Known as the ‘Pista Magica’, Monza has seen some amazing racing in its long life on the F1 calendar. Ahead of its 62nd go at the event, we’ve conjured up some astounding stats from both past and present.
One the most memorable Monza wins of recent times has to be that of Sebastian Vettel. On a sodden Monza weekend in 2008, Vettel, in his first full season in F1, dominated completely, taking pole position and the race win. It was all the more remarkable in that he was in a hitherto unfancied Scuderia Toro Rosso. In taking his first win he also became F1’s youngest ever race winner aged 21 years, two months and 11 days.
During the 2002 race weekend, Juan Pablo Montoya clocked the fastest ever Formula One lap, blitzing the Monza circuit at an average speed of 262.242 km/h in his Williams FW27.
The 1971 Italian Grand Prix featured possibly the closest finish in Formula One history. In the closing stages a five-car battle for the lead developed and any one of Peter Gethin in a BRM, Ronnie Peterson in a March, Francois Cevert in a Tyrrell, Mike Hailwood in a Surtees or Howden Ganley also in a BRM could have won. When they eventually crossed the line, just 0.61 seconds separated the top five and Gethin won by an astounding one hundredth of a second from Peterson!
In those days, however, timing was not measured in thousandths of a second so it’s hard to hand the Italian race the record for closest finish and there are plenty of other races that could conceivably have been closer. The 1986 Spanish Grand Prix saw Ayrton Senna beat Nigel Mansell by just 0.014 of a second. Even tighter was the finish of the infamous 2002 US GP. In this race Michael Schumacher attempted to stage a dead heat with team-mate Rubens Barrichello, but the Brazilian managed to cross the line just 0.011 ahead of the German. That’s no way to get a record though, so we’re still plumping for the romance of 1971, especially given the closeness of the top five finishers.
Monza played host to one of the shortest ever F1 careers. Searching for new talent in 1993, Eddie Jordan hired Italian Marco Apicella, who had been something of a star in Japanese F3000. The Bologna-born driver qualified his Jordan 193 in 23rd place. However, when the field went into the Variante Rettifilo after the start, Footworks driver Derek Warwick clattered into team-mate Aguri Suzuki and both skittered to a halt. Behind them Sauber’s JJ Lehto overcooked it on entry and slammed into both Rubens Barrichello and Apicella, with all being forced to retire. At the following race in Portugal, Apicella was replaced by Jordan tester Emanuele Naspetti and so Apicella’s entire F1 career lasted all of 800m and a few seconds.
Michael Schumacher has racked up five wins here, the most of any driver. His first came in 1996, a win which ended a seven-year barren spell at the track for Ferrari that stretched back to Gerhard Berger’s 1988 win. The Austrian’s victory was a particularly fortunate one for the Scuderia. McLaren’s Ayrton Senna had looked set for a comfortable victory but two laps from home he came up to lap the Williams of Jean-Louis Schlesser at the Retefilo. Senna went to the inside, Schlesser outbraked himself, slid wide, recovered over the kerb and promptly turned back onto the track – colliding with Senna in the process. The McLaren was pitched into a spin and came to rest on top of the kerbing on the outside exit of the chicane, beached and out of the race. Berger swept past and took the fourth of his ten career wins.
After Schumacher the next biggest winner is Nelson Piquet who took four Italian GP wins. Piquet’s first win came in 1980, the only time in the F1 era that the Italian GP was held at Imola and the only time it’s been held away from Monza. The Emilia-Romagna circuit staged the race as Monza was undergoing refurbishment. It was Piquet’s third win in F1. He’d go on to add 20 more including Italian GP wins in 1983, ’86 and ’87. Thus Piquet is the only modern era driver to win the Italian GP at two venues.
Ronnie Peterson established himself as a Monza specialist, taking wins in 1973, ’74 and ’76 but in 1978 Monza bit back. At the start Riccardo Patrese hit James Hunt who in turn collided with Peterson, who speared into the barriers and his car broke in two and burst into flame. He was dragged from the wreck by his fellow drivers but died in hospital.
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