Lewis Hamilton is determined to bounce back from his first lap exit at the Belgian Grand Prix by adding another event to his record of those where he has stood on the top step of the podium.
For all his speed and attacking style, Monza has yet to feature among the Briton's winning venues but, having seen his championship challenge dented by the accident at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday, he is determined to respond in the best possible fashion by adding to McLaren's rich Italian GP heritage. The Woking operation has chalked up nine wins, ten poles and eleven fastest laps around the fastest layout on the schedule, and Hamilton is keen to add to all of those tallies when the 2012 field rocks up in the royal park this weekend.
“I've never won at Monza before, but I'll be doing everything I can to take the victory this weekend,” the 27-year old insisted, “Spa was just one of those weekends – but the beauty of these double-header races is that it's already firmly behind me. And Monza is such a unique and invigorating circuit that it's easy to put my disappointments to one side and just focus on driving as fast as possible this weekend."
Monza is one of the most iconic tracks on the world championship schedule. Built in 1922, the venue is an eclectic mix of old and new, with the banking that formed part of the original layout still lying, albeit in a decrepit state, adjacent to the modern racetrack. Maintaining its historic reputation as one of the fastest layouts on the calendar, Monza provides drivers with four opportunities to exceed 200mph, with the relentless speeds forcing teams to use low-downforce wing configurations while, all the time, trying to maintain braking stability. Suspension settings are also critical to a quick lap because the cars need a smooth ride over the circuit's high kerbs to allow the drivers to get the power down early on corner exits.
“The first laps out of the pits on Friday always feel incredible because we have such little downforce and the ratios are so long," Hamilton admitted, "It feels like you never stop accelerating – and then you hit the brakes and the car feels really unstable, because the wings aren't doing much to keep it settled. You soon get used to it, but it's always exciting to be driving flat-out around Monza because it's such a different experience from anywhere else we visit.
“For me, there's something about F1's older circuits that's very special. Despite each being very different, the newer tracks all seem to have the same character and the same sort of rhythm, but the older circuits are very different. They feel like the land has shaped and influenced them rather than the other way around. I like that – it means you never fall into any particular comfort zone and you're always pushing the car one way or the other to get the best from any lap."
Having finished second on his first appearance at Monza with McLaren in 2007, Hamilton has not returned to the podium since, finishing only seventh there in his title-winning 2008 campaign, and having to settle for fourth after being held up by Michael Schumacher in last year's race. However, with recent developments to the MP4-27, and back-to-back victories for the car in Hungary and Belgium, team boss Martin Whitmarsh is optimistic when assessing the chances of both Hamilton and team-mate Jenson Button this weekend.
“Our low-downforce potential was clear to see in Spa and we're hopeful of picking up where we left off in Italy," he mused, "In fact, Monza is the only truly high-speed circuit remaining on the F1 calendar. In the past, it was comparable to the old Hockenheim and, in some ways, to Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but Monza's heritage gives it a unique character. It's a track where the past comes to life and it's an honour to tread upon the same tarmac as some of the sport's true greats. Having won in Hungary and Belgium, we'll be aiming for a hat-trick of wins in Italy!”