Since 1950, Monza has been a fixture on the Formula 1 calendar: only one year did Formula 1 not visit Monza. The entire circuit was renovated in 1980, which included the construction of a brand-new pit complex. That renovation could not be completed in time, and as a result Formula 1 diverted to Imola for once.
The Temple of Speed lives up to its name
Monza's old bowl corners have not been used by Formula 1 for years. Indeed, only rally classes still occasionally run on parts of the legendary oval. Formula 1 itself said goodbye to the oval configuration after the 1961 Italian Grand Prix. The bowl corners were considered too dangerous and were banned from 1962.
When you have the layout of Monza in 2023 in front of you, the circuit looks simple. Drivers encounter a number of long straights connected by mainly chicanes. However, it is not that simple in practice. The first chicane, Variante del Rettifilo, is very tight and, as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton demonstrated in 2021, it is difficult to get through it side-by-side.
Variante della Roggia is also narrow and has a gravel trap on the outside of the second kink. There are basically no overtaking opportunities at the Lesmo, but the second can be used to launch an attack towards Variante Ascari: a quick left-right-left turn followed by a straight towards Parabolica. Due to the high speeds and slow chicanes, drivers can sometimes feel a force of 4.5G when braking.
At the first official Italian Grand Prix in 1950, Italian Giuseppe Farina won in an Alfa Romeo. Later that year, he would become the sport's first world champion. Exactly a decade later, Ferrari experienced a frustrating year without victories. However, the organisers of the Monza race lent a helping hand. This one used the oval layout to help Ferrari: as the cars were lightning fast on the straights. It did so successfully: four Ferraris finished in the top five.
In 1988, McLaren-Honda was supreme: out of 16 races, the team won 15. The only one they did not win was the race at Monza. Enzo Ferrari, founder of the Ferrari team, died a few weeks before the race. Although the chances of victory were slim for Ferrari, the team managed to score a one-two with the help of a double elimination from McLaren.
The editions between 2019 and 2021 can all go in the list of iconic races. In 2019, Charles Leclerc managed to get Ferrari a win. It was the first for Ferrari on Italian soil since Fernando Alonso's win in 2010. The race weekend a year later was an absolute classic, won by Pierre Gasly, who capitalised after a penalty for Hamilton. In 2021, the race at Monza was a triumph for Daniel Ricciardo, who kept believing in himself after a difficult first half of the season and drove his McLaren to victory.