The fastest cars in the world are headed to one of the fastest racing circuits in the world. Autodromo Nazionale Monza, also known as the Temple of Speed, plays host to Round 13 of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship this weekend with the Italian Grand Prix.
The 5.793-kilometer (3.6-mile), 11-turn circuit has hosted Formula One since 1950, with this year’s Italian Grand Prix serving as the venue’s 67th grand prix. The average winning speed in the first Italian Grand Prix was 176.55 kph (109.7 mph). Last year’s was 237.558 kph (147.612 mph). As Formula One technology has advanced, its display of speed has been most impressive at Monza.
The circuit’s long straights and flowing corners allow teams to bring a low-downforce package where their drivers are able to approach speeds of nearly 360 kph (224 mph) and average lap times of 259 kph (161 mph). In fact, the fastest lap ever recorded in Formula One took place at Monza.
Juan Pablo Montoya holds the record and the bragging rights at Monza, with his lap of 1:19.525 in his Williams BMW set during practice for the 2004 Italian Grand Prix delivering an average speed of 262.242 kph (162.950 mph). This came during the height of the V10 engine era, where seven suppliers – Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda, Renault, BMW, Toyota and Ford-Cosworth – engaged in an arms race where peak power output was approximately 940 horsepower with RPMs in excess of 19,000.
Engines only had to last a single race in that time, whereas now teams are limited to using four engines a year. But the march of time and technology means that in 2017 the all-time fastest lap in Formula One history might be in jeopardy.
At every venue Formula One has visited in 2017, the track record has been broken. This past Saturday at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps which hosted the Belgian Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen broke the all-time fastest lap at Spa by .587 of a second in final practice. The previous mark of 1:44.503 was set by Jarno Trulli in his Toyota during the second round of qualifying for the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. But a few hours after Räikkönen’s fast lap, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton set a new benchmark en route to the pole, besting Räikkönen’s time by 1.363 seconds and crushing Trulli’s eight-year mark by 1.95 seconds.
Spa is a power track steeped in history, and as the series heads to the even faster Autodromo Nazionale Monza, another track record beckons.
Despite current-generation Formula One cars being outfitted with turbocharged 1.6-liter V6 engines, engineers have wrung considerable power from these tightly packaged powerplants. And thanks to a drastically different aerodynamic and tire package that dramatically increased downforce and corner speeds, lap times have dropped substantially, by as much as five seconds in some instances.
The rub, however, is that these new Formula One cars are not as fast in a straight line, as their increased downforce creates increased drag. It’s in the corners where these cars shine.
Monza has 11 turns, which means that despite its long straights, there is speed to be found. Can Montoya’s 13-year-old mark survive this inevitable evolution of Formula One? Time will literally tell.
As the sport has evolved greatly over its 67-year history, Haas F1 Team has evolved greatly in its barely two-year history.
After scoring 29 points in 2016, the American team has already surpassed that inaugural season tally 12 races into its sophomore campaign. Drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen have combined for 35 points with still eight races remaining.
Haas F1 Team’s evolution has been aided by its partnerships with Ferrari and Dallara, where the two companies provide critical motorsports expertise in addition to some Italian lineage.
Maranello-based Ferrari delivers Haas F1 Team its power unit, gearbox and overall technical support, and famed racecar builder Dallara has Haas F1 Team’s design staff embedded in its Parma headquarters.
This unique relationship allowed Haas F1 Team to hit the ground running in 2016. The massive task of creating a Formula One team from scratch was made slightly less daunting by the more than 130 collective years of racing experience brought by Ferrari and Dallara. And when another new car needed to be built under a new set of rules for 2017 – all while Haas F1 Team was still competing in its first season – Ferrari and Dallara proved their worth again.
Currently in a dogfight with its midfield competitors, Haas F1 Team’s Italian alliance is again on display. Haas F1 Team is seventh in the constructors standings, only one point ahead of eighth-place Renault, but just five points back of sixth-place Toro Rosso and 10 points arrears fifth-place Williams.
It’s an electric battle that now moves to the electric atmosphere of Monza, and it gives a charge to Haas F1 Team and its Italian partners.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
What’s most important over these next eight races – maximizing Haas F1 Team’s place in the championship or working toward next year? GS: “We’re working toward next year while still focusing on this year to make as many points as possible. The main focus now back in the factory is next year, but at the racetrack we’re always trying to get the best out of this year’s car and try to get points.”
As the factory shifts focus to next year, do you expect performance to drop off this year or do you expect all the teams around you to be doing something similar to where performance mirrors what it’s been so far this year? GS: “I don’t think our performance will drop off. I think the performance of some of the other teams will go up because there is no reason why we should drop off. If the other teams get better, we stay the same and that’s how we fall behind. I think the bigger teams will perform well and while we’ll still put effort into this year, the amount of development work we’re doing for 2017 is getting smaller and smaller. Everybody is now trying to focus on 2018. I don’t know what other teams have in the pipeline that’s still to come for this year, but I think the focus for most everyone in the midfield is 2018.”
What are some of the more difficult aspects of next year’s car design? GS: “It’s hard every year to make a better car, but this year one of the design challenges will be the weight. Putting the halo on adds around 10 kilos (22 pounds). We are not underweight, and very few teams are underweight by 10 kilos this year, so to not increase the weight of the car will be very difficult. Everyone is in the same boat, so you just have to do the best you can, just like every year. But there is no one specific challenge other than the increased weight because of the halo.”
How does Haas F1 Team improve both in the short term and the long term? GS: “In the short term, we just try to get our processes better and introduce upgrades quicker. Long term, we just try to do more technical work, more simulation work and come better prepared to the racetrack. We’ve got more data now than we had last year, so we are able to make better predictions for the race. We’re using what we learned from last year and the first part of this year and applying it.”
The Italian Grand Prix is a quasi home race for Haas F1 Team as its technical partner, Ferrari, and its collaborator on chassis development, Dallara, are both based in Italy. Knowing the Haas VF-17’s Italian ties, how important is it to have a strong showing at Monza? GS: “With Dallara’s headquarters only an hour drive from Monza, I’m sure that a lot of their people will be there. It’s always good to be there because of the passion people have for the racecars. The history of Monza and the passion of the Tifosi give the Italian Grand Prix a great atmosphere, and with it being close to both of our technical partners, we want to do our best.”
How has the technical partnership with Ferrari been and how has it evolved as Haas F1 Team went from designing a car to building it first racecar to building the current-generation car which featured a drastically different rules package? GS: “Producing this year’s car was very similar to making our first car, because with the new regulations this year we again had that challenge of building a new car from scratch. The relationship with Ferrari is very good. We collaborate very well on all the non-listed parts and we do our own aero development. It’s a very healthy relationship which we are proud to have.”
How does Haas F1 Team differentiate itself from Ferrari? GS: “We buy the non-listed parts from Ferrari, which are allowed by FIA regulations. What we have to do to be a constructor in Formula One is build our own chassis and do our own aero development. You have to manufacture all your own parts which go with the aero, like the front wing, rear wing, all the body work, radiators and chassis – we have to do all that ourselves from design to manufacture. All the parts like suspension, we buy from Ferrari to make it simple, but the rest we have to develop ourselves.”
Explain Dallara’s role with Haas F1 Team? “Dallara is a contracted engineering company to us. They are the leader in racecar design and manufacturing for all the single-make series with F2, F3, GP3, Super Formula, Indy car – they do a lot of stuff and it would take too long to name them all. They’ve got an infrastructure in place with engineers and manufacturing capabilities. We sub-contract a team of engineers from their pool of engineers to work for us. We buy a lot of our composite parts from them. Their designers design things, but it’s under the leadership of Haas F1 Team and our chief designer Rob Taylor and our aero group with Ben Agathangelou.”
Haas F1 Team has evolved greatly from its inaugural season last year. How has Dallara helped in that evolution? GS: “With the infrastructure Dallara has in place, they have a lot of very good quality people who are prepared to design and build racing cars. Everything is evolutionary and with evolution you want to do better than what you did before, and that is what we’re achieving here. We’ve learned a lot and they’ve learned a lot. In Formula One, the learning process needs to be quick because in no time you can be nowhere.”
How crucial was Dallara and Ferrari in allowing Haas F1 Team to be competitive in not only its first year, but its second year when another new car needed to be built? GS: “Without them we wouldn’t be where we are. That’s the easiest way to put it. Ferrari’s been in Formula One for 50 years, so we get their expertise. Dallara’s been building racing cars a long time. They’re good engineers and racecar builders. It all helped us a lot. F1 is so complex, and without them we would’ve struggled quite a bit.”
Haas F1 Team’s setup is unique – headquarters in the United States, logistical base in England and car design in Italy. How have you been able to manage it and ensure that three facilities in three different time zones work together? GS: “Good people! You need to have people that you can trust, and that is the only way to do it. It does include a lot of traveling from my side, but we don’t know any different, which makes it a bit easier for us. We just use technology to talk and it seems to be working. I suppose we could’ve done it differently, but I think that part of our success is that we have the right people in the right places. As of now, it seems to be working, even if it is a lot of work compared to everything being in one place. As long as it continues to work, we will continue to do it this way.”
Do you think other entities outside of Formula One are looking at Haas F1 Team’s model as a way to potentially break into the sport? GS: “I think others could use it if they find a partner which can help them. Maybe there are even better ways to do it. I never said we found the best way. We looked at all the other people that had failed, and to just do it the way they did – when three teams fail doing it the same way, we didn’t want to be the fourth team which doesn’t score points for two or three years. We adapted a different model. As much as we were critiqued for it in the beginning, it seems to be working better than the other ones.”
Could the accomplishments of Haas F1 Team be emulated by another new entity wanting to join Formula One, specifically, an F2 team wanting to make the jump to Formula One? GS: “I think an F2 team could use its people, but they would need to grow because the difference in size is tremendous. I’m not sure how many people now work in an F2 team, but I think it’s between 20 and 30. F1 organizations are huge. In F2 they get their car supplied by Dallara. In F1 you have to do everything yourself. It is a different task. There are a lot of good people in F2 who could be integrated into a team, but with the structure of F2, I don’t think a team would be ready to do an F1 car.”
How has the technical partnership with Ferrari been and how has it evolved as Haas F1 Team went from designing a car to building it first racecar to building the current-generation car which featured a drastically different rules package? RG: “The relationship with Ferrari is very good. We owe them quite a lot, to be able to be on the grid and performing with a good engine, gearbox, and suspension – all those parts come from Ferrari. That means a lot to us, and clearly going to the Italian Grand Prix we’re going to feel some of that fan support for ourselves, which is great.”
How crucial has Dallara and Ferrari been in allowing Haas F1 Team to be competitive in not only its first year, but its second year when another new car needed to be built? RG: “It’s key to us to have Ferrari and Dallara behind us. Without them it would’ve been very difficult for us to be on the grid the first year and to be competitive, and again this year. We have a lot of Italian in our DNA.”
Monza is the fastest track Formula One visits. What are your expectations this year with the current-generation car? RG: “I think it’ll be pretty good. It may be one of the circuits where we don’t improve the lap time that much compared to the past. It’s going to be fun though, with big straight lines and a lot of low downforce. The Lesmo corner and the Ascari chicane – they’re great fun.”
A 1:19.525 lap set by Juan Pablo Montoya during practice for the 2004 Italian Grand Prix is widely regarded as the fastest Formula One lap of all time, as his average speed was 262.242 kph (162.950 mph). Will that time be eclipsed this year at Monza and a new benchmark for speed set? RG: “It would be nice. We love going fast, so I’m looking forward to see if we can go for it.”
Where are the overtaking opportunities at Monza? RG: “The good thing with Monza is there’s lots of overtaking opportunities. There’s turn one, three, eight and then the Parabolica. It’s more or less every single braking event.”
Is overtaking at Monza a bit like a drag race where it’s about who can get on the power the fastest and most effectively? RG: “I think qualifying’s going to be key to finding the right tow. The race is always fun to play with the tow and having some fun overtaking maneuvers. We’ll see where we are and how well we get the car to work. There aren’t that many corners so it’s very hard to get the tires to work properly, but we’ll be on it.”
Monza is a track with a lot of history and home to some of Formula One’s most passionate fans. Can you describe the atmosphere there? RG: “The atmosphere is crazy in Monza. The Tifosi, the fans – they’re just great. The track is in the middle of a park. It’s like nowhere else. There are so many people coming and watching, cheering for the drivers and, of course, for Ferrari. The atmosphere is electric. I love it.”
Have you had the opportunity to walk around the old portions of Monza, specifically the oval? If so, what ran through your mind when you saw the banking and realized cars in the late 1950s and early 1960s actually raced wheel-to-wheel there? RG: “It was crazy! You can barely stand up at the top of the oval. We still go underneath part of it at the Ascari chicane. It was definitely a different time, a different era of safety measures. I’m sure it was good fun, though.”
Would you have liked to have competed in that era just to see what it was like, or do you prefer to compete with the latest and greatest technology available? RG: “I’d compete anytime. I’ve always loved Formula One racing, no matter the era.”
Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Monza? RG: “My first race in Formula Renault 2.0 in 2004 – the Eurocup Series – was at Monza, and I was on the front row after qualifying. That was quite good. Certainly a happy memory.”
What is your favorite part of Monza? RG: “I like the two Lesmos turns, the ‘Curva di Lesmos’.”
Describe a lap around Monza. RG: “You cross the start-finish line going into the first chicane with big braking, dropping down to second gear. Then you’ve got important acceleration going into the second chicane, which is a bit faster, a bit more curb usage on the exit. You then try and carry as much speed through the two Lesmos turns. Then you go under the old oval and into the Ascari chicane. There’s big braking here, with a bump. It’s always tricky to get the car there. Then you really want to go early on power to get to the Parabolica. There’s another very long straight line, with very late braking to the Parabolica. Again, tricky throttle application heading toward the start-finish line to set your lap.”
After coming from a factory team in Renault, what has the technical partnership with Ferrari been like, especially as Haas F1 Team developed its current-generation car which features a drastically different rules package? KM: “It’s been a great help for the team having this partnership with Ferrari. It’s obvious that Ferrari is one of the leaders in F1 technology and we’ve benefitted from that relationship.”
How crucial has Dallara and Ferrari been in allowing Haas F1 Team to be competitive in not only its first year, but its second year when another new car needed to be built? KM: “I’ve only been a part of it since the second year, but I know the support we get from Dallara and Ferrari is extremely useful.”
Monza is the fastest track Formula One visits. What are your expectations this year with the current-generation car? KM: “It will be fun, as every track has been this year with the new cars. It’s a lot more fun to drive and more challenging. Monza might be one of the tracks that we aren’t going to be that much faster, if at all. These new cars are strong in the corners, but not so much in the straights.”
A 1:19.525 lap set by Juan Pablo Montoya during practice for the 2004 Italian Grand Prix is widely regarded as the fastest Formula One lap of all time, as his average speed was 262.242 kph (162.950 mph). Will that time be eclipsed this year at Monza and a new benchmark for speed set? KM: “I don’t think we’ll be strong enough on the straights, but we’ll see. Maybe it will.”
Where are the overtaking opportunities at Monza? KM: “Everywhere. Monza is probably the best track for overtaking on the calendar. It’s always exciting racing there.”
Is overtaking at Monza a bit like a drag race where it’s about who can get on the power the fastest and most effectively? KM: “No. Monza is like any track in that it takes a perfect lap in every sense, and a perfect balance in the car as well.”
Monza is a track with a lot of history and home to some of Formula One’s most passionate fans. Can you describe the atmosphere there? KM: “Monza is all about the atmosphere. It’s got so much history and the Italian fans are really into it and they’re extremely passionate. It’s always a fantastic experience racing there.”
Have you had the opportunity to walk around the old portions of Monza, specifically the oval? If so, what ran through your mind when you saw the banking and realized cars in the late 1950s and early 1960s actually raced wheel-to-wheel there? KM: “I have been around the old track several times. It’s crazy to think they used to race around that kind of track.”
Would you have liked to have competed in that era just to see what it was like, or do you prefer to compete with the latest and greatest technology available? KM: “I’d prefer to be racing now, at least I think so. I can’t say for sure because I haven’t tried an older car from those years, though I’d like to. I think they had a lot of cool things back then that we don’t have today.”
Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Monza? KM: “I’ve had many good races there. I can’t just pick out one.”
What is your favorite part of Monza? KM: “Probably the Variante Ascari.”
Describe a lap around Monza. KM: “Fast, long-straights and big braking zones.”