Grand Prix 2021 Italian Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

The Autodromo Nazionale Di Monza is the third oldest purpose built race track in the world. Constructed in 1922 after Brooklands and Indianapolis, its motorsport history is a long and, in many cases, tragic one.

Like Brooklands and Indianapolis, the circuit was famed for its high banked oval circuit which, when combined with the outer road circuit made up 10km of bumpy, fast, and often deadly racetrack.

The 1961 Italian Grand Prix should have been a joyous occasion for the Tifosi, the band of Ferrari fans who create a sea of scarlet around the track at every Italian GP, with either the American Phil Hill or the German Wolfgang (Taffy) Von Trips set to take the world drivers title. Neither Ferrari driver could be caught by anyone else and the title battle would be decided between them.

Going into the race Trips had 33 points with Hill behind on 29. This was a time when the scoring system was made more complicated by only the best 5 of 8 results counting. While Monza was the 7th of 8 races no other driver could catch Hill or Von Trips in the standings.

It’s incredible to think that 37 cars attempted to qualify for the race with 32 managing to come in under the 115% percent cut off time from the second fastest driver. This rule had been in place for the whole of the 1961 season, and there you all were thinking the 107 percent qualifying rule was a new thing? Von Trips qualified fastest ahead of the Ferrari’s of Rodriguez, Ginther and Hill. All 4 cars were separated by 0.9 of a second which in those days was incredibly close. Graham Hill qualified in fifth a distant 2.4 seconds from pole.

When the flag dropped on race day the four Ferrari’s raced off the line however, Jim Clark, his Lotus using shorter gearing than the Ferrari’s squeezed his way through and briefly held second. Von Trips didn’t get away well and as the cars completed lap one, Hill lead from Ginther, Rodriguez and Clark with Brabham, Von Trips and Baghetti chasing hard behind.

Part way through the second lap, Von Trips had managed to force his way through and ahead of Clark and was now running in 4th. On the approach to the Parabolica corner Clark made his move to try and retake the position. In Clark’s words:

“I was preparing to overtake him and my front wheels were almost level with his back wheel as he started to brake. Suddenly he began to pull over towards me and he ran right Into the side of me. I honestly don’t think Taffy realised I was there. I am sure that, when he passed me earlier, he had decided that his was the faster car and I would be left behind”

The contact between the cars forced Trips Ferrari left and towards the packed crowd. As the car span out of control it slid up the high banking beside the track, suddenly digging into the ground it flipped and slammed through the chain link fence and through the crowd. Flipping over again, the car the car slithered back onto the track. Von Trips had been thrown out of the car and, along with at least 11 other spectators, died at the scene. Several more would die of their injuries over the next few days and, while the official figure was listed as 15 spectators killed, the precise number is not known.

Remarkably, while some of the drivers became aware that an accident had occurred, most at the circuit, including the commentators were unaware of the true scale of the accident. The race was not stopped, and it has since been claimed that this was due to the race organisers not wishing to flood the area with spectators attempting to leave the track prohibiting the emergency services from accessing and helping the injured. Whether this is the case it’s hard to say.

Hill raced on, now aware that his teammate was out, he swapped the lead with Richie Ginther on a number of occasions over the first half of the race and then, one by one, the Ferrari’s pulled out. Baghetti, Rodriguez and then Ginther all pulled out with mechanical trouble until Hill lead alone to cross the line and take the world title.

After the race, Jack Brabham, who had witnessed the crash confirmed that neither Clark or Von Trips had been racing each other dangerously and Brabham defended Clark in the fullest saying that you could be quite confident that he wasn’t going to do something stupid when you raced hard against him.

Hill climbed out of the car to discover the tragic news and, despite this being the pinnacle of his motor racing career there would be no celebration. Ferrari withdrew from the final GP of the season and, while Phil Hill would remain with the team for the following season he would never win for the Scuderia again and he slowly drifted away from F1 and into a career in sports cars.

Incredibly, this would not be the last time that Monza would see tragedy decide the title. In 1970, world championship leader Jochen Rindt lost his life when he lost control of his Lotus 72. Team Lotus were attempting to run their cars without the normal front and rear wings. Rindt’s teammate, John Miles had already reported handling issues with the car in this format, frightening himself and telling Colin Chapman that the car wouldn’t run straight. Rindt however was happy with the set up and, on Saturday ran the car with longer gear ratios to increase the top speed even further. As with Von Trips, on the approach to the Parabolica corner the car suddenly snapped right, then left and right again before finally snapping to the left and through the poorly fitted guard rail. Rindt died on the way to hospital but by this point had already amassed enough world championship points that by the end of the season he would be crowned F1’s first and thankfully so far only, posthumous world champion.

Fate wasn’t done with Monza though and it had one last cruel hand to play in deciding a world championship. The circumstances surrounding the 1978 Italian Grand Prix are so tragically similar to the 1961 race it is remarkable.

Going into the 1978 race, Lotus and their “ground effect” Type 78 and Type 79 cars had dominated the season in the same way that Ferrari had with their 1961 car. Again, as in 1961, only two drivers could win the world title. The American Mario Andretti and his teammate Ronnie Peterson. On this occasion, Gianni Restelli, the man responsible for starting the race, did so before the cars at the back of the grid had come to a complete stop after their warm up lap. As a result, the cars towards the rear of the grid were up among the front runs almost instantly. Approaching the first corner, absolute carnage ensued. James Hunt, avoiding the fast starting Ricardo Patrese collided with Peterson sending his Lotus spinning into the barriers. Seven other drivers were involved in the collision, all coming to a halt. Peterson’s car caught fire on impact and he was trapped in the car. Vittorio Brambilla had been hit on the head by a detached wheel and knocked unconscious. Hunt, Clay Regazzoni and Patrick Depailler dragged Peterson from the wreckage before he could receive anything more than minor burns however, he’d suffered multiple fractures to his legs. Sadly, Peterson was using the older type 78 which was his spare care because his normal race car, the newer type 79 had suffered problems over the weekend and Lotus didn’t have enough type 79 chassis at that point. The 79 had a different front end and it’s possible that had Peterson gone off in that car his injuries may well have not been as severe. It took over 20 minutes for help to arrive and Brambilla and Peterson were transferred to hospital. Peterson, who had been fully conscious throughout looked as if he would soon make a full recovery. It was widely believed at the time that he’d a McLaren contract waiting to be signed for 1979. Unfortunately, he died in hospital the following morning when a fat embolism in his blood stream caused his organs to fail.

Andretti came home 6th taking his only world title. Like Phil Hill before him, he would never win another formula one race and, while remaining in F1 for a few more years would see his results slide backwards with each passing season until he eventually retired from F1 and continued his hugely successful career in Indy Racing.

As a final, and slightly more uplifting coda to his story, in what had been a tragic year for Ferrari in 1982 with the death of Gilles Villeneuve and the near fatal accident to Didier Pironi, Mario was drafted into the team to join Patrick Tambay to enable Ferrari to run two cars at their home GP. Mario gave the Tifosi the lift they needed by setting the final pole position of his career and bringing his car home in 3rd behind his teammate Tambay in second and between them, scoring enough points to secure Ferrari their first constructors title since 1979.

We have a lot to be thankful for when we look at how safe modern formula one has become but we should never be complacent. Monza is not a circuit to be taken lightly.

Lets hope we have a great race.
I miss the old Monza where if you got your braking point wrong you could end up in the gravel and out of the race .. too many of the corners now have big run offs and it does not feel the same challenge

Passing is actually difficult despite the long straights

Last year's race was a freak result surely it cant happen again although Gasly drove brilliantly it has to be said
my favourite podium of the year, im not a ferrari fan but when ferrari win at monza there are very few better sights in sports

im expecting the traditional farce in qualifying, on friday because of the sprint race. where we get to the points where no wants to be 1st on the road. hulkenberg overbraking himself on purpose so that stroll goes to front of queue. only to backfire because stroll saw it so slowed down, hulkenberg still came out in the lead. still cracks me up as once it stopped being infuriating it was became hilarious to watch & still funny now.

it was counter intuitive because they spent so much squabbling that what they gained from the tow. they lost in tyre temp & car preparation. then dirty air in middle sector. it was quicker to go out on your own in a empty track
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  1. Bottas has been dropped, and qualified fastest. Since Bottas is starting the race at the back, he might just be intransigent at the start, even if it costs his teammate…
  2. Perez has been retained, and qualified 9th
Perez must be wondering what is going on with Max’s car. He‘s always quicker…Perez/Verstappen reminds me of Berger/Senna…
interesting qualifying. great lap from bottas i hadnt expected that espically after being 6th on the 1st Q3 run. found 8 tenths between 1st & 2nd runs. the extra power from the fresh engine compared to the older engine of lewis wouldve helped. but i always said bottas on his day can match anyone but that day is too rare & full weekend even rarer

i said it in 2018 2019 2020. the FIA need to change something & quick. they wont because they have never been proactive only react quickly when someone ends up in hospital or worse. whether it tightening the delta to 1:26 from 1:43, or we scrap knockout qualifying for monza & go to 1 lap qualifying in reverse championship order. because i cant believe we havent had a huge crash yet. that vettel, hamilton & multiple others was downright dangerous
absolute joke of a decision. (based on budget cap) teams will be spending 7.5m this weekend, so lets fine them 5,000 for ridicious decision. thank god FIA arent in charge of the DVLA. your guilty of doing 70mph in a 40mph. so your fined 20p. it needs changing & quick. but it wont because if history tells us anything F1 & fia are reactive & never been proactive. will only react quickly when someone ends up in hospital or worse

This is ridiculous after last year's farce...maybe they need to prepared to penalise drivers deliberately causing an unnecessary queue...yes its objective but make it no right to appeal and let them know they can't mess around like FORMULA E

Even consider taking away their fastest time plus additional grid penalty
Great to see the McLarens starting at the front. It will be interesting to see how quickly Hamilton can dispose of them.
siffert_fan - absolutely. For once, it will be really interesting to see what tyres drivers start with tomorrow as well - today, you could see that McLaren were going to start on softs in FP2 - as they ran a set for 1 lap, just to scrub them in (to increase the overall life of the tyres)...

The benefits from starting the feature race on softs could be huge, but, they will also leave you open to the overcut as well...
What a shambles.

Saturday morning practice has always been interesting as the teams finalised their setups and do a quick lap to check all is in good shape with the engines turned up, although not full up. But that has already done that because of Friday having made that unnecessary. So we had everyone doing long runs of one type or another. Not a fast lap to be anywhere.

And as for the the race, er sprint, er qually. Hamilton is now somewhere down behind the below drivers who were all behind him, 18 laps with no chance of undercuts, overcuts or lap cockups. And all those overtakes due to aero working perfectly.

I am certain Ross Brawn will call it as a great, especially the way it shook up the grid.
i thought it was alright. but again more from midfield than anything. hero to zero for gasly winning to crashing. it was nobody fault just the accordion effect & if anything front wing should be able to withstand a tap like he had

i think most expected a poor start from a Mercedes. but not that 1. very uncharacteristic from Hamilton. almost a disaster because he was expected to be 1pt behind is now 5pts behind. i wonder if Hamilton had bit more wing than Lando.

well done to bottas i would say its his best weekend since USA 2019. which is probally part of why he has been let go because on his day he can be fantastic but that day doesnt come around enough
I realise that this might sound stupid, but I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see Hamilton now ask for a new engine to be fitted for the race (and start from the pitlane)...

The reason for this is that it will be difficult to make huge inroads - it will certainly be very difficult to beat Verstappen. However, with a fresh engine, and getting the penalty out of the way, on a circuit where, in principle, it is possible to overtake, he can probably recover to a (close to) podium position - particularly if Bottas were to act as a slipstreamer along the way... And of course, if Hamilton fits a new engine, expect Verstappen to do the same! - So maybe it'll be a McLaren 1-2 on the grid!
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Drivers - "It's all about the tyre management, if we didn't have to manage our tyres we could go on maximum attack for the whole race. We'd love to battle each other wheel to wheel but the tyre situation won't let is"

F1 introduces sprint race where tyre wear is irrelevant.......

Waiting GIF
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