|Circuit||Autodromo Nazionale Monza
|Distance||306,720 km / 190,628 miles|
|3||Fernando Alonso||F138||299||Scuderia Ferrari||2.|
|4||Felipe Massa||F138||298||Scuderia Ferrari||4.|
Stefano Domenicali: “Today we fought with all the means at our disposal to try and stick with the race leader, but given Vettel’s performance, in the end we could not have done better than this. I send him my congratulations. We know we are up against very strong opponents, but I’m pleased to have seen Ferrari run competitively, being the only team that tried to put Red Bull under pressure. It’s normal to feel some regret, because here at Monza we wanted to repay our fans for their incredible support, which is a great incentive to never give up. The gap in the Drivers’ classification has grown, but in the Constructors’ we have managed to move up to second place. On top of that, there were four Ferrari engines in the top seven at the finish line, which is a very impressive result. Now we must maintain this current form and be ready to make the most of whatever opportunities arise, counting on reliability, which from now to the end of the season will play an important role, while also hoping for a bit of a good luck. Today, Fernando drove an impeccable race, during which he managed the pressure from Webber, who was very competitive and this second place is the result of his great tenacity. I am very a great pity for Felipe because he ran a great race, just missing out on a podium that he absolutely deserved. Looking ahead, Singapore will be important because it will reveal our level of competitiveness on a high downforce circuit: the outcome of that Grand Prix will also be decisive in helping us draw conclusions linked to the gradual changeover of our resources to the 2014 project. While we still have a mathematical chance this year, we will not slacken our efforts one iota”.
Fernando Alonso: “Stepping onto the Monza podium is always a special feeling, as it’s the only one where you can feel all the love that the fans have for the team and it’s the best prize at the end of what was an almost perfect weekend. ‘Almost’ because our championship rivals won and we send them our congratulations. We went well on both Friday and Saturday, getting both cars in the top five, but Red Bull was able to do better. When Vettel pitted, we were still doing green sector times and so we opted to lengthen the stint as much as possible, at least while Webber was not becoming a threat. That way, we could have tried to get Vettel on Hard tyres that were fresher by a few laps. We tried our best and even if we have to be realistic about our championship chances, as it’s not an easy task to close down a 53 point gap in the few remaining races, in Formula 1 anything can happen and we will believe in our chances all the way to the finish line in Brazil, always trying to give a hundred percent”.
Felipe Massa: “I am very happy with my race, which went fantastically well right from the beginning, thanks to a nice start which moved me up two places. The pace was good on both compounds and we ran consistently throughout the whole race. It was a shame I lost the place to Webber at the pit stop, because today, the podium was within our grasp and it would have been brilliant to celebrate with our fans at our home race. Today, overtaking wasn’t easy, because, when you find yourself behind another car, especially in the second sector, you loose a lot of downforce. Overall, the weekend has been very positive for me and for the whole team. We brought home a good points haul, but we know we still have a lot of work to do if we want to improve. As far as that’s concerned, I will be doing my utmost right to the very end of the Championship”.
Pat Fry: “As is traditional here at Monza, we were expecting a very tough race and once again this year, it was extremely close fought from start to finish. It was not hard to interpret the race in terms of strategy, because right from Friday practice, the indications were that tyre degradation levels meant one stop would be enough. After one of his great starts that we have now grown to know, Felipe lost the place he had gained over Webber who, by bringing forward his pit stop, gained enough of an advantage to ensure his third place. From then on, the gap between the two was never less than a second, therefore Felipe wasn’t able to use the DRS to try and get closer. Fernando also got a great start and his passing move on Webber at the Roggia was the mark of a true champion. When Vettel came in, Fernando’s times were very competitive and that’s why we tried to delay our stop. We knew that on the Hard tyres our performance deficit would be higher than on the Mediums and we tried to exploit the fresher tyres for the final stages of the race. The European leg of the season has come to an end and now comes a final rush around the world during which we will try our hardest to continue to put our closest rivals under pressure”.
Monza 8 September – The traditional fan invasion turned the track red as they swarmed across it to stand under the famous Monza podium after the race and while there were three drivers standing on it, the only name being chanted out loud was that of Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari man produced another magnificent performance to take second place behind the seemingly unstoppable Sebastian Vettel, who today secured his sixth win of the season for Red Bull. Joining them in third place was the German’s team-mate Mark Webber. In the other F138, Felipe finished where he started, in fourth place, bringing home important points for the team. In fact, the tally of 30 today promotes the Prancing Horse to second, ahead of Mercedes. At the start of the weekend, Alonso had set himself two targets that can keep in the fight for the Drivers’ crown; finishing on the podium and ahead of Vettel. Today, only one of those targets was reached, but there were encouraging signs of a pick up in general performance, so the Singapore appointment in a fortnight’s time will be the real test of where the Scuderia stands.
As the lights went out, Vettel maintained the pole lead, with Webber riding shotgun, but as both Ferraris went first down the inside, with Felipe then moving across to the first corner, the Brazilian managed to squeeze ahead of the Australian to take second place. Having started eleventh, Raikkonen had to pit the Lotus to change the nose after a first lap collision. On lap 3, Fernando produced a fantastic passing move on Webber at the second chicane to take third and set off in pursuit of his team mate. Vettel in the Red Bull had a 3.6 s lead over the Ferraris as the flying Fernando passed Felipe on lap 8.
After ten laps, the order was Vettel, 5.2 ahead of Fernando, who had a 1.3 lead over his team-mate, while in the other Red Bull, Webber was 0.7 behind the Brazilian. Fifth was Hulkenberg in the Sauber, followed by Rosberg (Mercedes,) Ricciardo (Toro Rosso,) Perez (McLaren,) Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Button completing the top ten for McLaren. Fernando was being informed from the pit wall that Red Bull was concerned about a problem with Vettel’s right front tyre, possibly because he locked the wheel at the first corner after the start and on lap 13 Hamilton had to pit the Mercedes with a puncture. Meanwhile, Felipe was coming under a lot of pressure from Webber. Lap 19 and Webber was pushing Felipe hard. Lap 23 and Ricciardo pitted the Toro Rosso from seventh place while one lap later, Red Bull double pitted both their drivers so that Alonso led temporarily, as Massa and Hulkenberg came down pit lane together on lap 25. This was a key moment, as Webber managed to get ahead of the Ferrari man at this point. The Scuderia waited until lap 28 to bring Fernando in for a switch to the Hard compound and when the run of pit stops was over, Vettel still led from the Spaniard, with their respective team-mates in third and fourth places.
In fact, the top four positions never changed from now on, but there was still plenty of action to keep the fans entertained. Lap 31 and Hamilton was moving up the order, passing Mercedes team-mate Rosberg and then setting off to chase Hulkenberg whom he passed to go fifth on lap 34. Webber was gradually reeling in Fernando and they were nose to tail on lap 39, the Australian getting the gap down to under a second so that DRS would play its part soon, but the Ferrari man fought back, pulling out a couple of tenths next time round.
With ten laps remaining, Vettel led Fernando by 12.2 seconds and the Spaniard had Webber just 0.6s off his tail, although the Australian was being told to look after his gearbox. Felipe was a further 2.2 behind the Red Bull and 4.7 ahead of Hulkenberg who was having a great dice with fellow German Rosberg. Ricciardo was seventh, with Button, Grosjean and Perez making up the rest of the top ten. There was a change to this order on lap 45, when Grosjean got his Lotus ahead of Button’s McLaren. In these closing stages, the most thrilling action involved the fight for a lowly eleventh place between two former World Champions, Raikkonen and Hamilton as the Englishman tried all he could to pass the Finn, pulling alongside and even ahead in the first part of the chicane, but not making it stick. Eventually he did get past and also dispensed with Button. But Hamilton and Raikkonen must now believe their slight hopes of title glory are over for this year.
The Monza podium ceremony is always an event in itself and a great way to say farewell to the European part of the season for another year. This time it was made even more special, particularly for Ferrari fans as the presentation and interviews with the top three were conducted by two great “Ferraristi,” the ever popular Jean Alesi and the great John Surtees, who won this race to clinch the World Championship crown at the wheel of a Ferrari back in 1964.
4 the number of podium finishes for Fernando Alonso from the same number of starts in the Italian Grand Prix at the wheel of a Ferrari. The second place today comes on top of a win in 2010 and two third places in the last two years. In total, the Spaniard has finished in the top three six times from 12 Formula 1 starts in Monza.
5 consecutive seasons in which at least one Scuderia Ferrari driver has made it to the Monza podium. Apart from the aforementioned placings for Fernando Alonso, can be added two third places for Raikkonen in 2009 and Massa in 2010, making a total of seven consecutive placings.
10 is the number of Italian Grands Prix contested by Felipe Massa, all in a car powered by a Ferrari engine. On seven occasions, the Brazilian has finished in the top ten: today’s fourth place matches his result from last year. Felipe’s best finish at Monza came in 2010 when he finished third.
25 the number of second places for Scuderia Ferrari in the Italian Grand Prix. It brings the total of podium finishes for the Prancing Horse at its home race to 64, including 18 wins and 21 third places.
Monza 8 September – Scuderia Ferrari finished the Italian Grand Prix with a second and fourth place courtesy of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa respectively. The Spaniard thus consolidates his second place in the championship. The total points tally from Monza sees the Scuderia move ahead of Mercedes in the Constructors’ classification to take second place.
Just minutes before the start, light rain was falling, but by the time the cars lined up on the grid it was dry enough for all of them to be fitted with slicks. Both Massa and Alonso made up places at the start, with the Brazilian going second at the first chicane, behind Vettel and ahead of Webber and Fernando.
Alonso immediately began lapping very quickly and dispensed with Webber on lap 3, followed by Massa five laps later. In second place, the Spaniard kept the leader in sight up until lap 24, when the German pitted to change tyres. Next time round Felipe came in, re-emerging behind Webber. Fernando’s stop came on lap 27, switching to the Hards and getting back on track in second place, ten seconds off the leader. After that, the positions remained unaltered to the chequered flag, the top four drivers crossing the line within 10 seconds of one another. Sebastian Vettel won the race for Red Bull.
Luca di Montezemolo: “Certainly we were hoping for a better result today, given the results of the morning session and then the first two parts of qualifying, but we are very close to the Red Bulls and I’m sure that with a good start, we can put them under pressure. The race is tough here and our long run pace is very good. Even if I can’t be happy at seeing Hulkenberg’s Sauber ahead of us, I am pleased to see it up there with the best, because it shows we have a great engine. In terms of the World Championship, the aim is to be ahead of Vettel and also get Massa into a position where he scores good points. Felipe has always gone well here, especially in qualifying and I expect him to have a good race tomorrow. Fernando is a great driver, who has done a lot for Ferrari and he is right to be unhappy at not securing better results: from that point of view, I am more unhappy than he is, but in a great family, you win and lose together and now I’m expecting the team to do their very best”.
Fernando Alonso: “Today went well compared to qualifying at recent races, with the car being competitive, allowing us to fight with the best. Of course, we weren’t at the same level as Red Bull, who yet again here have gone well all weekend, but the race is tomorrow and we start from what is all the same a good position. Here at Monza the slipstreaming strategy is often used: having a car three to four seconds ahead of you allows you to gain a few tenths and for that I must thank Felipe, especially in Q3 when I came up behind Vergne’s Toro Rosso and he waited for me. The radio messages have been misunderstood, as is often the case when you don’t experience something first hand: the word ‘genius’ refers to the fact that we could have got out before Rosberg had gone by on his quick lap, but this should not raise any doubts about the impeccable job from the whole team. Today, we were able to run competitively in all three sessions and get closer than ever before to the rear wings of the Red Bulls: for the first time, there are not so many cars between them and us, apart from Hulkenberg who was very strong in Q3. We will have to try and pass him on the first lap so they don’t get away from us”.
Felipe Massa: “I am very pleased with this qualifying result because, compared to yesterday, the car has improved and this makes me confident for the race. In Q3, I managed to put together a very good lap, making the most of Webber’s slipstream. It was a great help having him ahead of me by four seconds and even if maybe I lost time at Ascari, I am still satisfied with my performance. We were well aware that at a track like this, it would be very important to have both cars in the top four and that tomorrow’s race will be a tough one. Even if the weather forecast is uncertain, we will be ready for anything and will try our best to get all the potential out of our car. It would be fantastic to give all the fans who are here at our home race to support us with so much affection a reason to be happy”.
Pat Fry: “After the results obtained in the last five or six races, we can be satisfied with our performance here today at Monza and with the positions from which Fernando and Felipe will start tomorrow’s race. Certainly, our aim is never just the second or third row, but fourth and fifth places on the grid are the result of a great job from the entire team over this weekend, in which we paid maximum attention to choosing the best possible package for this track. We knew it would be a particularly close qualifying, as can be seen from the seven tenths that separate the 16 drivers as they went from Q1 to Q2. We took nothing for granted and even if the pace of the top two today was not within our grasp, we knew we could count on a quick and competitive car. Now, we are already concentrating all our attention on the race, because that’s the only thing that really counts and it will also allow us to analyse the overall performance of our car”.
|ALONSO – Chassis 299||MASSA – Chassis 298|
|Q1||P7||1:24.661||New Hard – 6 laps||P14||1:24.950||New Hard – 7 lapsNew Medium – 2 laps|
|Q2||P2||1:24.227||New Medium – 3 laps||P7||1:24.479||Used Medium – 3 lapsNew Medium – 3 laps|
|Q3||P5||1:24.142||New Medium – 3 lapsNew Medium – 3 laps||P4||1:24.132||Used Medium – 3 lapsNew Medium – 3 laps|
|Weather: air 30 °C, track 44 °C. Sunny|
One could feel the excitement go up a notch or two driving into the Monza circuit this morning, as yesterday’s big crowd grew even larger, with fans flocking to watch the spectacle of the fastest qualifying of the year. It was a session packed with exciting moments and the overall result for Scuderia Ferrari is a very positive one.
It has been repeated so many times this year that qualifying is not exactly a strong point for the F138 and normally Fernando and Felipe have to fight it out with at least three other top teams, usually in the shape of Red Bull, Mercedes and Lotus. However, today, with the very surprising exception of an on form Nico Hulkenberg securing third place for Sauber, the only rivals preventing the Ferrari duo from having a clear view of the run down to the first corner tomorrow are the Red Bulls of pole man Sebastian Vettel and his team-mate Mark Webber.
Aware that competing with Red Bull using conventional means would be difficult, the Ferrari strategists decided to try and boost their performance by slipstreaming, the driving trick that this circuit is famous for and which led to it boasting the closest ever finish to a Grand Prix in 1971, when Peter Gethin won by just one hundredth of a second and even fourth placed Mike Hailwood was less than two tenths behind the winner! This involved getting Felipe to run ahead of Fernando with the aim of punching a hole in the air that the Spaniard could then drive through with an added boost of speed. In the end, it didn’t really work out, partly because a Toro Rosso threw up a huge dust cloud after going through the gravel at the final Parabolica corner just ahead of Fernando. In fact, inadvertently, Red Bull aided our cause, as Felipe admitted he got a great “tow” from Mark Webber’s car, which helped reduce his lap time! That contributed to the Brazilian setting the fourth fastest time, while the Spaniard is fifth, with Nico Rosberg alongside him on the outside of Row 3 in the Mercedes.
Another interesting aspect on this circuit where speed is king and power holds the key, is the fact that thanks to the aforementioned Hulkenberg and both Toro Rossos, five cars out of the top ten on tomorrow’s grid are powered by a Ferrari engine. Now, the biggest unknown for tomorrow’s twelfth round of the world championship could be the weather, as storms are predicted. The Scuderia is ready for whatever the weather and the opposition can throw at it.
Monza, 7 September – Monza was true to form, delivering a great show for the crowds that packed the grandstands for qualifying. Scuderia Ferrari finished fourth and fifth with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso respectively.
In Q1, the two Prancing Horse cars took to the track on the Hard tyre, with the Spaniard setting a time of 1.24.661 on his first run, completing 6 laps. Massa lapped in 1.24.950 and then came out again to be on the safe side to do a run on the Medium compound, but he only did an in-out lap as it became clear a timed one was unnecessary, going through in fourteenth place.
In Q2, the two F138s ran Mediums, Alonso doing a single run to be second in 1.24.227. Massa did two runs to set the seventh time in 1.24.479.
In the final part of the session, the plan was for two runs on Mediums and on the final flying lap Alonso and Massa improved their times, even after Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso had thrown up a cloud of dust at the Parabolica ahead of Fernando, who stopped the clock in 1.24.142. Felipe’s best lap was a 1.24.132 Sebastian Vettel took pole in 1.23.755.
Monza, 7 September – Sebastian Vettel was fastest in this morning’s third and final free practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, at the Monza circuit. Having been fastest yesterday in FP2, the Red Bull man set a time of 1.24.360 today, while in second place on the time sheet with a 1.24.643 was Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari. Third in the other Red Bull was Mark Webber with a 1.24.677, while in the other F138, Felipe Massa posted a 1.24.995 to take seventh place on the time sheet. Both Ferrari men started the session with a new set of Hard tyres before ending on the Medium compound.
Fernando Alonso: “The feeling is the same as any Friday, which means we’re neither very happy nor very disappointed with our performance level and we will have to wait and see how qualifying goes before getting a true picture. Red Bull seems very strong again here and we will have to do a lot of work to be as well prepared as possible for qualifying, in order to find those missing tenths. Although we have yet to analyse the data we have gathered today, some of the updates we brought here for this race seem to be working well, while others will require a bit more evaluation. We must get the most out of what we have available and try to have a good qualifying and a good race in front of our home crowd. Let’s hope the weather will also be on our side, as the forecast for Sunday is for storms and that’s why we must be ready to deal with whatever the conditions will be. Tyre degradation is very low here and we will definitely see fewer stops than at other races”.
Felipe Massa “Today we managed to test everything we had on our programme, which related to evaluating various aerodynamic solutions, looking for the ideal level of downforce. Now, our next task is to analyse all the available data to understand how to improve the car for qualifying and the race. Not everything went perfectly, especially towards the end of the second session when, as I was coming out of the first chicane, I had a gearbox problem. As I tried to change from first to second, it went straight into third and at that point, I returned to the pits slowly. We don’t know exactly what happened, but I don’t think it was anything serious. This won’t be an easy weekend, because our main rivals have set great lap times on both compounds and in race trim, but we will do all we can to be as competitive as possible”.
Pat Fry: “The Monza circuit is one of a kind and has always been a great challenge when it comes to aerodynamics. Here, as was the case at Spa two weeks ago, the compromise between the requirement for top speed and good traction to tackle the chicanes is the key to getting the best possible performance. Today, we had to try different specifications and for this reason we decided to split the work between Fernando and Felipe in both sessions. We ran a comparison of different low downforce wings, to find the ideal configuration. With Fernando, we got through the programme without any problems and he showed an encouraging race pace. However, Felipe’s track time was reduced because of a reliability problem on the gearbox. Today, we saw that Red Bull is very competitive and then there is a group of cars right behind, separated by very small gaps, which is usually the case here at Monza. We will now pay attention to every last detail to maximise our performance and put pressure on our closest competitors”.
Monza, 6 September – It always seems fitting that the Royal Park of Monza, with its fantastic history of racing, should provide the backdrop to the final race of the season to take place on the Old Continent and so far, the weather gods have decided to make it look particularly lovely, with warm weather and sunny blue skies.
In these conditions, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa lapped the 5.793 kilometre track a total of 108 times. The Spaniard ended up fifth quickest, having completed 63 of those laps, which is ten more than Sunday’s race distance. The Brazilian managed just 45, as his afternoon session ended prematurely with a gearbox problem. He was eighth fastest. If the F138s and the other twenty cars on track look different to usual, that’s because they are all running in “Monza configuration,” which means they sport the smallest wings giving the least aero downforce of the season. The first time the cars rush down those long straights at the highest speeds of the year is a breathtaking sight, even from inside the cockpit. Apart from these changes, the Scuderia was also trying other updates here and, with the exception of Felipe’s gearbox glitch, it was a trouble-free day.
Finding out how the Hard and Medium compound Pirellis work over a long run was a key item on today’s job list, because the high speed nature of this circuit means that making as few pit stops as possible is usually a winning formula. Sebastian Vettel was fastest overall in the Red Bull, the only man to break the 1m 25 second barrier and a staggering six tenths faster than his team-mate Mark Webber who was second on the afternoon time sheet. Ahead of Fernando were Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, respectively third and fourth for Lotus.
Now we can look forward to tomorrow and one of the highlights of the season, featuring the fastest qualifying laps of the year.
Monza,6 September – The first day of the Italian Grand Prix got off to a very summery start, with the second practice session taking place in 30 degree heat. Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest in a time of 1.25.330. Felipe Massa was eighth with a best time of 1.25.519.
Both drivers started the session on the Hard tyre, with Alonso doing 8 laps (fastest 1.25.543) and Massa twelve (1.25.897.) After half an hour they switched to the Medium, on which both men set their fastest times of the session. After that, it was time for the usual long runs, with different programmes for Fernando and Felipe. However, the Brazilian’s run was cut short thirteen minutes from the end, when he suffered a gearbox problem which the team are investigating.
Overall, Fernando did 38 laps, with Felipe having 29 to his name. Sebastian Vettel was fastest with a 1.24.453.
Monza,6 September – Lewis Hamilton was quickest, with a lap in 1.25.565 in the first free practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, the twelfth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Second this morning, at what will be the 79th edition of this race, was Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari with a time of 1.25.600, while the Englishman’s team-mate, Nico Rosberg was third for Mercedes in 1.25.704. In the other F138, Felipe Massa ended the session in fourteenth place (1.26.449.) As usual on Fridays, the programme centred on a comparison of different aerodynamic configurations for both Ferrari men, who each used just one set of Hard tyres during the session.
Monza, 5 September – The first official press conference of the Italian Grand Prix weekend featured both Ferrari drivers on the six-man panel, a testament to the importance of Scuderia Ferrari here in Monza. The buzz everyone gets when coming into the royal park for the first time in the week clearly put our Spaniard in a positive frame of mind. “I’m optimistic,” began Fernando Alonso when asked how he felt about Sunday’s race at the Temple of Speed. “In Spa we saw we had made a step forward and we plan to keep moving in that direction and continue to improve here in Monza. The track characteristics should help our performance so we have everything in place to have a good weekend. We need to deliver on Sunday in the race, but we arrive with confidence and ready to fight. However for a better test of how we are improving we must wait for Singapore, when we will run maximum downforce. For now, we will concentrate on this weekend, trying to do the maximum and finish ahead of our main rivals.”
One questioner suggested that only two wins from the next two races could keep the Spaniard’s title hopes alive. “We have won a total of two grands prix so far this year, so it is too optimistic to think we can win the next two races,” commented Fernando. “A more realistic target is to finish ahead of Sebastian. However we only closed the gap to him in Silverstone when he retired and we must change that situation. So I’d be happy to finish in front of him here and in Singapore. To finish ahead of him means to be on the podium because we know how strong he is. If we cannot do this and if we keep losing points, then it will be time to think more about the 2014 project, but for the moment there are still massive points available and important weeks ahead. We believe we can do it.”
Alonso has been in the news this past week for two-wheeled reasons, having acquired a top level Spanish professional cycling road race team. There were concerns from the journalists this meant that Formula 1 was not getting his full attention and Fernando immediately set them straight on that point: “It was a lot of work for one week, using a lot of phone batteries, but now it is more or less complete, all the decisions and work for the cycling team will be passed on to other people,” he explained. “We have a lot to do in the next months, as the first race is in mid-January in Australia and this is a very ambitious project, but I will not give much of my time to this project as we are fighting for the World Championship. I have been passionate about cycling since a very young age and use it as part of my training and my life. I have good friends in the cycling world. With this project I want to bring together the best things from both sports: from cycling there is sacrifice, determination, discipline, training. And I want to bring the best things of Formula 1, of which there are many, to my cycling team.” So no thoughts of taking a year out of Ferrari to concentrate on bikes? Clearly not: “I’m in the best moment of my career and I don’t want to miss a single opportunity and I will give a hundred percent to motorsport, which is my passion and my career. For at least the next four or five years I will be a hundred percent committed to F1.”
Monza, 5 September – Felipe Massa has been in lots of fights in his career, holding his own against team-mates of the calibre of Schumacher and Raikkonen and now Alonso, in what is the Brazilian’s eighth year bearing the Prancing Horse badge on his overalls. In other words, he is a tough customer, which explains how he can maintain his cool as the press pursue their favourite topic, namely his future at Ferrari. It was the case again this afternoon when he joined his team-mate and four other drivers, in the FIA press conference, in the Monza press facility.
“I believe I have a good chance of staying at Ferrari,” he began when the inevitable question arose. “Good results are important and I just have to concentrate, try to do the best we can with the car and get the most out of it. If you do that, then you can enjoy your racing. This year the performance level has been good all season, but I’ve just been unlucky with tyre problems twice and a couple of spins and a suspension problem, so I was unable to finish where I should have done. I just need to put everything together and then the results will come.”
Felipe also stressed the importance of his relationship with the team. “One mustn’t forget that Ferrari knows me very well, better than anyone in fact,” he maintained. “They know what my experience can bring and that will be a very important factor with the changes next year, when everything starts from zero, with a different car and different rules. A driver’s experience will be very important in that situation, so sometimes, looking at the result of an individual race is not what counts; more important is to look at everything put together.”
Finally a question about this weekend’s race and what sort of weekend he can expect. “The car was more competitive in Spa than in Hungary and that was an important step for us,” concluded the Ferrari man. “I believe we can be competitive here, because in the past, even last year when the car was not the best, we still managed to be competitive in Monza. I hope we can be in the fight for the top places and then continue that trend through the rest of the season.”
In Maranello, no one has a more complete scrapbook than Piero Ferrari. The son of the Founder and currently the company Vice President is the conduit through which passes almost the entire history of the strongest brand in the world. It’s normal therefore that many pages of this album have links to Monza and the Italian Grand Prix.“The Monza round has always been special for us,” he recounts. “I well remember that my father was stringent about it and a few weeks before the race, he would send everyone in the Gestione Sportiva a note informing them that all leave was ‘suspended until after the Italian Grand Prix.’ He liked everything about Monza, especially the speed of the cars and the passion of the crowds. Everything had to be prepared down to the smallest detail and I believe that even today, each one of us experiences the same emotions when this Grand Prix approaches.“There are also tragic memories linked to Monza, some of which I experienced third hand, as I was still a baby, such as the death of Alberto Ascari, who was the victim of an accident during private testing on 26th May 1955: “My father never wanted to go into the details, but I could tell he was deeply affected by this tragedy. He already felt bad when Ascari left the team to move to Lancia and then came the accident, besides which, he was driving a Ferrari almost by accident, because it was the car that Castellotti should have been using in a Sports Car race the following week. There were no eye witness accounts of the accident and my father never knew what really happened.”
Even Piero Ferrari’s first actual visit to Monza was marked by a tragic event: “It was 1961 and I was in the main grandstand to watch the race. At the end, I was happy because Phil Hill had won and, because of that, he took the world title. Everyone around me was celebrating because we didn’t know what had happened at the start of the race at the Parabolica, when Von Trips flew off the track and into the crowd, resulting in his death and further carnage. You have to remember that at the time, there were no giant screens like we have today, so you never saw anything that went on at other points on the track. I left the grandstand happy with the race result, but that feeling vanished once on the road home, when I learned from the car radio what had happened.”
The Vice President has particularly fond memories of three wins, two of them scored by the same driver, Clay Regazzoni. “The first dates back to 1970, in the days when winning at Monza was all about slipstreaming: there were some very close fights all race long, so that on this occasion there were no less than six drivers who took turns in the lead. Clay gradually managed to shrug off all his rivals to win in the end, beating Stewart. The second, five years later, saw Clay win once again, this time from Fittipaldi and Lauda. It was the day that Niki took the World Championship title: it hadn’t happened for many years and it was fantastic to get it back actually at Monza, in front of the home crowd.”
The third victory just has to be the one in 1988, with a magnificent one-two for Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto, less than a month after the death of the Founder. “It was almost like a cosmic coincidence. We arrived better prepared than ever for this race, knowing it was our only chance to do well in a season dominated by McLaren: it was a case of all or nothing, we told ourselves before heading for Monza. We gave it our all and it went well, in fact very well. We had a little bit of luck, in circumstances that made one believe there was someone up there looking over the Park, or at least it’s nice to think that was the case!”
Of all those he knew, two drivers made their mark on Piero Ferrari and strangely enough, both of them won the world championship here at Monza. “One is Niki, an amazing driver, with whom I had and still have, a very warm relationship that has withstood the test of time. The other is Jody Scheckter, a man who always has his feet on the ground. When he won the title, he understood that Formula 1 was no longer the right place for him and, one year later, he retired and concentrated on his business interests: I’ve also maintained a good relationship with him.”
The race at Monza has always been and will always be a special race – not just for Ferrari but for anyone who truly loves Formula 1. This track, more than any other, embodies its most important values: speed, daring, passion, courage and extreme technology. Naturally that is also the case for Luca di Montezemolo, whose sporting and personal history is linked by a thread – obviously a red one – to this Italian Grand Prix. “So many memories come into my mind when I think of Monza,” Ferrari’s President told www.ferrari.com. “There are beautiful ones but also very painful ones. For example I think of the impression made on me by the tragic incident in the 1961 race, when von Trips’ car flew into the crowd at Parabolica. That was an episode that had a major effect on me and immediately taught me how motor racing can be both fascinating and risky. It was also at Monza that I saw my first Grand Prix live in 1966: that day Lodovico Scarfiotto won at the wheel of a Ferrari and it was the last success by an Italian driver at his home race.”Monza has given Ferrari so much sporting joy and one of these moments ranks among the best in the relationship between Montezemolo and the Prancing Horse that dates back over 40 years. “Regazzoni’s victory and Lauda’s third place in 1975 brought great satisfaction and joy: it was my first world championship,” adds the President. “That result also brought us both the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ titles, taking Ferrari back to the top after an 11-year wait. And who could forget the same Niki who, the following year, courageously got into the cockpit of his Ferrari when his wounds from the Nürburgring fire were still bleeding? He was fourth that afternoon, but definitely first in terms of suffering and will power.”Since Montezemolo took over the role of Ferrari President at the end of 1991 his life during the race weekends has changed compared to when he was the Scuderia’s Sporting Director. “Now I don’t often go to Grands Prix, especially the Sundays: it’s too hard, I prefer to watch on television alone at my house. But I try never to miss Saturday qualifying at Monza: I like to see my team at work up close and also to cast an eye over the opponents. I also like the contact with our fans. Monza is one of the races that will never be missing from the Formula 1 calendar. A track with four corners and three chicanes may seem old-fashioned to some but the same argument applies as at Monte Carlo: both are essential sides to our sport, one for the glamour that surrounds the race, the other for the emotion that only comes from raw speed.”
Monza has served up more joy than pain in the last 20 years: “It’s true, there have been some great moments. I think of 1996 when Michael Schumacher won the race giving the definitive signal that, from then on, we could rejoin the ranks of the big teams. I think of 2000, when Michael defeated his great rival Hakkinen and began that fantastic run of four straight victories that brought us back to the top of the world after 21 years of wait. I think of 2006 when Michael again took a wonderful win on the very day he announced his retirement from racing (the real one, because in my view after that a twin I do not recognise was racing…) I think of 2010, when Fernando Alonso overcame a very hard opponent in Button: then, too, the opponent was a McLaren and it seemed to signal the beginning of another fairytale like the one ten years earlier. But then we know how it ended up on that cursed evening in Abu Dhabi…”
The days that precede the Italian Grand Prix take place in a special atmosphere: “I always try to look into the eyes of my team to understand how things are really going,” says Montezemolo. “I spur them on up to the last moment to bring to the track even the tiniest last development that can give us the hundredths of a second that could make us improve. Then there’s the magnificent crowd at Monza that always welcomes us with great warmth. They say it makes no difference to race in front of your own fans but I don’t believe that’s the case: it’s the same for the team and the drivers – anyone working for us, including foreigners, becomes an adopted Italian when you wear red – and it’s the same for the cars. It sounds irrational, I admit, but I’m convinced that when they race at Monza even the suspension, the wings and the engine in a Ferrari give something extra, that little bit that can make the difference.”
The number of points for a win is the same as at any other Grand Prix, but for a Ferrari driver, winning at Monza is priceless. Fortunately, this happy circumstance has happened no less than 18 times, through the efforts of ten different drivers. Two of them, Alberto Ascari and Ludovico Scarfiotti, not only had the pleasure of taking a Prancing Horse to victory in Monza, but it was made even more memorable for them as Italian nationals.The most successful Ferrari man at Monza is Michael Schumacher, who made it to the top step of the podium five times (1996, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006.) Second to team-mate Rubens Barrichello in 2002 and 2004, the seven times world champion only once failed to finish in the points in a Ferrari at Monza, from ten starts, when he came tenth in 2005.Along with the British Grand Prix, the Italian event is one of two races that has always been part of the World Championship calendar and it has always been held at Monza with the exception of 1980. The track can therefore boast the greatest number of races staged at the highest level of motor sport, that number being 62. On twelve of those occasions, the race has decided the allocation of the Drivers’ title, with four of them being settled in favour of a Ferrari driver: Juan Manuel Fangio in 1956, Phil Hill in 1961, Niki Lauda in 1975 and Jody Scheckter in 1979.
With a total of 63 podium finishes – apart from the 18 wins there have been 24 second places and 21 thirds – there have been few editions of this race which have not featured at least on Ferrari driver in the top three. In the last twenty years, the podium has been barren of a Ferrari man on only four occasions (1992, 1997, 2005 and 2008.) However, on that last occasion, one vital ingredient from Maranello played its part, as Vettel’s Toro Rosso recorded the only Formula 1 victory ever for a Formula I engine fitted to a customer car.
Fernando Alonso has a great record at the Monza Grand Prix. The Spaniard has been on the podium five times (two wins, one second place and two thirds) and also has a further four points finishes to his name. He only failed to score in 2001, the year he made his Formula 1 debut with Minardi. Felipe Massa has fewer highlights on his record here, with just one top three finish, when he came third in 2010, from nine starts.
It’s hard to say which has been the Scuderia’s greatest victory at Monza. In the series “Top 10 @Monza” we are counting down the most significant amongst them, but as usually happens in these situations, everyone has their own favourites, sometimes linked to special memories. If you want to let us have your classification, go and post it on the Scuderia’s official Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ScuderiaFerrari.