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RICCIARDO AND VETTEL PREVIEW THE ITALIAN GRAND PRIX

Sebastian Vettel
“Italy offers a lot: good food, nice places, and I think this is the reason you will find a lot of Germans on the beaches there for their holidays! I spent a lot of time when I was young karting in Italy, so I got to know a few places like Lake Garda, Napoli in Northern Italy and Parma, which has a great karting circuit. The level of karting is quite high in Italy because there are a lot of manufacturers there. I have some friends in Italy from the karting days and also Toro Rosso so it is nice to go back there. For me one of the best places is obviously Monza for the race circuit, which is one of the fastest tracks we go to. The 5.793 km long track has brutal deceleration points and is especially tough on the brakes. The tires are also heavily loaded, especially in the fast corners such as the Curva Grande and Parabolica. It is extremely difficult in Monza to get a perfect lap because it is almost impossible to hit every curve and every chicane in the way you want.”

Daniel Ricciardo
“The biggest challenges at Monza nowadays are the braking zones. The first chicane is the ultimate example: You’re coming down to that first chicane at the highest speed an F1 car will reach all year and you’re braking into one of the tightest corners you’ll take all year. Added to that you’re doing this with the least amount of downforce you’ll have all year – which means the car tends to slide around quite a bit as well as take longer to stop. You can’t afford to lock a brake, but equally you can’t lose time by being too eager on the pedal. It demands that you are really focused all of the time. I’m not really that keen on super-long straights; I find them a little dull compared to hammering through a series of demanding corners but Monza is the exception to that. There’s something about flashing through those trees in front of that massive crowd that definitely gets the pulse all the way up! Also the crowd in Monza is wild. Obviously it’s full-on Ferrari, but in the past they’ve always been very generous to me. I’d love to get the opportunity to stand on that brilliant podium and find out.”

Italian Grand Prix Fan Essentials
MonzaThe temple of speed, La Pista Magica, call it what you will, Monza is one of those special circuits that demands the attendance of anyone who calls himself or herself a race fan at least once in a lifetime.

The Italian Grand Prix is one of only two ever-present races on the F1 calendar (the other is the British GP) and Monza has hosted 63 of the 64 grands prix to be held so far. So, as you can see, it's got a bit of history.

Located in a royal park in the center of the town of Monza, which these days is an outlying suburb of Milan, the Autodromo Nationale di Monza was first opened for use in 1922, and the first race held here was an edition of the Italian Grand Prix, won by Pietro Bordino driving a Fiat 804.

The park itself is a sprawling place and, depending on which gate you come in and where the marshals misdirect you, there's plenty to see including a golf course, an international school, impossibly ornate villas, a very exclusive restaurant and a working dairy farm.

The track has seen a number of configurations, but the most famous was the 10km high-speed track featuring perilously steep banked sections, which was used for just four grands prix, in 1955, '56, '60 and '61. The death of Ferrari's Wolfgang von Trips, as well as 15 spectators, in 1961 saw the end of that circuit and the start of the circuit we know today.

The modern Monza circuit has been shaped by a number of changes over the years including the addition of chicanes, but Monza remains F1's highest speed circuit, with the race holding the records for the fastest average race speed (Michael Schumacher's 247.585km/h in 2003) and the fastest average lap speed (Juan Pablo Montoya's 262.242km/h in 2004).

So, there's history and speed, but what about atmosphere? Well, this is the spiritual home of Italian racing we're talking about, so the mood is intense, raucous and, naturally, tinged with red. The place itself has a real presence about it too thanks to the remnants of the old circuit visible everywhere, from access tunnels and bridges to the crumbling old banking itself. It's simply a must see circuit.

The Circuit
We've covered the basics of the atmosphere, so what can you expect from the racing? Well, it's so fast that this is always the shortest race of the season, usually lasting around and hour and a quarter.

It is a hell of a sprint, though, with car in the lowest downforce configuration you'll see all year in order to maximize speed on the long straights. However, even then there's a compromise, as teams need to set their cars up to ride the huge curbs well and to get good traction out of the few corners that exist.

They are good corners though, especially the fearsomely fast Parabolica. Yes, it's had a few of its teeth removed this year thanks to some asphalt being added in place of part of the gravel trap, but it'll still be a flat out blast. That's Monza all over, though. As Sebastian might say, it's a proper big balls circuit and truly the last of its kind. Long may it continue.

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