011s, Ferrari staging a formation finish.
► Ferrari have dominated the Italian Grand Prix with 18 F1 World Championship victories. They are one of four Italian teams to have won, the others being Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Toro Rosso.
► The race has been held at Monza every year except 1980. That year the Italian Grand Prix was held at Imola. The decision to move the race stemmed from safety work being done to improve Monza in the aftermath of the terrible first-lap multi-car crash of 1978.
► Winning at Imola gives four times Italian Grand Prix winner Nelson Piquet (1980, ‘83, ‘86, ‘87) the distinction of being the only driver to win the race on two different circuits.
► Michael Schumacher has one more win that Piquet, having won the Italian Grand Prix five times (1996, ‘98, ‘02, ‘03, ‘06). Behind them on three wins come Juan Manuel Fangio (1953, ’54, ’55), Stirling Moss (1956, ’57, 59), Ronnie Peterson (1973, ’74, ’76), Alain Prost (1981, ‘85, ’89) and Rubens Barrichello (2002, ’04, ’09).
► Alberto Ascari and Tazio Nuvolari also have three Italian Grand Prix victories. Ascari’s wins in 1949, ’51 and ’52 straddle the eras before and after the creation of the World Championship. Nuvolari’s (1931, ’32, ’38) came much earlier.
► Since 1922, when the original circuit was constructed, racing has taken place in the Royal Park at Monza. The early F1 years were characterised by the race switching between the road course – the forerunner of the track used today – and the full circuit, including the high-speed sections of track, incorporating Monza’s famous banking.
► 1961 saw the race last run on the full circuit, with Phil Hill taking his second of back-to-back Monza victories. Moss and Fangio have the distinction of having won on both the road course and the full circuit.
► Since the 1950s the road course has undergone many changes – almost all of them related to improving safety: a series of chicanes have been installed to bring speeds down; the long, sweeping curves have been tightened to allow for the creation of gravel traps and, most recently, gravel has given way to asphalt run-offs around some parts of the track.
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