• Italian Grand Prix

McLaren duo expect DRS to spice up Monza weekend

ESPNF1 Staff
September 2, 2011 « Alguersuari not worrying about 2012 | »
Jenson Button in action at Monza last year © Getty Images
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McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton believe the Italian Grand Prix weekend is going to be dominated by the use of the Drag Reduction System (DRS).

The FIA has announced there will be two DRS zones at Monza, allowing drivers within a second of a car in front to maximise their top speed by adjusting their rear wing. For the first time this season there will also be two separate detection points, meaning drivers that are passed in one activation zone can fight back later in the lap in the next zone.

The zones will be situated on the pit straight and on the run from the second Lesmo to the Ascari chicane, and Button reckons they will make for a thrilling race.

"The first zone's going to be interesting because it's always been very tough to challenge for position under braking for Ascari - the track's pretty narrow and it's a fast entry - so I'll be really interested to see how well DRS will work into that corner - we might see some pretty spectacular moves," he said. "I think the more conventional passing opportunity will come from the second DRS zone, getting as close as possible into Parabolica, holding on through the corner - which won't be straightforward - and then deploying DRS down the start/finish straight before, hopefully, passing into turn one. The DRS is going to be a pretty major asset for a following car, and it might shape the race in some really interesting ways."

Use of the DRS will be unregulated in qualifying and Hamilton thinks that could also make for an exciting challenge.

"I think we go into the weekend feeling pretty optimistic. I've never won at Monza and I'd love to get a good result this year. I'm particularly looking forward to qualifying, because I think DRS will make a huge difference to our laptimes, and I really want to get the maximum out of the car in quali - and then look forward to a strong race, of course.

"With unlimited use in quali, and those four long straights, I think qualifying's going to be pretty intense: we'll be 20km/h faster at four key points of the circuit, so our quali times are going to be much faster than in the race. That should be pretty exciting. For the race, you'll also need the downforce, though, because you'll want to be quick enough out of the second Lesmo and Parabolica to be in with a chance of challenging for position down the following straight. I think things are set for another very closely matched race - I'm really looking forward to it."

Key to getting the DRS balance right will be picking the optimum gear ratios and level of downforce to ensure the car is at its quickest with the wing open, but not a sitting duck with the wing closed during the race.

"It's going to be the usual difficult trade-off between drag and downforce to find the ultimate package for the race," Button added. "Last year, Lewis and I opted to follow two different paths - Lewis went for the low-downforce configuration and I went for more grip, at the expense of straight-line speed. That meant that, although I had the lap time, I didn't quite have the opportunity to mount an attack for the lead, because I couldn't get close enough along the straights to have a go into the braking areas."

This year's race will also mark the 40th anniversary of one of the closest and most dramatic race finishes of all time, when Peter Gethin pipped Ronnie Peterson to victory by 0.01s and the top five were split by 0.61s following an epic slipstreaming battle in the final laps. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh reckons that the DRS at Monza will help to recreate similar scenarios.

"Perhaps it's a bit premature to be discussing the return of the epic 'Monza slipstreamer', but I think the whole team is going to Italy keen to see if DRS will create the sort of exciting and unpredictable grands prix that we either watched or read about when we were younger," he said.

"At the very least, going to Monza is always a very evocative and historic occasion - perhaps more than any other circuit, you can really feel the sport's past here, and it's become the perfect venue to bid farewell to the European season before we head to the final flyaways. I think it's very important that Formula One keeps hold of these 'classics' - which also includes circuits such as Spa, Silverstone and Monaco - while also investing in new venues for the future.

"Despite its age, Monza certainly never gets any easier: selecting gear ratios to cope with the demands of DRS through both qualifying and the race will be tricky. At Spa, the DRS ban through Eau Rouge meant that maximum velocity at the top of the hill was pretty much the same through qualifying and the race. For Monza, there are no limitations, so it will be very different, and getting it right will require a lot of thought and experimentation.

"It's rewarding to know that, even after 61 grands prix at Monza, the circuit is as much of a challenge as ever - that's a great testament to the enduring appeal of the place, and the restlessly competitive nature of Formula One."