There’s something about coming to Monza that makes you feel properly connected to the history of Formula One – and it isn’t just the horribly, horribly slow internet connection as F1 journalist Matt Youson explains in his blog...
The circuit has changed, even since I, a mere sapling, started coming here nearly a decade ago. For some of the more venerable oaks it’s been transformed beyond all recognition – but the essential character of old Monza remains tangible, even it you don’t take a walk through the woods and have a stroll on the old banking. Whether your era is Schumacher & Häkkinen, Peterson & Andretti or even Fangio & Moss, Monza is still Monza.
So perhaps it wasn’t so surprising that F1 went into a time warp this weekend and good, old-fashioned drafting returned to F1. It perhaps wasn’t terribly successful but the sight of two Ferraris practicing formation flying down towards the Rettifilo chicane was well worth seeing. From the modern(ish) era, teams used to try it on the long straight at Indianapolis but more recently it’s fallen out of favour.
Ferrari tried it out in Saturday morning practice and appeared to be giving it a go in Q3, before Alonso had his anti-roll bar problem – but the formalised version wasn’t to everyone’s taste. Other teams simply tried to manoeuvre themselves into the slipstream of a likely car in front. Jenson Button later explained why McLaren had discounted it. “Personally, I feel it's very difficult to plan something like that: It’s difficult to get it right; you concentrate too much on it and you can get your breaking point wrong or something. It’s a tricky one. The way that we did was much better, just finding traffic on the circuit, so it worked reasonably well.”
It is a bit of a dark art though, and more than one driver was caught out today by not judging the distances correctly and, instead of picking up a speed boost, just got tangled up in the dirty air and ruined their lap.
Of course, back in the day, it was all part and parcel of racing at Monza – take a look at YouTube and see some of the fabulous drafting races here – the 1965 Italian Grand Prix saw the lead change hands at least 40 times, still a record to this day (and one unlikely to be broken). Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill finished that race one-two for BRM, but my favourite drafting story about that pair comes from the other side of the world, when F1 used to spend the off-season racing in the Tasman series. It’s told by Tim Parnell, former manager of the BRM team.
“There were a hundred bottles of champagne for the fastest practice lap in each of the eight Tasman Series races in 1966. We had Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart driving for BRM, Jim Clark was driving for Lotus, Denny Hulme and Jack Brabham driving for the Brabham team and Chris Amon was racing for Ferrari. We all stayed in the same hotels – except Jack. Whenever it looked like Jack Brabham might win the hundred bottles of champagne, we all got most concerned. Of course we decided to send Graham and Jackie, Jimmy and Chris out to slipstream each other to make sure the champagne came back to the hotel.”
Maybe the modern generation just need a suitable incentive to get it right.
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