Will Gray

Tech Talk: How Monza set-up could change the order

Will Gray

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The unique nature of Monza will see most teams creating specific aerodynamic packages for this weekend's Italian Grand Prix - but how will it affect the order at the front?

The combination of long straights, which reach up to 1.2km in length, and just 13 corners over the course of the lap means teams will focus on a very low downforce and low drag set-up for this weekend's race.

This involves flattening out the rear wing profile and reducing rear wing flap size to reduce downforce and resultant downforce-induced drag, thus maximising top speed along the straights. It also requires a unique front wing to be created to balance the car for the lower rear downforce set-up.

All the top teams have been working on specific designs for this race alone, and the cars will be so different aerodynamically that there could be a significant switch in relative performance.

This improvement of top-end speed through drag reduction is crucial at Monza, but so too is ensuring the car has good aerodynamic stability. The three chicanes, where cars must slow from around 300km/h down to between 80-140km/h, demand heavy braking and this can pitch the car forwards so the more sensitive aerodynamic packages - particularly ones like Red Bull and Ferrari that now generate significant downforce from more effective blown diffusers - could suffer from this. McLaren, meanwhile, have struggled to maximise the blown diffuser benefit, and this race could see that disadvantage balanced out.

Aerodynamics is, however, not the only crucial consideration for car set-up at Monza.

Pure grunt is, of course, an advantage for top speed and that puts McLaren squarely at the top, with their Mercedes engine recognised as the most powerful on the grid. Ferrari is not far behind, but the Renault in the back of the Red Bull is expected to create a significant disadvantage for the Milton Keynes team.

The three chicanes also demand a lot from the brakes and test the suspension set-up to its limits with some of the highest and most aggressive kerbs on the calendar.

In this case, it appears the Red Bull car could have a slight advantage, as it has shown a good ability to run a set-up to ride bumps and kerbs smoothly, while McLaren appears to prefer a stiffer set-up.

The biggest question this year, however, is over running the F-duct.

Renault proved once again how significant this system can be when they gained a massive boost (0.5s/lap) from their new F-duct at Spa - yet despite the success they are undecided on whether to run it in Monza.

The Monza layout, say some teams, puts the F-duct on the point of negligible advantage.

The F-duct works as a drag reducer, allowing teams to load up the rear wing to produce high downforce in twisty parts of a circuit then actively alter the airflow to stall the wing and remove the downforce and resulting induced drag on the straights.

In Monza, there is no need to run the high downforce in the first place, so there is less downforce-induced drag for the F-duct system to remove from the wing on the straights.

That said, any extra downforce in the chicanes will be an advantage, so it could be argued that the F-duct would enable teams to run higher downforce than normal to help through the chicanes and still have the speed they need on the straights.

The issue, however, is that bulky unit itself hampers the efficiency of the airflow in normal flow. Generally it results in a net benefit because of the advantage gained by stalling the wing - but in Monza, some believe the balance would end up being a net increase in drag.

Williams technical chief Sam Michael believes removing the F-duct would be a mistake, explaining that their tests have shown "a massive drag difference" on the Monza wing set-up they have developed. McLaren, however, are planning to run back-to-back tests on Friday to determine its value and most teams will be doing the same.

Overall, however, it seems whether they have the F-duct or not, the race will play into the hands of Mercedes - but if Red Bull can handle the bumps better than others they could salvage some valuable points from a race where they already expect to be defeated.

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