Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix Preview Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul
The Italian Grand Prix caps the end of the European segment of the Formula 1 calendar as we begin to switch our attention to Asia in the early autumn months.
Monza is a legendary circuit with an electric atmosphere to match and it seems to be a fitting way to end what has been an exciting summer of racing on some of Europe's finest circuits.
Previous to Monza, we enjoyed a successful weekend in Belgium and made a return to the points courtesy of Nico's sixth place; his third of the season. Nico had a really strong and sensible race and did a lot right to get the team a number of points.
We are, however, left with a taste of frustration as we couldn't put Jolyon into the top ten. He had the pace in qualifying to be on course for a career best grid position but a gearbox issue forced him to start from fourteenth which meant Sunday would be difficult. We once again saw the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo on the podium for the sixth time this season which has included a win. The retirement of Max Verstappen and the enormous disappointment that followed lead us to react as early as Monza and the introduction of new components to improve reliability.
But remaining on the positives and we have scored more points at the last three Grands Prix than the four teams above us in the Constructors' Championship. We have managed 16 points since Great Britain in July with Force India on (14), Haas (6), Toro Rosso (7) and Williams (5). The latest updates have all worked as they should to help us increase performance and put us in the top ten on a regular basis.
Monza is one of the most demanding races on the engine due to its frequent and prolonged high speed straights and curves; it really is the Temple of Speed! We have to approach the weekend with a sense of caution as we know the remaining races after this weekend should be more favourable for us. It will be about seeing how we go about this to get the most out of the car. Our aim remains to get both cars in the points to keep gaining ground on the teams above us.
It will be an exciting weekend for everyone involved in Italy; the fans, the drivers and all the racing staff. We head there with momentum on our side and we look forward to getting out to Monza.
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Technical Officer Bob Bell explains the balance between 2018 and 2017 car development as the R.S.17 heads for its thirteenth outing of the season in Italy.
What's the outlook for Monza?
Monza is a high-speed, low downforce track, the lowest we run on throughout the season. We can go there with a reasonable amount of confidence having shown in Spa, a high power track, that we can compete. We have a couple of new aero refinements with the aerodynamics packages and wing settings tailored for the low downforce demands with a low-downforce and minimal drag optimised package.
How do you sum up the performances in recent weeks?
We can take heart with the step forward we have made across Britain, Hungary and Spa and I think it bodes well for the rest of the season. There aren't too many surprises left with the circuits we're going to and we have the capacity to keep development going for the rest of the year. We just have to get both drivers home scoring points.
Have we discovered the problem with Jolyon's gearbox?
Everything points to it being a one-off as opposed to anything endemic. We will address it for Monza and ensure it doesn't occur again. Reliability is still a priority and we must ensure that Monza is a trouble free weekend. Pace is where we hoped it would be at this point in the season but reliability still needs to improve.
It was disappointing for Jolyon. His pace at the start of the weekend was a great confidence boost for him and I'm sure had he not had that problem he would have qualified seventh or eighth on the grid.
We're closing in on the final stretch of the calendar, is there much to report with development?
We are already working on the 2018 car but some elements developed in the wind tunnel can be used on the R.S.17. We are continuing the development of this year's car. We have the capability to do a good job in balancing the development of the 2018 car and transferring the concepts onto this year's, so it's a busy time in Enstone!
Nico Hülkenberg fired his way to a third sixth position of the season in Spa as he lines up more points on the high-speed and historic Monza circuit.
What do you make of Monza?
It's a very unique place; incredibly special and holds a lot of history. In terms of the actual track, it's a high-speed layout which means a low downforce configuration for the car, to favour top speed. Having such low downforce becomes uncomfortable sometimes as the car feels light and quite floaty, which can be a bit of a struggle. Monza features a lot of hard braking zones and boasts some legendary corner combinations such as the Lesmos and the Parabolica. You can really feel the history, which is something I enjoy.
And what about the Italian atmosphere?
Italy has a really good buzz, and that gets even better during the Grand Prix weekend in Monza. It's a really special atmosphere. I love the whole park and area surrounding the track too. I like my food and, of course, eating a good pizza is mandatory during the weekend! The Italian lifestyle is really cool there and you can feel their passion around town.
What's the summary from Spa?
It was a good and successful end to quite a tricky weekend. We struggled a little bit on Friday and Saturday as we made changes to find the right setup and balance for my car. On race day I was much happier as once again we've shown we are the fourth quickest team, it's looking very positive. Once we get the balance and harmony where we want it to be the results seem to follow. The team have been doing a great job, it's more points in the pocket for us which is satisfying. It's important now to keep the momentum going, rack up the points and close the gap to our competitors.
On the pace
Jolyon Palmer is ready to tackle the famous Monza circuit after a disappointing weekend in Belgium which promised so much.
What do you particularly like about Monza?
It's a very special track, and one I absolutely love. It's one of those races which carries so much history, especially when you think of all the great races and all the great drivers who have won there. The crowd carry so much passion – you can hear the fans when you drive round. The track itself is very old school and enjoyable to drive. We take off a lot of downforce so parts are flat out and there can be a lot of overtaking.
What are your results around Monza throughout your career?
I won and took pole in GP2 plus I've won twice in F2, so it's been a good one for me. I think it's actually one of my best tracks. Things didn't quite go to plan there last year but hopefully I can do better this year.
What do you think it takes to do well at Monza?
Monza has some long, fast straights so naturally you need good straight-line speed and then stability under braking. Combined with the speedy straights there are some very slow corners so you need to balance out the low downforce with the need to be late and hard on the brakes. It's all about finding a good top speed, with the optimum downforce level for the chicanes.
How do you reflect on Spa?
It was a positive weekend with the car again looking competitive. If I had started seventh then I would have been in a position to score points, but down in fourteenth on the grid was hard. It's positive, though, and I'm happy with the first race back, it would have been nice to get points but it has been a better weekend than in previous weeks. We need the same again in the next few races; it will happen, I just need to shake off the bad luck. Things are looking much better.
Highs and lows for Aitken in Spa
Renault Sport Academy Driver Jack Aitken took a fifth GP3 podium of the season as he finished in second place in race one in Spa-Francorchamps, but ultimately it was a weekend of highs and lows for Jack in the Ardennes.
Jack remains second in the Drivers' Championship, however his non-score in the second race means he's now 36 points behind championship leader and team-mate, George Russell.
Jack qualified fourth on the grid in Spa and made an impressive charge into second in the opening laps. The 21-year-old had to battle hard to keep that place as he just did enough to hold off team-mate Nirei Fukuzumi at the end.
In race two, a collision forced Jack to retire as he heads to Monza for round six of the championship with the need for a large points haul to catch Russell in the standings.
Jack Aitken: 'Overall it was a fairly mixed weekend with another podium. Practice went well being quickest of the ART drivers, but in Qualifying we had a bit of an unexpected balance, only on my car, which cost us. It's a shame because usually I love the wet! But fourth was not a disaster, and in Race 1 we did really well to get up to second, and then fight Fukuzumi off at the end, it was a great battle. Race 2 started really well, I got up to fifth on the first lap, but when I tried to pass for fourth I thought I was already past Boccolacci and made contact into Les Combes, getting a puncture. It was my mistake. It's a shame because we had the pace to win, but we're still very much in the title fight!'
Double points finish for Fewtrell and Opmeer in France
Renault Sport Academy Driver Max Fewtrell moved to top spot in the rookie standings of the Formula Renault Eurocup as he finished the Paul Ricard weekend with 18 points.
Max remained composed to take a fifth in race one from thirteenth on the grid and a sixth in the second race to go up a position to sixth in the overall standings, with a lead of five points over his nearest rookie rival.
Fellow Academy driver Jarno Opmeer scored his first points since the beginning of July after finishing eleventh in both races. The Dutchman inherited one-point in each race due to a wildcard entry finishing in the top ten being ineligible to score points. Sun Yue Yang finished 21st and 24th in the races.
Max Fewtrell: 'We really struggled with the car all weekend as we just couldn't find the right balance and being far off the pace every time we went on track. But we managed to get a fifth and a sixth from thirteenth and eighth on the grid, so I think I did the best job with what I had and that's pleasing. We're now leading the rookie standings so there are positives, but the team and I have a bit of work to do to get the car ready for Spa. I want to be back on the podium there.'
Jarno Opmeer: 'It's been a good weekend and great for me to return to the points. I gained a few places across both races with some strong overtakes which is positive. The pace in the races looked good so it's important we build on that now. I made two decent starts off the grid which put me in a place to battle. I'm very happy to take some points home and I'm looking forward to Spa already.'
Sun Yue Yang: 'The weekend wasn't as good as Austria last time out. It has been quite difficult and challenging. I'm doing my best to improve, this week my lap times have been getting better. Paul Ricard is a big track and quite difficult to defend on. I made a couple of errors, but my team have been helping me and I'm looking forward to the next one and I will keep working hard in preparation for Spa.'
Frustrating weekend for Rowland and Latifi
Renault Sport Formula One Team Development Driver Oliver Rowland and Test Driver Nicholas Latifi endured a difficult weekend in round eight of the Formula 2 Championship at Spa-Francorchamps.
Oliver finished a thrilling third in the opening Feature race before being disqualified along with winner Charles Leclerc following a post-race scrutineering check which deemed both cars to have excessive wear to the underfloor plank.
Nicholas, who qualified on the front row of the grid, had a technical problem on his way from the pits to the pit-lane and was unable to start the opening race.
In the Sprint, Oliver salvaged an eighth place point-scoring finish with Nicholas, from eighteenth on the grid, finishing ninth and narrowly outside of the points.
Oliver Rowland: 'The weekend in Spa was a little disappointing as we saw our first race podium taken away from us by a technical issue in post-race scrutineering. So having to race from P20 to 8th in the Sprint was great fun. Moving onto Monza and I'm very positive and hoping that we can deliver some good results to gain back some points to Charles Leclerc in the Championship. Monza is extremely high speed and the quick corners are very challenging because we have to run very low downforce. It's usually a track where you can overtake so I'm excited for the weekend ahead.'
Nicholas Latifi:'It was a big shame that the engine blew because it was a big opportunity to score some important points. I had out-qualified two of the competitors I'm trying to beat in the championship, so the failure was frustrating.In terms of positives from this weekend, qualifying on the front row and achieving my best-ever qualifying position in Formula 2 was pleasing, because that's been an area of the race weekend I've been trying to improve on. We head to Monza straight away and that's a good thing, because it doesn't give me much time to dwell on Spa. I need to bounce back strongly at Monza.'
Monza is another one of Formula 1's most prestigious races with its historic and antique feel. In terms of the actual circuit, Monza is fast and flowing with long straights and tricky chicanes. The most famous of turns comes last and reveals the long, 1.4 km start/finish straight. Known as the Parabolica, the sweeping right-hander has seen overtakes and drama across its 62 years of being on the calendar.
T1/2 Wide start and finish straight narrows down to the legendary Rettifilio chicane. The kerbs are used extensively here as drivers aim to find the shortest and most direct line through this complex.
T3 – Maintain momentum through the flat-out Curva Grande where a good tow can be exploited in readiness for heavier braking and an overtaking opportunity into the Variante Roggia left/right flick.
T4/5 - Again the kerbs are used to maximum effect, but it is much quicker than the first chicane, so too much kerb can unsettle the cars and create a loss of momentum up to the Lesmo sequence.
T6/7 - The Lesmo curves are approached at over 260kph, with a minimum corner speed of around 180kph in the tighter second Lesmo. The cars are often a handful here due to the relative lack of downforce on the car.
T8/9/10 - Taken initially in third gear but quickly changing up to fourth, precision of line is important at the Variante Ascari. There is a minimum speed of 170kph in the first left and then right hand flicks before the power can be increased for the final right where the cars can drift out on to the exit kerb before heading down the long back straight.
T11 - Peaking at approximately 335kph the drivers brake and change down to fourth gear for the constant radius Parabolica right hander. The run-off was changed in 2014 from gravel to tarmac, which is likely to see some deeper braking in to the first section of the turn.
Power Unit Notes:
Monza is the most power sensitive track of the season. More than 75% of the lap is spent at full throttle, more than any circuit of the season. There are four long periods of open throttle, each holding an average of 13secs bursts. The first is the pit straight, followed by the run through the Curva Grande, then from the Lesmos to the Variante Ascari and finally from Ascari to the Parabolica. The longest time the power unit will be at full throttle is the pit straight, which lasts 16 secs.
Despite the ICE being flat out for most of the lap, fuel consumption per kilometre is relatively low compared to slower tracks. This is due in part to the short length of the track and to maintaining a constant speed throughout, but also due to the high average speed with low downforce package that reduces the time spent to complete the distance.
The long periods of wide open throttle generate a steady stream of exhaust gas. The energy available in the exhaust due to the high percentage of full throttle time means that the turbo will be at maximum speed for over 80% of the lap.
Despite the heavy braking for the three chicanes, the MGU-K is not significantly stressed in Monza. Each braking event is very short and there are only three slow corners. In comparison to a corner-rich circuit such as Hungary, the MGU-K barely recovers the maximum energy allowed. To compensate, the MGU-K recovers energy at partial throttle through overloading the ICE, although it will be difficult to harvest the max energy allowed by the regulations. The MGU-H will also feed the MGU-K down the straights.
The chicanes will see the cars brake from well over 300kph to 80kph but accelerate back up to 300kph in less than eight seconds. This creates a braking event of around one to two seconds, or quicker than a blink of an eye. It's important for the car to be stable under braking and acceleration so engineers will pay particular attention to the engine maps and how they interact with the low downforce aero configuration.
Medium (white) – Margherita – the most popular pizza going, quick and easy to make and can rarely go wrong.
Soft (yellow) – Capricciosa – boasts a bit more than the Medium, offers the best of both worlds with sturdiness and taste.
Supersoft (red) – Salamino Piccante – all out flare; an Italian favourite that requires the love for spice.
3.3 – (lbs), in 2007 a truffle weighing 3.3 pounds sold at an auction for $333,000 (USD), a world record for a truffle. It was discovered by a dog named Rocco.
75 – 75% of Italy is mountainous or hilly.
25 – The average Italian eats around 25kg of pasta every year.
500- There are over 500 different types of pasta eaten in Italy.