THE MONZA CIRCUIT'S HISTORY

The Formula 1 Grand Prix is held annually at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, part of the large park at the Royal Palace of Villa Reale. This palace served as a summer residence for Austrian and Italian monarchs and is also one of the most sought-after monuments in the city. 

The track itself was built in 1922. It is the third oldest purpose-built circuit in the world and the first in continental Europe. Its history is closely linked to the Alfa Romeo brand, which was based in nearby Milan. In general, it's a home circuit for all the brands that have ever visited at the F1 championship - from Maserati to Ferrari to Lancia, whose founder, Vincenzo Lancia laid the foundation stone at the circuit.

The construction of the circuit was decided in January 1922 by the Automobile Club of Milan to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of its foundation. The then-owner of the park, the National War Veterans Association, was immediately in agreement as the birth of car racing brought considerable publicity to car manufacturers. The SIAS (Sports and Increased Automobiles Company) was established as a private company and chaired by Senator Silvio Crespi. Construction work began on May 15 and was completed in just 110 days. The track was inaugurated on September 3, 1922.

It was the third permanent circuit in the world, preceded only by the Indianapolis track in the United States (1909) and the Brooklands track in England (1907), which no longer exists as it fell into disuse in 1939 on the eve of World War II and was definitively closed in 1945.

The realization of the new system was coordinated by the then-director of the Automobile Club of Milan, Arturo Mercanti, and it was designed by architect Alfredo Rosselli and built by the company led by engineer Piero Puricelli. It consisted of a circuit made up of two rings that could be used together, alternating one lap of one with one lap of the other (the finish straight was in common and, in this case, was divided into two lanes) or separately: a 5,500-meter road track with seven curves, and a high-speed oval-shaped ring with two banked curves, 4,500 meters long.

In the early years, the Italian Grand Prix occurred on the 10 km circuit. In 1928, the driver Emilio Materassi lost control of his car on the finish straight and plunged into the crowd gathered by the track, killing 20 spectators and injuring over 40. In 1933, during the second heat of the Monza Grand Prix (a supporting race that followed the more important Italian Grand Prix), on the first lap, the driver Giuseppe Campari skidded on an oil patch at the entrance to the south-banked curve and went off the road, flipping over into the ditch alongside the track and dying on the spot.

Following these severe incidents, several modifications were made to the track to reduce its speed. One of these is the Florio Circuit, designed by Count Vincenzo Florio Jr in 1935 (source unknown), which combines original sections of the high-speed ring and the road track, interrupted by various chicanes.

The Florio Circuit In 1939, a large part of the track was rebuilt. The high-speed ring was demolished, and the road track was modified by moving the Vialone curve further ahead, which no longer led the cars onto the central avenue of the park, but onto a new more extended straight parallel to the one above. Placed closer to the pits, this new straight (called the "central straight") led to two new hairpin curves that led onto the finishing straight, replacing the original southern curve, the so-called "Vedano curves" or "porphyry curves" due to the cobbled surface that characterized them, located at the height of the old "southern elevated road". The length of the circuit became 6,300 meters.

As part of these works, a new variant was also created that became part of the Pirelli Circuit, used exclusively for car and tire testing, 4,600 meters long and driven clockwise like the primary circuit. It used the grandstand straight and the central straight, connected by the two Vedano curves and the North-East curve (considered unique in name but drawn with two different radii inside the current Grande curve). Like the Vedano curves, the North-East curve was paved with porphyry, mainly due to its value as a material testing track.
Since the end of 1945, for over two years, the circuit was used to store war debris managed by ARAR. In the spring of 1948, work began to repair the damage caused by the war. Interestingly, the southern curves were paved with porphyry cubes, which were particularly dangerous and slippery in rainy conditions. On October 17, 1948, the new track entrance and other racetrack structures were inaugurated.

In 1955, the increasingly frequent use of the racetrack for speed record attempts and the need for greater safety necessitated the redesign of the high-speed ring to be built on the ashes of the track demolished in 1938. The project was designed by engineers Antonino Berti and Aldo Di Rienzo and followed the old track precisely in the northern part. At the same time, the southern curve was moved back about 300 meters to allow the passage of the public on the new Mirabello Avenue. This choice required a new modification to the road surface: in particular, the two porphyry curves (which occupied Vedano Avenue) were eliminated and replaced by a single asphalt curve, with a 180-degree development called Parabolica for its crescent-shaped track, very similar to a parabolic arc. The complete circuit returned to a length of 10 km: 5,750 metres for the road track and 4,250 metres for the high-speed ring.

The study led to the creation of a "bowl" capable of containing a constant speed of cars both on the straight stretches and on the elevated curves in reinforced concrete with an increasing slope towards the outside. The oval now included two straight stretches of 875 meters and two elevated curves with similar developments, around 1250 meters, with different radii: in the north with a radius of 318 meters, while in the south with a radius of 312 meters. The idea of facing the curves at full speed led to the obligatory choice of building a curve with a high transverse inclination that reaches the maximum point of 80% in the central sector (corresponding to an inclination of 38°40'), calculated on the horizontal plane. Fourteen signalling towers were built along the route, seven on the High-Speed Ring. The small constructions were strategic observation points and accommodated, in addition to the commissioners, radio and television technicians, signalling staff, journalists, and photographers.

In the same year, during a private testing session, the driver Alberto Ascari lost his life: the dynamics of the accident, which no witness saw, have never been fully clarified. The curve where the fatal crash occurred, previously called the Vialone curve, was renamed the Ascari curve in memory of the champion who passed away.

The plant in the new configuration, classic circuit plus High-Speed Ring measuring 10 km per lap, was inaugurated on September 11, 1955, by the President of the Republic Giovanni Gronchi, accompanied by the Archbishop of Milan Giovanni Montini, on the occasion of the Italian Grand Prix over a distance of 500 km. The centrifugal and vertical compression stresses against the ground in the two elevated sections highlighted physical stresses on the drivers and mechanical failures reported by the cars, which led the drivers and teams to boycott the ring in the 1957, 1958, and 1959 editions.

The Italian Automobile Club organized the 500 Miles of Monza, combined with the 500 Miles of Indianapolis, in collaboration with the United States in 1957 and 1958.
In 1961, the last Italian Grand Prix was held in the 10 km configuration, but after the fatal accident in which Ferrari driver Wolfgang von Trips and 12 spectators lost their lives on the straight before the Parabolica, the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment issued new rules on circuit safety, which the Monza circuit had to comply with. From the following year onwards, racing only took place on the 5,750-metre road track.

The 1961 accident that occurred to Wolfgang von Trips is the most serious ever about having happened in a Formula 1 World Championship race. Another sadly known incident is when Austrian driver Jochen Rindt died (during Saturday's qualifying) in 1970. Rindt was at the top of the overall world championship standings at that time and was not caught by anyone in the following races, becoming the only posthumous World Champion in the history of the Formula 1 championship.

On April 25, 1965, the first 1000 km of Monza was raced, and a chicane was placed before the entrance to the South Overpass to slow down the speed of the cars entering the curve.
The last official race on the overpasses was the 1,000 km on April 25, 1969; since then, only historical reenactments have been held.

In the seventies, as speed grew (in the 1971 Grand Prix, the average speed of 240 km/h was exceeded) and with it the danger of the track, new interventions were needed to slow down the track: first, temporary chicanes were built, then in 1976, three permanent variants were built in as many places on the track (on the straight of the pits, at the Roggia curve, and the Ascari curve). The length of the track increased slightly and became 5,800 metres.

Further interventions to improve safety were carried out in 1994, 1995, 2000, and 2014: with them, the Goodyear variant (the one on the straight of the pits), the Roggia variant, the Grande curve, and the two Lesmo curves were rebuilt. In the same years, new, larger and more modern boxes were also built. In 2007, the escape route at the Roggia variant was asphalted, while in 2009, the curbs of the Goodyear variant and the Roggia variant were modified to prevent cuts in the "esses" by Formula 1 car. In 2014, the escape route of the Parabolica curve was asphalted, allowing drivers a slightly wider trajectory than before. After the latest modifications, the track length is now 5,793 metres.

Like all tracks that have made motor racing history, the Monza track has demanded its toll of deaths. Among the car drivers who lost their lives were Materassi, Ascari, von Trips, Rindt, Arcangeli, Campari, Borzacchini, Czaykowski, Peterson, and Ugo Sivocci; among the motorcyclists, Renzo Pasolini and Jarno Saarinen, who died in a crash in the Nations Grand Prix in 1973.

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