Here’s what the teams and drivers had to say ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
“I really like the mix of old and new circuits on the existing calendar and Monza is a particular favourite. The track has a fantastic heritage and as a driver it gives you a very special feeling to be racing here. Plus, I’ve won a couple of times here in FR3.5, so it’s a track I know well and enjoy. It’s also the home race of our powertrain partners, Scuderia Ferrari, so we know we can look forward to that extra boost that such a passionate home crowd gives you, albeit in a much smaller way than Ferrari of course. It’s a great track to see out the current phase of European races, before we head to the long hauls.”
“It’s always a really emotional experience to be racing here at Monza and particularly as a small part of the Scuderia Ferrari family. The crowd here are always incredibly passionate and together with the historic significance of the circuit, it’s makes for a very special weekend. The track is really very high-speed and so it is quite a different challenge. Plus, the forecast is for mixed conditions, so it could be quite unpredictable. I hope we can head into the flyaway races with a further boost to our current run of two-car finishes.”
John Booth, Team principal
“The Italian Grand Prix is always a very special event on the calendar, both in technical and emotional terms. It is also the home race of our powertrain partner, Scuderia Ferrari, so it does add a greater significance to the event, as we know some of that incredible Tifosi support will be heading in our direction. We will do all we can to have a positive race in front of that ‘sea of red’. The races are coming thick and fast now but there is no better place to end the traditional European phase of the season before embarking on the arduous long-haul phase at what are largely contemporary circuits. We hope to contribute to a successful event all round for the Scuderia on their home turf.”
“Monza is one of the best circuits to drive – the layout is quick with some very fast corners. The local area is fantastic with good weather, great food and fans who are very passionate about Formula One. There is a lot of history at the track and as a team we have had some good results there, including our podium last year. Standing on the Monza podium is very special and I’m lucky enough to have a lot of supporters in Italy. Our car should be suited well to the characteristics of the circuit but we will have to work hard to make sure that we leave Italy with a good result.”
“I always look forward to racing in Monza. It’s an old school track with a lot of history and is one of the fastest circuits on the calendar which gives you a real buzz when driving. It requires a low downforce set-up from the car which should be good for us. The passionate fans also make the weekend a special one. We are aiming for a strong weekend here. We have learnt from our mistakes and will bounce back even stronger!”
“Monza is a specialist circuit and, like the rest of the teams, we will be taking a dedicated aero package. It’s a great circuit and a challenge for both engineers and drivers to get right. There are some very high speed straights with big braking zones with some fast and medium speed corners too. Ascari is a real challenge and Parabolica needs a good front end which fortunately the FW37 has. It’s a test for the drivers as they will have the lowest drag set up of the year which takes time to get used to during the first Friday session. Last year we were on the podium so we look to replicate that performance and carry on outscoring our closest competitors. Italy is fantastic and the fans give the team a great reception, despite being a completely British team and of course the Tifosi are some of the most passionate fans in sport.”
“Monza is such a classic, old-school track, every driver loves to race there! I enjoyed it so much there last year [in Formula Renault 3.5] – but to drive an F1 there and reach one of the highest top-speeds of the year… that must be such an adrenaline rush! I’m positive even if I’ll have to take a 10-place grid penalty. I really want to at least gain all those positions back in the race, as [Max] did in Spa… If [he can] do it, I can do it!”
“Yes, I just can’t wait – it’s the type of track I enjoy: high speeds, great braking zones and a unique atmosphere. The only time I drove there was last year during an F3 test, but to actually race there must be such a great feeling. Even though Monza isn’t the best track for us in terms of engine speed, I will push to the max, obviously! It’s the team’s home race, so it’s definitely going to be a special one for us and everyone will be extra motivated. Hopefully we can deliver another good result and score some more points!”
“Monza is completely unique – a fantastic circuit, so much history, great fans, and huge fun to drive. It’s always special to go there year after year to experience the atmosphere, and the way the car feels when you drive on that track is completely different to any other.
“I have won at Monza twice in my career – once with McLaren in 2007 – and both times were incredibly special. For this race we have to manage our own expectations, as we know it won’t suit our car.
“It will be tough, but we’ll still push hard as usual, learn as much as we can about our package, and work on our low-downforce configuration to try and get as much as we can out of the weekend.”
“Monza is such a great place, definitely one of the most incredible races on the calendar for a driver, and always such a thrill to race on. It’s completely unique in terms of the setup it demands, and I love the feeling you get when you hit the sweet spot in the corners – keeping the car controlled under heavy braking on the way in is tricky, and then on the way out it becomes very unsettled as you’re trying to get the power down, so it’s a great test of nerve.
“Spa was a very tough race for the team, and especially so on my side of the garage due to the deployment issues I had on the straights. We’re working hard on this and we’re optimistic that there won’t be a repeat in Monza, as it really hindered any chance I had of keeping up with the rest of the pack. That said, Monza’s high speeds will prove very challenging for us, but we’ll give it our all and stay focussed as ever.
“The key for us will be getting the maximum from the car on Saturday, to give ourselves a fighting chance of a good battle on Sunday afternoon. Despite the issues, the car was well balanced in Spa and felt good to drive, particularly in qualifying, so we’ll aim to make the most of that in Monza, too, before we head to the fly-aways where there’ll be circuits that’ll suit our car’s strengths much better.”
Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda racing director
“Firstly, on behalf of everyone at McLaren-Honda, we extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Justin Wilson at this incredibly difficult time. He was not only a much-loved member of the Formula 1 and motorsport community, but also well-known to many members of our team, and the tragic news of his passing puts all of our racing activities into sharp perspective. Rest in peace, Justin.
“As we move our thoughts to Monza, the race which marks the end of the European leg of the season, it’s often a good opportunity to look further ahead to the end of the season and the final fly-away races of the year. It’s certainly been a tough year for McLaren-Honda so far, but we’re continuing to fight with our heads held high.
“Spa was a particularly unflattering race for our package, which disappointingly masked many signs of progress we were hoping to see after the summer break. However, we always knew Spa would be one of, if not the, most challenging grand prix of the season, and we were certainly proved right. On the other hand, we also took some positives from the weekend and we’re working hard to ensure we achieve the same consistent tyre performance and improved car balance that we saw in Spa-Francorchamps.
“In terms of Monza’s characteristics, it’s another high-speed, low downforce track, and a unique challenge, with long straights and heavy braking. For this reason, we expect this race will be difficult for us in similar ways to Spa, but our aim is to finish the race with both cars and learn as much as we can from the weekend in anticipation of Singapore and beyond, where we’re hopeful of demonstrating improved pace. In Monza, the passionate fans and incredible atmosphere that are always guaranteed there will surely provide us with a fantastic weekend of racing on this legendary circuit.”
Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer – chief officer of motorsport
“Monza is another high-speed track which unfortunately does not suit our package. The drivers are on full throttle for most of the lap due to the long straights and fast corners, and since maximum power and minimal drag are key we know we have a big challenge ahead of us this weekend.
“We know we still have a lot of work to do, but we also know we’re heading in the right direction to start achieving our goals. As always, the team will continue to work tirelessly, and we will remain determined and focused on the job at hand.”
“Spa was a really positive weekend for me. I felt comfortable right the way through and it was great to finally get another win at one of the real classic F1 circuits. Now, we head to another of those in Monza. It’s an awesome track – so fast and with some of the most passionate fans you’ll see anywhere in the world. I was actually at this circuit with Sir Stirling Moss earlier this year, driving the banking in his old Mercedes W 196, which was just awesome. Having that taste of what it was like for those guys back in the day really gives you a feel for the history of this place and why it became so legendary. It’s still a big challenge today, too. Fast, but really technical at the same time with some heavy braking and big kerbs to ride for the best line. Racing in Italy brings back a lot of good memories for me and I’d love to add to those this weekend, so that’s the aim.”
“The race in Spa was definitely disappointing. My start was not good so I need to work on that and also on finding those extra tenths in qualifying to get back on top there. I know I have the car underneath me to get pole and the win every time with this incredible machine the team have built, so nothing less will do. Monza is next and I can’t wait to try out this season’s Silver Arrow there. I’m sure it will suit our car and it’s a circuit I really enjoy, so all the ingredients are there for a strong weekend. I’m sure the Tifosi will want a red car to be on the top step but, whatever the result, you know they will create an unbelievable atmosphere. Standing on the podium last year was a great experience and the target is to be one step higher this time around.”
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“It was a fantastic performance from the entire team in Spa. We brought a competitive package to the car, the crew were flawless and both Lewis and Nico produced strong drives. The result was particularly satisfying after an eventful day on Friday, where the team did well to react to a challenging situation. A positive weekend meant that we left Belgium with our Championship position significantly strengthened – but the fortunes of our rivals also played a part in that and the outcome of the race overall was a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted. Top results in this sport are far more easily lost than gained – and one bad weekend can produce a big swing in points. We can be proud of what we have achieved so far this season but the battle is by no means won.”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
“Monza is one of the true classics of the sport – a fantastic race track with a lot of heritage. With the old banking still in place, there is nowhere better to get a real impression of how Formula One used to be in the early days. The circuit itself is quite unique – very high speed, with a special minimum drag aerodynamic package required and significant demand placed on the engine. The brakes, too, are worked hard here, with three big stops around the lap. Kerbs are also a factor, with a good suspension setup crucial to allow the drivers to ride the kerbs and find time in the first sector particularly. The crowds are spectacular – certainly one of the most enthusiastic of the year – although, they are mostly cheering for another team! We hope for a strong performance in Monza. However, you can never be certain at a track with such unique characteristics, so we will need to ensure we are well prepared as ever for the weekend.”
“Monza is always one of the highlights of our season, with an incredible history and atmosphere. We have the medium and soft compounds, a step softer than our nomination last year, which should be well suited to Monza and the emphasis on speed that this circuit always places. We’re expecting a fair degree of wear and degradation, so as always the work done during free practice will be very important when it comes to calculating the optimal strategy. With the two compounds potentially quite closely matched in terms of pace, this opens up a few options.
“The cars run low downforce at Monza and that actually increases the work for the tyres considerably under acceleration and braking, because with less force pushing down on top of the car, it’s the tyres that are providing all the mechanical grip. Allied to the kerbs at Monza, this provides our tyres with a wide-ranging all-round challenge, requiring consistent durability and performance.
“We have finalised the investigation into Sebastian Vettel’s tyre at Spa. Detailed conclusions from the technical analysis will be presented at Monza.”
“The race in Belgium was good fun: it’s always nice to battle at the front and, even though we didn’t manage to get onto the podium, it was good to come away with our best result of the season so far. Our performance is improving and we are taking the opportunities when they arise. We have seen that we can now fight with nearly everyone and it’s important we keep aiming for the podium.
“Monza is a place with lots of memories for me. I had one of my best races in Formula One there in 2012, finishing second after a clever race managing tyres. The circuit is probably one of the most beautiful in the calendar: there’s history wherever you look and you can feel it’s a unique place from the very moment you arrive at the track. The Italian fans are amazing – they remind me of Mexicans, in a way, and it’s a good warm-up ahead of the race in Mexico City!
“Monza is a true power track and so we go there confident of being competitive. It’s never easy to overtake and the strategy options are quite limited, and so getting the job done in qualifying is especially important. In the race it’s a case of being flat out all the way and being accurate with your braking points.
“My feeling with the updated car is very good now. Spa was the most comfortable I’ve been this season and it showed in the results. We need to go to Monza and deliver a similar performance.”
“When you have a frustrating weekend like the one in Spa, the best cure is to get back behind the wheel and go racing again. I know we could have been very competitive in Belgium without the technical issues on race day and we missed an opportunity to score good points.
“Monza is special. It’s a high-speed track that pushes the car to the limit: it may look easy but the margin for error when braking for the chicanes is very small and you end up paying heavily for every mistake. It’s a fun and challenging circuit to drive and the atmosphere makes it even better. The fans are very passionate and knowledgeable: the town lives for the race and you have a feeling that you’re in one of the temples of Formula One.
“The layout of the track should allow us to be competitive and it’s an opportunity for us to score important points. I had a very exciting race there in 2013 and I wouldn’t mind a repeat performance. We have seen what the VJM08 is capable of in the last few events and I think we will have the chance to compete in the top ten.”
Dr Vijay Mallya, team principal
“The high-speed challenge of historic Monza is always one of the highlights of the year. It’s the final race of the European season and it’s important that we score strongly to regain the initiative in our fight for fifth place in the standings.
“The last race in Belgium showed that the updates we’ve brought to the VJM08 are working as intended. We’ve taken some big steps forward over the last couple of months and with more developments in the pipeline I think we can keep up this momentum.
“Of course, the result in Spa was bittersweet as we could only compete with one car, but we’ve shown that the VJM08 is capable of qualifying and racing well inside the top ten. At the same time, Spa reminded us that we cannot take our progress for granted and we must continue to work hard to remain at the front of the midfield battle.
“Monza is a track where we expect to be competitive. We go there aiming to get both our cars in Q3 on Saturday and in the points on Sunday – that must be our target for all the races to come.”
“The race weekend in Monza is always a very special event due to the popularity of Formula One and the tifosi. There is always a thrilling atmosphere, and the Italians are really passionate about motorsport. The circuit is the fastest on the calendar, and I am curious about the top speed on the straights with the modified engine. It is important to have a high straight-line speed, and to be fast through the chicanes. We need to find a compromise with the downforce level giving us a high straight-line speed, but also finding the right set-up for a stable car.”
“Monza is an historic track. I know the circuit well from every series I have come through. It reminds me a lot of the time when I moved to Italy in 2009. Back then I lived just 40 minutes away from Monza. It is a unique circuit for me. The flow is really nice, with Parabolica being my favourite corner. I am looking forward to driving the circuit again, and it will be my first time there in a Formula One car. The high-speed track should suit our car well. We need to find an efficient balance for being fast on the straights and not losing too much time in the corners. A good braking stability, as well as traction for coming out of the chicanes, is important.”
Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering
“The Monza circuit is known worldwide for the impressive speeds the cars reach on the straights, which are the highest of the season. At the same time, this historic facility features challenging corners of every kind, from low-speed chicanes to flowing bends, such as Lesmo and Parabolica. The set-up has to take into account downforce levels more than anywhere else, so the engineers will target maximum mechanical grip with an accent on braking, traction and kerb riding. As for the tyre allocation, the medium and the soft are a way more sensible choice than the medium and hard we have had for years. They will open up new scenarios and the show will benefit from such a choice.”
“I like Monza a lot because it is so distinctive. It’s a great track that has a lot of racing history. This makes it nice for us to compete at a place where all our heroes raced too. There is a lot of atmosphere around the track and to race in the setting of the royal park makes for a really special ambience. Of course the Ferrari fans are a big part of it and it is really nice competing at such a legendary venue.
“One of my first ever races in cars was at Monza back in 2003 when I was driving in a category called Formula Lista where I won and then went on to win every race of my rookie season in that formula. I have had some other big results at Monza too throughout my career, so it holds lots of good memories.
“On paper, Monza should suit our car better than Spa so in theory a podium could be possible again! Of course, we don’t know how our performance relative to our rivals will stack up until we get there, but I’m certainly going out for the strongest result possible, as I always do.
“You need your car to be as slippery as possible and quick in a straight line, and in that regard we’ve looked pretty strong so far in 2015. Then we have to manage the tyre degradation. Also for us it will be tricky in the big corners like the Lesmos and the Ascari chicane because the less downforce you have then the more difficult it is to get good grip in the turns. It is a tough compromise but one I am sure that the team will get the best solution possible.
“Pizza or pasta? I know a great Pizzeria close to the track, so it is pizza all the way for me. But I am always careful because it can catch up very easily on the weight side of things! Italy is a magic place and the cultural aspects are a big part of that. Like a lot of drivers I did a lot of racing there, even since karting days so I feel like I know the country very well. I don’t know anyone who does not enjoy being in Italy.”
“I like Monza and I love Italy. I actually used to live very close to the circuit when I was starting my career here in Europe. I have won races here so it holds some good memories and special feelings for sure. I have a lot of friends here and a lot of supporters who come and see me at the track, so it is very nice to catch up with them all. The track is totally unique and of course it is great to be racing where all the old heroes did too. Monza has changed only very slightly over the years and it still has the character of the old banking and the parkland trees as you drive through it and of course the fans create a great atmosphere which is a great soundtrack to the Grand Prix.
“I am really looking forward to Monza this year. We’ve shown our car to be pretty good through the speed traps this season and Monza is where you want to be as fast as possible in a straight line. Coming off the back of our performance in Spa it’s going to be really interesting to see how we go; I have a good feeling.
“The one word that comes to mind when I hear the word Monza is speed. It has to be speed because the track is all about how fast you can go on the start/finish straight and then also on the back straight too. We are reaching the highest speeds of the season on these stretches. One of the critical points is the Parabolica corner. You have to get this right at the end of your lap to ensure a good time, and if you get it wrong it also compromises you for the next lap. It’s difficult to do this as the car is set up for low downforce on the straights, so it’s more difficult to drive on the corners – especially a long corner like Parabolica, which is tough and fast, the most crucial at Monza.”
Federico Gastaldi, Deputy team principal
“Monza is a fantastic race track. As in Spa, we have good chances to perform well in Italy with the E23 and bring back home a haul of points.
“It’s very important for me personally as my ancestors were from Italy! More seriously, Monza, Spa, Silverstone, have all been part of the original history of motor racing. Monza is and will always remain a classic in the Formula 1 calendar. The fans – or tifosi in Italy – are simply amazing and there are so many of them at all these historic venues no matter if it pours with rain or even if it snowed!
“What do I like the most about Italy? The people; Italy is very colourful. The Italian food of course is also wonderful. It makes me feel at home when I’m there, I love the country.”
Nick Chester, Technical director
“I think that the potential [for Monza] is quite good. The cars have performed well at medium downforce tracks like Montréal and Spa. Monza is a step lower downforce that we never run anywhere else. The car seems to be efficient heading down to these kinds of levels. The E23 also has good braking and is reasonably well set-up for low drag. It should go quite well in Italy.
“Monza is one of the fastest circuits that requires the lowest downforce setting. The cars will be doing around 350kph so very fast. It is also important for the car to be good over the kerbs at the chicanes and so far we have seen the E23 is pretty good over kerbs.
“We will be doing more work on our new front wing which we first ran on the Friday in Spa and will run a number of tests in Monza.”
“[Monza is] the only circuit where you expect to be driving through flares! We had that on the warm-up last year, massive cloud of red smoke at the second Lesmo. Pretty different – but I like that. The Italian fans are passionate – some might say crazy – and you’ll really get your fill of atmosphere. The drivers’ parade is special: they’ll all be there with their shirts off, yelling ‘Forza Ferrari’. It’s a laugh.
“Is it a less challenging race than Spa? It is, because if you need a breather, there’s plenty of long straights where you can take one. Actually that can be a bit of a problem because it really isn’t a circuit where you want to lose focus. You’re coming into very heavy braking zones at very high speed and you can’t afford to lock-up or lose time by braking too early. You have to be very switched on.
“Since they made the chicane kerbs too high to ride in an F1 car, braking has become the biggest thing at Monza. It’s very tricky to get that right. You’re coming down to the first chicane at your highest speed of the year and braking for what is almost the tightest corner in F1, with the least amount of downforce. The car starts to slide around and becomes quite tricky, so getting the braking right is key. It’s really good too…
“How do I approach the weekend away from the track? Driving. Motorhome. Pizza. Firstly it’s a nice drive from my home – about two and a half hours from Monaco to Monza. Then I’ll stay in my motorhome – but in town rather than at the circuit. Finally, pizza. Actually the best pizza in the world. I’m not telling you the name of the place that serves the best pizza in the world in case they run out of pizza but they’re in Monza and I’ll be there. Happy days!”
“Monza is my favourite track. Every corner just gives you the feeling that you are doing something special. Lesmo I and II, Ascari… every corner. Well, they unfortunately changed Parabolica a little bit. The changes there do make a difference. It isn’t quite the same experience anymore. You still have to push a lot and it still requires a lot of technique, but the problem is that even if you make a mistake you get forgiven. It’s not the same. But overall the track is still amazing. An important circuit for me in the past and I love it.
“I’ve won there a few times, in Renault 2.0 [Alps in 2012] and in GP3. In Renault I was on pole and won both races and in GP3 I was on pole, won the feature race and finished second in the sprint race. It’s a pretty cool feeling winning there.
“I lived in Italy for about eight years and I still live very close to Monza, in Lugano in Switzerland. It’s about half an hour drive. I will probably go to Monza on Thursday morning because it’s such a short drive away. But once the racing starts I wouldn’t risk it for the traffic. Anyway, I love Italy, I love being there and for me it’s like a second home.”