There is the Temple of Tennis, which is Wimbledon. And then there is the Temple of speed, and it couldn’t be more Made in Italy than this. Just the word: Monza. Books and exhibitions would not be enough (and I’m spoiled for choice), to tell sad and festive anecdotes and episodes. And then, you will say: why are we talking about it? Because this weekend the name ‘Monza’ will have a worldwide echo, with the Formula One grand prix scheduled. Which falls, in the hundredth year of life of the racetrack. Exactly. 100. Round number. Symbolic. Important. So, briefly, let’s retrace the history of this institution in the world of motors.
It was decided by the Automobile Club of Milan, with the aim of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the birth of the Association and after an Italian sporting defeat, that of the first Italian Grand Prix (Montichiari 1921, a road circuit): the works began at the end of February, with the first stone laid by Vincenzo Lancia and Felice Nazzaro. But the suspension of the works was immediately ordered for reasons of “artistic, monumental and landscape conservation value”. In the intricate development of the controversy, the thesis of the absolute necessity of a racetrack prevailed, so in the end a circuit with characteristics similar to those originally planned was created, albeit with the overall development reduced to 10 kilometers. The first test took place on July 28 with the two pilots Pietro Bordino and Felice Nazzaro.
The inauguration took place on 24 August, six months after the first stone was laid and so on 10 September of the same year the Italian Grand Prix could be held in the brand new facility. At the wheel of a Fiat 804, it was Bordino himself (whom some will remember mentioned by Lucio Dalla in the song “Nuvolari”) in front of his teammate Nazzaro and the Spaniard Pierre de Vizcaya in the Bugatti. In that edition there was also the first victim, the German Gregor Khun, who flew off the track in tests and died instantly aboard an Austro-Daimler. The designer was the engineer Piero Puricelli: Milanese by birth, count of Lomnago, he was the one who designed the track of the circuit, the one – which net of chicanes and variations – we still know today.
Evolution: the key moments
The greatest motorsport champions are imprinted in the Monza roll of honor. Among the first Tazio Nuvolari. These were times before the birth of Formula One (born in 1950). Unfortunately, in 1933, Campari, Borzacchini and Czaykowski lost their lives due to an oil stain. The triple fatal accident led to a series of alternative choices, including the inclusion of two artificial chicanes. But a year that remains etched in the memory is 1988: a month earlier Enzo Ferrari had died. In that year the McLarens of Prost and Senna had won all the races. But at Monza Prost had technical problems and Senna an accident and so the Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto won a “supernatural” double.
Fans rattle off the names by heart, like a poem at school: first variant, bend, variant of the Roggia, Lesmo curves, Serraglio, Ascari variant. And then there is the parabolic, the long curve that leads to the main straight, where you take a run to hit crazy top speeds by whatever means you run. The parabolic is now named after Michele Alboreto.
However, performance improved over the years, as did the risks: in 1969 the Italian Grand Prix ended in a sprint, in 1970 Regazzoni intelligently distanced himself a few laps from the end, in 1971 there was another finish in the sprint. All at 250 kilometers per hour. Consequently, in 1972 two chicanes were created which had the purpose of reducing the speed at the entrance of the fastest curves of the track, the “Grande” or “Curvone” curve, at the end of the grandstand straight, and the “Ascari” or curve of the “Vialone”. On this circuit, which measured 5,775 meters, the lap speed achieved with the single-seaters dropped to just under 216 km / h. The highest lap average of this circuit (223.501 km / h) was achieved in 1975 by Clay Regazzoni in a Ferrari. The chicanes, however, proved to be a makeshift solution and resulted in numerous accidents and collisions, albeit minor ones. Thus, following the continuous accidents, considerable works were undertaken to replace them with some changes to slow down the route. In 1976, to replace the chicane located on the straight of the grandstands, a variant was created that reduced the speed to about 100 km / h at the entrance and 120 km / h at the end. The maximum speed on the starting straight of the Grande curve was thus lowered from over 300 to around 180 km / h. But further interventions, over time, have been carried out in the name of adapting to the safety standards required by the FIA and, after all the “movements”, the total development of the circuit is 5,793 meters. The racetrack has totally changed its appearance becoming one of the most beautiful and functional in the world.