The fifteenth round of the season is in Monza, the first race of 2023 in Italy after the cancellation of Imola’s race in May. Max Verstappen arrives with a nine-race win streak as he chases a new Formula 1 record.
At least for now, he seems unstoppable. Further back is Aston Martin, which recovered in Zandvoort with the introduction of a new floor to correct the defects from Canada. Still, this will be a more difficult track for Aston. Rivals, especially Ferrari, should fare better than the AMR23.
The Maranello team is looking for a podium in the temple of speed, a circuit that should fit better with the characteristics of the SF23.
Mercedes could do well, while McLaren will probably suffer from excessive drag at the Monza GP, after a less-than-excellent result in The Netherlands.
Monza GP Preview: Efficiency key, Alpine and Williams worth watching
The speed qualities of the cars will be the first concern of engineers and journalists. With that said, to perform well in Monza, strong braking and acceleration are also necessary – given the circuit’s slow speed corners.
A sufficient level of aerodynamic load is needed to minimise time loss at Lesmo, Ascari and Parabolica, especially during Sunday’s race.
These four corners, all to be taken at around and above 200 km/h, made the difference between the RB18 and the F1-75 last year, giving Max Verstappen a comfortable victory over Charles Leclerc.
On no track is the efficiency of the cars on a straight line as important as on the Brianza circuit, and the ability to reduce progress on a straight line with the rear wing open will also be greatly felt.
In this area, Red Bull has a considerable advantage over the competition, but Ferrari has also stood out well in recent events and arrives in Monza with an ad hoc rear wing together with the celebratory livery for the victory at Le Mans.
The SF-23 reaches higher speeds than the RB19 with DRS closed, but in the areas where it is possible to activate the mobile wing, Adrian Newey’s car gains a few km/h more than the Red.
For McLaren and Aston Martin, but also Mercedes to a lesser extent, Monza will be a test for the general efficiency of the single-seaters.
Any difficulties of the three teams powered by the Brixworth Power Units could open up opportunities for Alpine and Williams.
Williams was expected to struggle last weekend, at a circuit with high downforce and other characteristics which have generally put them at a disadvantage. The same could be said for Alpine.
Instead, the performance of these teams (and consequently the results), was very good. This only bodes very well for this weekend’s race.
We have seen several times this year how the Williams can be the only car capable of matching Red Bull on the straights.
We have also seen excellent performances by Gasly and Ocon on tracks without many high-speed corners.
An aspect not to be underestimated for the Enstone team is the importance of the Power Unit in the temple of speed:
The French unit lacks horsepower, as well as a hybrid part capable of competing with other manufacturers.
This could make life complicated for the two pilots and Alpine engineers. Even Haas cannot be excluded from the possible candidates for a top-ten finish, considering the excellent top speeds shown by the VF23 several times during the season.
Pirelli has chosen the three softest compounds available for this weekend, and not a harder ‘step’ as often happens in Monza. The C3, C4 and C5 could provide strategists with different options for tackling Sunday’s race, with the one-stop race always the most probable.
In the event of a Virtual or Safety Car, the two-stop strategy could be a good alternative to differentiate.
The peculiarity of this weekend lies in the rule of using different compounds for each qualifying phase: hards in Q1, mediums in Q2 and softs in Q3. As seen earlier in the season, this limits the laps we will see in the free practice sessions due to the lack of trains to exploit.
Monza GP updates: very low load wings expected, but also some performance innovations
The weather forecast does not indicate a great chance of rain for the weekend, further reason why most teams should fit the lowest load wings available from the first free practice on Friday.
Some – including Red Bull – could opt for slightly heavier set-ups or at least compare them during free practice, as we saw in 2022.
This can allow teams to protect the tyres better and have the possibility of making better use of them over the course of the 53 laps on Sunday especially considering Pirelli’s choice of softer compounds.
Ferrari’s new ‘Monza’ wing will be present on the single-seaters from FP1, and it will be no surprise to see the same on other cars to maximise the speed at the end of the long Brianza straights.
Aston Martin will also aim to continue its drive to improve the overall efficiency of the AMR23.
Alfa Romeo will have some mechanical innovations on the front suspension with solutions that we will also review on the 2024 car, which, according to the words of the presentation of the new Alfa Romeo and the livery of the F1 car for this Monza GP.
Author: Andrea Vergani
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang