In a move to improve the quality racing at the upcoming Italian Grand Prix, Formula One Management and Italian GP organizers have announced modifications to Monza ahead of this year’s race. Instead of running on the configuration used in 2009, the stars of F1 will run on the historic (and dangerous) full circuit at Monza.
The full circuit at Monza will include both the road course that the teams ran last year and the banked “oval” circuit in one lap. The banked part of the circuit hasn’t been used since 1961 when Wolfgang von Trips was killed in the penultimate round of the season. The full circuit was featured in 1966’s legendary racing film Grand Prix as the final round of the championship. Racing continued on the full circuit until 1969 when that year’s 1000 km was the last on the banked part of the circuit.
In a statement, Bernie Ecclestone said “We have been looking to improve racing and one of the points of contention has been the circuits. We believe that a faster circuit will encourage more overtaking opportunities and make for a better product for the spectators.” However, when questioned by the press in Sepang, Ecclestone was surprisingly displeased with his interrogators. When asked about the safety of the old circuit, Ecclestone was overheard muttering “They’re big boys. They can handle themselves.”
Grand Prix Drivers’ Association Nick Heidfeld has called an emergency meeting ahead of tomorrow’s first practice session of the Malaysian GP. There are rumours circulating that the drivers could boycott this weekend’s race if the decision isn’t revisited. At least one driver is resigned to defeat in this matter, however. An anonymous driver was quoted as saying “Bernie always gets his way when he sets his mind to it. If he wants to run the full Monza layout, then we’ll have to do it. It’s either that or we get replaced because no team can afford the FIA’s fines for missing an event.”
Monza’s full circuit has played host to some of the most exciting races in F1’s histories. It wasn’t uncommon for these races to finish with cars three, four, or even five wide across the line. While safety is rightfully a concern of the drivers, the cars today are far safer today than they were in the 50s. I think the more important question would be how will the tires handle it. The Michelin incident at Indianapolis in 2005 showed the effect that lateral forces can have on tires. With only four different tire compounds produced by Bridgestone for 2010, we’ll have to see if they will have to produce a special compound to run on the banked part of the circuit.