Honda Italian Grand Prix Preview

ROUND 14

Round 14 of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the HondaRacing F1 Team to the outskirts of Milan for the Italian Grand Prix. The53-lap race is staged at the 5.793km (3.600-mile) Autodromo Nazionale diMonza and marks the end of F1's European season.

Monza is the oldest and fastest track on this year's calendar. The circuitwas built in 1922 and since the inception of the World Championship in 1950has staged the Italian Grand Prix every year with the exception of 1980. Theoriginal 45-degree banking at either end of the pit straight has not beenused by F1 cars since 1961, but the circuit remains a temple of speed, withfour long straights where the cars will reach top speeds of 340kph (211mph).Average lap speeds are expected to be in excess of 250kph (155mph). 

Honda has won the Italian Grand Prix six times with the most recent visit tothe podium in 2004, when Jenson Button finished third for the Honda RacingF1 Team. Rubens Barrichello has won the race twice before, in 2002 and 2004.

MONZA - THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE

The emphasis at Monza is on engine power and aerodynamic efficiency. As aresult, the team will run a special low downforce aero package, whichproduces 30 percent less grip than the high downforce generated at theslowest circuits on the calendar.

From a set-up point of view, the most demanding aspects of the lap areslowing the cars from high speed and getting the power down at the exit ofthe corners. The introduction of the standard Electronic Control Unit thisyear has had a big impact in both areas of performance, so a good carbalance is vital in low downforce trim in order to be quick. The cars alsorun higher ride heights at Monza to allow the drivers to use the kerbs atall three chicanes.

There are two key corners on the lap: Lesmo 2 and Parabolica. Both arefollowed by long straights and the drivers need to get the power down beforethe apex of each turn to ensure a clean exit.

Full throttle: 75%     Brake wear:    MediumDownforce level:   Low - 1/10 Tyre compounds: Medium / Hard Tyre usage:    LowAverage speed:    250kph (155mph) 

HONDA TEAM TALK

Ross Brawn, Team Principal

Q. What impact do the particular challenges of the Monza circuit have on theset-up of the RA108?"Monza is the only circuit on the calendar which requires such a lowdownforce set-up therefore we will use a significant number of uniqueaerodynamic parts for the RA108. The priority is to minimise drag to achievethe top speeds of 340kph on the long straights and therefore the rear wingand front wing are significantly smaller than usual. We will also runwithout our usual wings on the nosebox. The engine cover, bargeboard andother chassis devices have all been analysed for their aerodynamicefficiency and amended or reduced where required. The lap at Monza has anumber of big braking areas so it can be very hard on the brakes. It is alsoquite bumpy, which combined with the low downforce, means that thesuspension settings have to be right without compromising the car's abilityto ride the kerbs."

Jenson Button

Q. What are your thoughts ahead of the Italian Grand Prix weekend?"I always look forward to racing at Monza and the Italian fans are reallypassionate about motor racing. Although you're so focused over the weekendon improving your car, you can still sense the atmosphere and excitementaround the circuit. Monza also has a real history about it. I've walkedaround the old banking part of the track and have so much respect for theguys who used to race on there. Monza is very different from most of thecircuits that we race on during the year.It's quick and you have to run such low downforce to get the straightlinespeed that is needed to take advantage of the straights.Ascari is probably my favourite part of the track and you can have a lot offun through there. Parabolica is also good, particularly in qualifying whenyou're trying to get the most out of the car and brake as late as possiblewhilst you are turning it. If you brake a little late, you're off into thegravel and probably the wall. But if you get it right and have a goodqualifying lap, then it's an amazing buzz because you know that you'veworked so hard for it. The first corner is always interesting with 20 carsslowing from 290kph (180mph) to 80kph(50mph) and fighting for position on a slippery circuit with cold tyres!"

Rubens Barrichello

Q. You've won this race twice before. What's the key to a quick lap atMonza?"Monza is a very special racetrack and it has always been a real honour torace there and an even better feeling to win the Italian Grand Prix.The track holds some of my favourite racing memories from my victories in2002 and 2004. As the quickest circuit on the calendar with long straights,engine power is very important to maximise your straightline speed, and thecar will be set up with the lowest drag and downforce levels possible.However you really need to have good stability under braking to able to ridethe Monza kerbs effectively without having too much understeer. Goodtraction is important for exiting the Rettifilo and Roggia chicanes and youcan overtake at both of these turns. It's more difficult to slipstream onthe straights these days as it is so difficult to follow another car withoutlosing out from the buffeting."