Ferrari's most memorable Monza F1 moments

Monza is inimitable, particularly in its long-time fevered relationship with the home team Ferrari. With Motorsport Images’ photography we look at Ferrari’s finest Monza moments

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Ferrari and Monza - an inimitable relationship

It is true what they say – no circuit is quite like Monza. It is a cathedral of motorsport with a heritage stretching all the way back to 1922. The ghosts of legends past seem tangible in the royal park.

And surely no venue has been such a persistent cauldron of partisan noise. Appropriately in more ways than one, Monza’s Italian Grands Prix year after year are a sea of red with most of those present there to roar on the local team, the equally inimitable Ferrari.

In advance of the latest Italian Grand Prix at Monza, in which Ferrari will once against play a full part, with stunning photography from Motorsport Images we look at some of Ferrari’s most memorable moments at Monza from the team and circuit’s long history together.


1951: Alfa’s Waterloo

Ferrari’s first Italian Grand Prix win was in 1949, of course at Monza. It faced little opposition that year as Alfa Romeo had withdrawn from grand prix racing. In 1950 and the start of the Formula 1 world championship Alfa was back with a strong driving line-up and it won the first title. But in 1951 Ferrari’s flare was in the sky – it had taken its first world championship race win at Silverstone in José Froilán González’s hands and Alberto Ascari won the following race for it at the Nürburgring.

Then came Monza, which has been described as Alfa Romeo’s Waterloo. It brought a more powerful 159M to counter Ferrari and Juan Manuel Fangio took pole in it, but Ascari fought Fangio and the fellow Alfa of Nino Farina early on. Then when Fangio’s car threw a tyre tread Ascari got a lead he never lost. He and González took the one-two with Alfa a distant third. Alfa disappeared from the scene at the year’s end.


1960: Having the place to yourself

It has been said that in past Italian Grands Prix rivals needed to defeat Ferrari off the track as well as on it, and the 1960 version was perhaps one such occasion. It had been a trying year for the Scuderia, its front-engined cars outdated next to its rear-engined, mainly British, rivals. But Monza organisers decided for that year’s race to include the banking section of the circuit, which would favour the Ferraris which with their obsolescence still had more power than the rest.

The British teams harrumphed and decided to stay away. It did not appear to impact the Monza crowd though which, local eyes being only for Ferrari, still was sizeable. The race as might be expected was a Ferrari demonstration run, with Phil Hill winning after swapping the lead a few times with team-mate Richie Ginther. It was the last ever F1 win by a front-engined car. And a year later the same British teams had forgotten about their objections and turned up to race on the banking…


1970: Light and shade

This one started as sombre, as Jochen Rindt – well on the way to that year’s title – was killed in an accident in qualifying. And for a time on race day it seemed the locals would have even less to cheer. While the three Ferraris had qualified well two of them – Jacky Ickx and Ignazio Giunti – were soon out. This left Clay Regazzoni as the team’s sole representative and he was in but his fifth grand prix as well as was viewed as a man who made mistakes under pressure.

Monza races in these days, before the addition of chicanes, were sheer slipstreaming battle and Regazzoni got stuck into the fight among the haughty company at the front including Jackie Stewart among others. Then with a dozen laps left he was able to break clear and get the rest out of his slipstream. It meant the day was his and the tribunes erupted; the crowd invaded the track on the slowing down lap then carried Regazzoni to the podium.


1979: As good as it gets

For the tifosi it cannot get much better than this. A one-two at Monza, and with it a championship was cemented. Indeed it was a day on which everything went Ferrari’s way. Alan Jones who had dominated the latter part of the year in his Williams FW07 was eliminated from contention immediately with battery problems. The fast but fragile turbocharged Renault of René Arnoux led initially but dropped out on lap 13 with engine woes.

Champion-elect Jody Scheckter thus inherited the lead with his Ferrari stablemate Gilles Villeneuve on his tail; Villeneuve could keep his championship hopes alive by passing but he’d given his word that he wouldn’t which Scheckter knew was enough. Jacques Laffite’s Ligier clung onto their tails heroically and with it threatened to keep the title open, but he dropped out late on with his own engine maladies. Topping it all off it was Monza favourite Clay Regazzoni who completed the podium – he for a time it looked like he might deprive Ferrari in a late charge, but at the very last fuel starvation kept him away…


1988: Written in the stars

Only once in 1988 did a McLaren not win a Grand Prix. And it simply had to be Ferrari at Monza that denied it. For the most part it looked a mile off though as the McLaren Hondas of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were imperious as usual and disappeared into their own race. Even as Prost dropped out there wasn’t much hope for the home team. But Senna had been spendthrift with his fuel in the battle and had to tail off drastically. The Ferraris, Michele Alboreto chasing Gerhard Berger, closed in. Still though it looked like Senna would hang on – just.

But two laps shy of what would have become a clean sweep Senna took one chance too many lapping Jean-Louis Schlesser’s Williams who had run wide. Schlesser’s front-left wheel clipped the McLaren’s rear-right and Senna was sent into a gentle pivot and out. The Ferraris in front of their scarcely believing public were set fair. It also was mere weeks after the Commendatore Enzo Ferrari had passed away. Some things are meant to be.


1996: Tyred and emotional

This was Michael Schumacher’s third win of his impressive first year at Ferrari, and his first in front of an adoring tifosi. It was a bizarre affair, due to temporary tyre barriers erected at some of the chicanes amid concerns about excessive kerb-hopping – particularly when a piece of concrete was thrown into Jacques Villeneuve’s rear wing. Yet in the race’s early laps it seemed competitors could barely keep away from the new hazards. Both Williams clipped them – Damon Hill was out and Villeneuve severely delayed. Both McLarens were damaged by the car ahead flicking tyres into their paths. This left Schumacher, from running sixth on lap one, shadowing former Ferrari favourite Jean Alesi for the lead.

It was resolved in familiar style. The Ferrari had two laps’ more fuel and then Schumacher did his party trick of scintillating in-laps to vault into the lead at the stops. Late on Schumacher clouted one of the tyre barriers himself – and carried on like nothing had happened. It underlined that this was his day.


2004: Wiping the floor

By the 2004 Italian Grand Prix Ferrari’s astonishing run of championship domination was entering its final chapter. But at Monza it left a galling reminder of how crushing its domination was. For the first time ever for an F1 race at Monza, the track was wet, or rather damp after a pre-race shower. This gave Ferrari a conundrum as its Bridgestone tyres didn’t quite have the window of the Michelins of its rivals. Michael Schumacher started on dry weather tyres and spun down to 15th on lap 1. Rubens Barrichello led on intermediate tyres but had to pit early and dropped to ninth. It looked that for once the Ferraris would be beaten.

But that reckoned without the Ferrari’s pace advantage as the red pair simply cruised through the field with minimum fuss, routinely going two seconds a lap faster than all their rivals. Barrichello beat Schumacher home by 1.3s; the next best – Jenson Button’s BAR – wasn’t even within 10s of the win.


2010: Alonso arrives

Certain drivers seem put on the planet to drive Ferraris and the aggressive Fernando Alonso was one such. His first year at the team had been patchy, though at Monza he took pole – Ferrari’s first for nearly two years. His fellow front row starter Jenson Button in his McLaren had the better start and seized the inside line to lead at the first chicane. For over half the race the pair were glued, but Alonso didn’t appear able to do much about his foe.

Not on track on least. There was always the sole round of tyre stops. Button’s came first, Alonso’s a lap later – and both the Spaniard’s in-lap and stop were a few tenths quicker, and combined it got him out half a length clear of Button. Some strong arm driving at the opening chicane did the rest, and the day was his. He used the win as a basis for a late charge that nearly brought him that year’s title, only denied amid consternation in the Abu Dhabi finale.

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Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

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