This Sunday’s race is the 65th Italian Grand Prix to count for the Formula 1 World Championship and, along with the British GP, they are the only races to have featured on the calendar every year of the championship. With the exception of 1980 when it was held at Imola and won by Nelson Piquet in a Brabham, it’s always been staged at Monza. Over the years, Scuderia Ferrari has won 18 times, a hit rate of 28%, to go along with 19 pole positions and 64 podiums.
Speed, slipstream and scares. With the demise of the old Hockenheim, Monza is the last of the truly old style Formula 1 circuits, although Spa-Francorchamps is also a contender for this category. Down its straights, before they were interrupted by the three chicanes we have today, some of the closest battles in history took place, with dozens of passing moves every lap as cars were able to slipstream each other: the 1971 edition is famous for the closest ever finish, when Peter Gethin won for BRM, finishing just a hundredth of a second ahead of Ronnie Peterson in the March, with the top five all within six tenths. The high speeds have also led to tragedy and the victims include Alberto Ascari, Wolfgang Von Trips, Jochen Rindt and the aforementioned Peterson.
The first wins. Ferrari took its first Monza win in 1951 courtesy of Alberto Ascari in the 375, while second placed Jose Froilan Gonzalez made it a one-two. The Italian won again the following year and after that, there was a pause until 1960, which produced an easy victory, as the British teams boycotted the race in protest against the use of the high-speed oval, built in 1955 and considered too dangerous. Ferrari took the top three spots with Phil Hill, Richie Ginther and Willy Mairesse. The following year, everyone was present, but tragedy struck. Von Trips collided with Jim Clark in the Lotus, dying along with 14 spectators. Hill won in the 156 to become the first American World Champion, but there were tears instead of celebrations.
Key victories. In 1964, Scuderia Ferrari was back to winning ways with John Surtees, who dominated the race in the 158 having shaken off the attentions of Dan Gurney. The win was key to the Englishman getting back in the running for the title, which he won in thrilling fashion in the final race in Mexico. Two years later came an equally important win for Ludovico Scarfiotti, who scored a one-two with Mike Parkes in the 312, which saved the day in an an otherwise lacklustre season.
The Seventies. After three barren years, the Maranello marque won again in 1970 courtesy of Clay Regazzoni who, in the final stages got the better of Jackie Stewart in the March. Five years later, the Swiss driver did it again which was cause for great celebration, as by coming third, Niki Lauda brought the Drivers’ title back to Maranello, eleven years on from Surtees. It was the same scenario four years later in ‘79, this time the title going to winner Jody Scheckter, with team-mate Gilles Villeneuve riding shotgun in second.
The 1988 “miracle”. Scheckter’s win was the last for a very long time for the Scuderia at Monza. In September 1988, Ferrari turned up in Monza with a heavy heart, as it was the first race following the death of the founder Enzo, back in August. In qualifying, the McLarens that had won every race that year, monopolised the front row with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. Prost retired with a problem, but Senna seemed to be heading for an easy win. However, with three laps to go, the Brazilian came up behind the backmarker, Jean-Louis Schlesser in the Williams. The Frenchman moved over but ended up t-boning Senna who had to retire. It left the door open for Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto to take their Ferraris to a one-two. The next day, some journalists wrote that, looking down, Enzo Ferrari had orchestrated Schlesser’s misfortune.
The Schumacher era. There would be an eight year break before seeing a Ferrari on the top step of the Monza podium. It was 1996 and the winner was the great Michael Schumacher, who won again in Monza in 1998, with a fabulous passing move on Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren at the Roggia chicane. In 2000, another win meant Schumacher equaled Senna’s number of victories and he couldn’t hold back the tears in the press conference. He also won in 2003 and 2006, while Rubens Barrichello made his mark in this era, winning in 2002 and in 2004, when the Ferraris had to fight their way back up the order after Rubens had made a poor tyre choice and Michael spun at Roggia.
The Alonso era. The latest win for Ferrari at Monza was down to Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard had previously won in 2007 and in 2010, he had a long duel with Jenson Button in the McLaren, the Englishman finally having to give best to Fernando’s pressure and the performance of the F10. As for Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn has never won at Monza, his best result being a second place in 2006.