Monza may be the grand-daddy of the F1 calendar but it can still show those young Hermann Tilke whippersnappers a thing or two. It isn’t called the cathedral of speed for nothing.
The layout used today is very similar to that which Giuseppe Farina won the first world championship on 60 years ago. But even with three slow chicanes installed today’s cars will lap it at an average of 250kph (155mph) – 75kph quicker than they did in Farina’s time.
Autodromo Nazionale Monza, 1950
Length: 6.3km (3.9 miles)
Built by the Automobile Club of Milan in 1922, Monza held the Italian Grand Prix years before the world championship came into existence.
The first world championship race in 1950 was the last round of the season. It was won by an Italian driving an Italian car – Giuseppe Farina at the wheel of an Alfa-Romeo, Farina clinching the championship too.
The basic outline of the track was the much same as it is today, only without the chicanes. The cars headed from the start/finish line straight to the right-handed Curva Grande, then around Lesmo, back towards the pits and the right-hand corner which was then called Vialone.
In 1950 the final turn was not the same as the Parabolica used today, but a squarer pair of right handers.
The current Parabolica was created for the 1955 race – when the circuit also incorporated the famous oval. That boosted the lap length to 10km and made it one of few F1 circuits to include a crossover (see diagram here).
For a few years the organisers switched between configurations for the Grand Prix. The road-and-oval track was last used after the fateful 1961 race, when 15 spectators and Ferrari driver Wolfgang von Trips were killed.
A version of the track incorporating the road course plus the new Parabolica was first used in 1957 and remained until 1971. Peter Gethin won that year’s race for BRM at an average speed of 242kph (150mph) – not far off what the cars do on the modern circuit now.
Gethin was chased across the line by four more cars and all five were within six tenths of a second of each other. But the end of this era of classic Monza “slipstreamer” races was at hand.
Escalating speeds forced the organisers to slow the circuit down with two chicanes. These were built at the start/finish line and at Vialone, which was renamed after Alberto Ascari, who crashed and died there in 1955. Four years later a third chicane was added before Lesmo.
Autodromo Nazionale Monza, 2010
Length: 5.793km (3.6 miles)
The Rettifilio chicane was overhauled in 2000, replacing the former double-chicane with a single, very slow chicane.
The problem of corner-cutting has forced the organisers to make several changes to the kerbs. The new ‘combination kerbs’ built last year have been revised again this year for safety reasons.
The old oval is still there, and although it hasn’t been raced on for decades the cars pass under it every lap as they race towards Ascari at up to 200mph.
Monza in pictures
How F1 tracks have changed
- F1 circuits history part 1: 1950
- F1 circuits history part 2: 1951-53
- F1 circuits history part 3: 1954-57
- F1 circuits history part 4: 1958-60
- F1 circuits history part 5: 1961-66
- F1 circuits history part 6: 1967-70
- F1 circuits history part 7: 1971-74
- F1 circuits history part 8: 1975-78
- F1 circuits history part 9: 1979-84
- F1 circuits history part 10: 1985-89
- F1 circuits history part 11: 1990-93
- F1 circuits history part 12: 1994
- F1 circuits history part 13: 1995-98
- F1 circuits history part 14: 1999-2002
- F1 circuits history part 15: 2003-07
- F1 circuits history part 16: 2008 and beyond
Images © Alfa Romeo, Pirelli, Mercedes, Honda, Honda, Ford, BMW ag, Toyota F1 World, Renault/LAT, Red Bull/GEPA