Editor's note: See bottom of this page for TV coverage information!
Monza, home of the Italian GP for the last 80 years (only four years have seen other "Italian GP" venues), is one of the few low-downforce tracks left on the F1 circuit. With long straights and sharp chicanes as well as the legendary parabolica, Monza is a track that sees several overtaking opportunities per lap. Top speeds are arguably the highest of the season, with cars regularly posting 340+ kph sprints up the front straight after driving out of the increasing-radius final corner (parabolica).
Honda has a lot of history with the Monza track, with John Surtees taking the win there in 1967. Surtees geared his car to take advantage of the extra HP/rpms from his new RA 273E V12 Honda powertrain and was able to take the win, driving past Jack Brabham out of the parabolica! It may not be reasonable to expect the same here this weekend, but certainly the Honda engine has become reasonably powerful by this time in the season.
However, Honda has some negative momentum to overcome. They'll be entering the 2002 Italian GP after a terrible weekend at Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps. Honda introduced an up-rated spec of the RA002E (rumors flew regarding precisely what that meant) that seemed to provide plenty of power across the rev-range. However, something in that engine was not done right; evidenced the multiple engine failures during the weekend.
Therefore, Honda will have to take maximum advantage of this past week's testing to avoid a repeat at the power-hungry Monza circuit. Cars will spend over 70% of each lap at flat-out full throttle at Monza. Assuming Honda can identify and deploy a remedy to the reliability concern with the latest spec, the teams should be competitive.
However, the burden is not just on Honda. Michelin seemed to have the measure of Bridgestone throughout the weekend at Spa. The Ferrari-Bridgestone alliance seemed to work pretty well, but the other Bridgestone runners were forced to struggle with apparently ill-suited tires.
Editor's Sundry Ramblings
I think this weekend is wide open. Unlike most tracks, Monza can be a place to score points unexpectedly. With reliability such a concern due to the long W.O.T. periods and very high maximum speeds, teams that can run competitively and finish stand a good chance of scoring.
I hope no one forgets Ricardo Zonta's BRILLIANT drive in the 2000 Italian GP. Having started far down the order, the young Brazilian took a little bit of wing off and set to passing every car in sight. I remember seeing him on the first lap after the safety car pitted down in something like P13. By the time 7 or 8 laps under green had rolled around, he was comfortably in the top 10 and up to P3 by his first pit-stop! The only thing that halted his progress was the slow failure of his brakes. Barring that, he was setting lap times equivalent to the Ferraris (though on a lighter fuel load). He finished in 6th place after starting 17th.
Jacques Villeneuve also had a good setup that day, qualifying in P4 and running in P3 after the restart. Given his speed and lap times, Jacques could well have delivered a podium that day. However, something went wrong and his car simply lost all power and packed it in.
2001 was less spectacular for the Honda teams, but the points tally was much the same. Jacques was able to bring it home in 6th place and score a point for BAR after a weekend of Michelin domination saw Juan Pablo Montoya win his first GP in Italy!
I'm not holding my breath for this year's Monza battle, though. With so many factors driving the cars' competitiveness, it is difficult to see what will make or break the teams' chances.
1. Will Bridgestone provide tires that work well for the rest of their teams or just Ferrari?
2. Will Michelin have another strong Italian GP?
3. Will Honda keep their power levels up and gain reliability before Monza?
4. Will David Hobbs say "BMW Powah" any fewer than 300 times during the course of the Speed Channel coverage? =)
Thanks for reading my scrawl here...sorry that we've been a bit lax the last few races, but between non-F1 related concerns and the advice of my pet cubicle rat, I've been keeping posts short and sweet!
So, cheers to all and go Honda!
FRIDAY, September 13th
Speed Channel -7:00am LIVE& 9:30pm REPLAY
Speed Channel - NO LIVE COVERAGE (CART Race at Rockingham, England 8:30am)
1:00pm TAPE DELAY
ABC - 1:00 pm LIVE
Taped Replay shown with enhanced coverage on Speed Channel at 9pm on Sunday, September 22nd
Qualifying: 7th (JV), 9th (GF), 10th (TS), 12th (OP)
Race: 5th (GF), 6th (JV), DNF(OP), DNF(TS)