Back in the day, Monza was a circuit where titles could be decided. The first weekend of September was the traditional home of the Italian Grand Prix and after this there would be one, perhaps two exotic flyaways afterwards acting as a coda. Even when Red Bull started racing, the Italian Grand Prix was much more part of the run-in, with perhaps three more races to come. It’s different in the modern era: Monza is very much a mid-season race.
It is, however, our last race in Europe, and so tends to be regarded as the final round of the season’s middle section. It’s our final race with the trucks and treehouses, and the weekend on which we say goodbye to the (new) Red Bull F1 Energy Station and many of the crew who work within.
The Autodromo Nazionale Monza is a lovely place to come racing. Set within Monza’s Royal Park, with the foothills of the Alps framed in the background at the end of the main straight, this is one of motorsport’s great locations. It is F1’s most-visited circuit: an almost ever-present venue, with only an absence in 1980 (when the race went to Imola) interrupting a string of appearances dating back to the first F1 season in 1950, and beyond.
The history is there to see, not just in the occasional glimpse of the old concrete banking lurking in the woods, but in the memorabilia stalls, the graffiti and the legion of fans.
It’s not unreasonable to assume most of those fans arrive with a fairly partisan agenda, and for once Max’s Oranje Army will be taking a backseat to fans of a hue a few steps up the pantone range. For other teams it means a bit of barracking on the way in and out of the track, and doubtless Max and Alex will be left with their ears burning after the drivers’ parade – but that’s really part of the experience of coming to Monza. We wouldn't want it any other way (and it makes it even more enjoyable to win the Italian Grand Prix).
Our record in Italy is a mixed bag. It’s never really been our track, but wins for Sebastian Vettel in 2011 and 2013 were both achieved from pole position. At other times success has been a little thin on the ground, with our only other podium being a third place for Mark Webber in the 2013 race. It is perhaps this scarcity of silverware from Monza that makes many people in the design office at the Team talk very fondly about Vettel’s 2008 victory for Toro Rosso which, for many of them, was the first winning grand prix car they designed.
In more recent times, Monza has been a good circuit for us to take strategic penalties; ahead of races in which our chances of fighting for wins is much higher. It’s produced some spectacular races though. Daniel Ricciardo was given the consolation of the Driver of the Day award in 2017 for a blistering charge from P16 on the grid to P4, in a race that saw him give an overtaking masterclass, including a blistering move on Kimi Räikkönen at the Rettifilo chicane, and very nearly catch Seb for third in an exciting chase to the flag.
Monza’s reputation as F1’s Temple of Speed is well-founded. It’s conceivable the cars may hit higher speeds in the thin air of Mexico (or possibly even the thick air of Baku) but nowhere is going to see a higher average speed around the lap – which makes for a fairly short grand prix.
There is, however, more than one way to achieve those numbers. While the tendency is to focus attention of ultimate top speeds, velocity coming off the corners is just as important as through the traps. It’s possible to be the fastest car around the lap with the lowest end-of-straight speeds… if you get the set-up right. The circuit has the reputation of being made for a flat-out blast – but in reality it’s a little more subtle than that.