James Allison

Italian GP – High speed European finale

Maranello, 2 September – Formula 1’s final European appointment of the season takes place at one of the most evocative, atmospheric and historic venues on the calendar, the Monza ‘Autodromo.’ To sum it up in one word, it’s all about speed. For Scuderia Ferrari’s home race, the grandstands will be the usual sea of red, but you don’t necessarily have to be a Prancing Horse fan or Italian to enjoy the magic of Monza: long before he came to Maranello, our English technical director, James Allison, even spent his honeymoon here, working at the 1992 Italian Grand Prix!

Putting aside affairs of the heart, Allison and his team of engineers are working hard to ensure the relative competitiveness seen in Belgium can be replicated this weekend. “Spa and Monza, are both tracks that have characteristics that perhaps don’t bring out the best in our car and so we approached Spa with a little bit of trepidation,” he explains. “Spa has a very high dependency on power and aerodynamics, but actually the F14 T performed respectably in Spa. There are differences between Spa and Monza, but overall the characteristics are such that we hope to have a respectable weekend before heading on for the remainder of the year, racing at tracks whose characteristics we hope will suit us a little bit better.”

The differences between Spa and Monza that Allison refers to essentially come down to the Italian venue having longer straights and fewer high speed corners. “This means it’s extremely important to set the car up in a way that allows you to benefit from those long straights, running the cars with lower downforce and less drag to get good top speeds on the straights,” continues Allison. “Having good top speed on the straights also means you have to be able to slow down for the corners, so setting the car up to be stable under braking is extremely important, as is retaining enough mechanical and aerodynamic grip to be able to wrestle your way round the corners before heading off on another one of the long straights.”

The high speeds involved means this race puts the Power Unit and the car’s aerodynamic efficiency squarely in the spotlight. Apart from demanding total reliability as always, managing the harvesting and discharging of the energy and controlling fuel consumption will provide taxing engineering and strategic challenges, while in pure strategy terms, the high cost of time spent in the pits means a one-stop, switching from the Medium to Hard Pirellis, is the most likely scenario. However, while Sunday’s race will be the shortest of the year in terms of time, it’s by no means the easiest. “Don’t be fooled into thinking that because it’s short, it’s easy or because it has relatively few corners it’s less demanding for the drivers,” says Allison. “Managing cars with small wing settings to suit the challenging corners and chicanes of Monza is not an easy thing.” And on the topic of our drivers, Allison took heart from their Spa showing: “Fernando produced his normal exemplary performance, while Kimi in the race was strong, producing good results as well. We’ve been improving our car over the last several races and that improvement is starting to tell with both of our drivers. It’s something we hope will produce better results in the remainder of the season.”