This is the story of ungodly budgets, banshee engines, and a car that screamed past 230 miles an hour. It's a story of F1's fastest machines, the glory days of the V10 era. Photo Credit: Getty Images
In over a hundred years of Grand Prix racing there has been one recurring track synonymous with outright speed, rampaging horsepowers and time warping velocity. However, out of these one hundred years there were just only three that could make use of it all. Welcome to F1 during its screaming age.
The more Formula One is exploring territories to conquer, the less chance its founding hosts have to stay on calendar. The French Grand Prix has been - unprecedently - absent for quite a few years now, despite being the father of all Grand Prix races.
The German and the Belgian Grand Prix is being threatened to drop out lately due to financial instability and various political reasons, nor the Spanish Grand Prix is in a good health. Some ‘traditional’ races have been recruited by other racing series or have been converted to stand-alone events. It is up to the remaining events to fly the flag for continuity and tradition: the British, the Monaco and the Italian Grands Prix. Out of these three only the streets of Monaco and Monza have stayed virtually unchanged over the years and it is Monza only that is a purpose-built track of them.
The Autodromo Nazionale Monza could not possibly disprove its design and racing line originating in an era when racing was still all about finding the highest top speeds possible, where it was almost exclusively up to the engines to win races. However - as the years and decades progressed - Grand Prix racing started regulating itself. Cars have been built to a formula, new technological gizmos were introduced, downforce started to play a part, etc., which - eventually - made racing faster and faster, but Monza defied all of these and remained solely reliant on engine power.
Formula One’s governing body, the FIA - or rather the FISA back then - put an end to explosive forced induction power in the late eighties to keep cars under control that made designers and engineers return to the drawing board and restart from scratch. The result was the 3.5-litre N/A period, which was further restricted to three litres following the 1995 season and was specified in a V10 configuration.
These V10’s ruled Formula One for the next ten years, and thanks to tobacco money and the regulations at the time there was a virtually unlimited financial source to keep these engines running even faster.
The peak came for V10’s to shine in their brightest performance just about when they were to be expelled for good. And the place was Monza to do it.
The shortest ever F1 race - without a red flag - was thus performed at said venue. Michael Schumacher completed the 306.719 kilometres of the 2003 Italian Grand Prix in just one hour 14 minutes and 19.838 seconds, making it an average race speed of 247.585kph or 153.842mph.
For 2004, the official lap record for the track was broken by Rubens Barrichello during qualifying, making it not only a pole position for him, but also the highest average speed ever over one lap in a Formula One car with 260.395kph or 161.802mph. Juan Pablo Montoya, though, managed to run 1mph faster in the Williams BMW the day before, thus the unofficial highest average speed is recorded at 262.242kph or 162.950mph.
In 2005 - the last year of the V10’s -, another track and Formula One record was broken, i.e. top speed. Achieved by Juan Pablo Montoya once again - now in the McLaren Mercedes - the highest top race speed in an F1 car remains 372.6kph or 231.523mph.
With 2006 came V8 engines and F1 was forced to run at a slower pace. To increase reliability and to decrease costs, engine development was frozen, ever decreasing rev limits have been put on them, fitted with a major chassis and regulation overhaul with the new decade - banning refuelling during races, narrower tyres, less downforce, but added KERS. We’ve yet to see what the 2014 edition with the turbocharged V6 engines has to bring, even so, there has been a dramatic change in lap time, speeds and noise over the years:
What do you expect of the 2014 Italian Grand Prix?
[UPDATE]_: And here it is
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All data are from Wikipedia