As reported on Autosport earlier today, a deal is nearing completion to ensure the Italian Grand Prix stays on the calendar until at least 2020, and possibly 2023 . It seems that F1 supremo Bernie has had a change of heart about culling another of F1’s historic races and the continuation of the Italian Grand Prix will come I’m sure, as welcome news to everyone in the F1 community.
Whilst holding the race at Imola is a possibility, and one which I would welcome (you can read my reasons as to why Imola is one of my favourite ever circuits here), the race is most likely to continue being held at Italy’s other theatre of speed, Monza. Whilst Monza didn’t actually make my top ten favourite circuits, it rightly remains one of the greatest tracks in the world, in terms of both it’s atmosphere and history and following today’s welcome news I decided to delve deeper into Monza’s dynamic past.
Monza first broke ground 94 years ago in 1922, and situated in the Park of the Royal Villa of Monza, is the home of the Italian Grand Prix and of course, the famous tifosi. The first of three tracks, built by 3500 workers and funded by the Milan Automobile Club, consisted of a 3.4 mile road circuit encircled by a 2.8 mile loop. At the time of completion, Monza was just the third motor racing circuit completed in the world, with just Brooklands (UK) and Indianapolis (USA) beating Monza to the crown of world’s oldest race track.
The circuit officially opened on September 3rd 1922, and was tragically home to the most devastating accident in Italy’s motor racing history just six years later when Materassi and 27 spectators perished at the 1928 Italian Grand Prix. Three further deaths in 1933 saw the need to make major structural changes at Monza and two chicanes were added, with longer straights being removed.
Five years later more rebuilding at Monza gave rise to a new 3.1 mile Grand Prix circuit which stayed in place until late 1954 when, yet again more rebuilding work gave rise a new 3.5 mile layout, this time with Monza’s famous banking. Until 1961, Formula One held races on the longer 6.2 mile fast oval circuit, when the tragic death of von Tripps and 15 spectators at Parabolica meant Monza’s oval was deemed unfit for F1.
In 1966, chicanes were added before both sets of oval bankings however following a fatality in 1968, the 1969 1000km of Monza was to be the last motor race held on it’s fabled banking. Turns 1 and 2 (Variante del Rettifilo), and Ascari were added in 1972 in a bid to reduce the speeds at which cars and motorbikes reached on the circuit, with additional changes made throughout the remainder of the 1970’s to further reduce speeds and leave a 3.6 mile Grand Prix circuit.
Monza went through further infrastructure changes over the 1980’s with pits, paddock and grandstand complexes either being built or renovated, and following Senna’s death at Imola in 1994, the circuit was shortened to 3.5 miles. 2000 saw the final major structural alteration in Monza’s 94 year history, the re profiling of turns 1 and two into a single right left chicane, and the layout has remained the same for the subsequent 16 years.
Despite it’s various appearances over its illustrious history, Monza has managed to retain it’s historic grandeur with impressive ease. As the location for the fastest ever lap in an F1 car (162.9mph – Montoya 2004), alongside numerous other memorable moments Monza is, and will remain to be a critical foundation in motor racing’s long, and sometimes tragic history. The passion displayed by the tifosi both over race weekends, and immediately after the checkered flag has fallen is still one of the most impressive sights in F1, and Michael Schumacher’s 2006 victory, and subsequent retirement announcement will remain in the memory of many an F1 fan for the remainder of their lifetime.
I’m so glad that Bernie’s arm has been twisted/fee has been assured (delete as you wish). Losing the Italian Grand Prix, and more importantly losing Monza would have been a terrific blow to F1 and motor racing, and it’s only fitting that F1’s temple of speed remains one of the most special places to watch a motor race on the planet.