The final European race of the 2011 season, Round 13, the Italian Grand Prix, takes place on Sunday 11 September at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, just outside of Milan. One of the most atmospheric circuits on the calendar, the 5.793 km circuit in the royal park at the heart of Monza features four long straights where top speeds can reach 340 kph.
- Monza is the fastest circuit of the year with an average lap speed of 255 kph; the season average is 211 kph.
- The Formula One Italian GP has been won from pole 18 times in 61 races, including seven times in the past ten years.
- DRS can be used for 74% of the lap (or 4.29 km) in practice and qualifying – the highest percentage of the season.
“The final European race takes place at Monza, a truly historic Formula One circuit, and one where I have always been so warmly welcomed and supported over the years. We achieved a good team result in Spa last weekend, and I especially enjoyed the overtaking battles and the challenge of making up so many places during the race. This gives us a boost going into the final part of the season, and we will continue pushing hard to get the best possible results.”
“I’m really looking forward to the weekend in Monza. We learned at the last race in Spa that our car can be competitive at high-speed tracks, and we definitely took a step forward there. I am confident that we can do that again in Italy next weekend. I visited the factory this week and I’m quite happy with how things are working out there. I’ll be arriving in Italy on Wednesday and attending the FOTA Fans Forum at Pirelli’s headquarters in Milan. It should be a really interesting event and I’m looking forward to the chance to speak with some of our fans there.”
Ross Brawn, Team Principal
“Monza is always a fitting venue for the final European race, and spending a race weekend there is a special experience. The unique high-speed circuit is a classic racing venue, and one of the best places to watch Formula One cars at their very top speeds. Coming off the back of our best result of the season in Spa, we are looking forward to the weekend and to finishing the European season on a high. With the emphasis jointly on engine power and aerodynamic efficiency, we have the benefit of our Mercedes-Benz engine and, as always for Monza, we will run a special low-downforce aerodynamic package to minimise drag on the long straights.”
Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“Monza features the highest straightline speeds of the year at around 350 kph, the highest average lap speed and, at 83%, the highest percentage of the lap spent at full throttle – not for nothing is it known as a ‘temple of speed’. The engine and KERS system will play an important role at this circuit, but it is equally important to develop an effective low-drag aerodynamic package and to make sure the car feels stable on the brakes. Michael and Nico both enjoyed strong, trouble-free races in Spa to score a solid result for the team with fifth and sixth places. We will be hoping for more of the same in Monza. Saturday 10 September will also mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Wolfgang von Trips in tragic circumstances in the 1961 race. Von Trips was well-placed to become the first German Formula One World Champion with Ferrari, and also drove sports cars for Mercedes-Benz in the early years of his career.”
Amid the attention attracted this year by both DRS and the performance characteristics of the Pirelli tyres, the return of KERS has been somewhat swamped in the public eye. Yet there’s a firm case to suggest that it, too, has played its own crucial role in enabling the significant increase in overtaking for 2011, with the system being variously used to boost drivers into the ‘DRS zone’ (i.e. less than one second behind the car in front), during the overtaking manoeuvre itself, or even to defend against a car behind with DRS in operation. While no hard data exists on this point, anecdotal evidence suggests KERS plays a role in nearly every overtaking manoeuvre for cars equipped with the system – as well as providing a valuable area of cutting-edge research into electronics and battery technology; in fact, exactly what the philosophy of Formula One has always been about.
How does the Mercedes-Benz KERS work?
The Mercedes-Benz KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) has been developed by Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines in Brixworth, UK with the support of Mercedes-Benz R&D in Sindelfingen, Germany – a process that also resulted in significant knowledge transfer to series production of hybrid technology. The KERS is made up of the Motor Generator Unit (MGU), the Power Electronics (PE) and a number of batteries that make up the Energy Storage System (ESS). When harvesting power that would otherwise be dissipated as heat through the braking system, the MGU works as a generator, providing three-phase electricity to the PE. This converts the electricity to DC voltage, and stores the energy in the battery. The process works in reverse when the driver requests boost, with the generator unit becoming a motor to supplement the engine power. The processes of harvesting and boosting are both approximately 80% efficient.
How large is the Mercedes-Benz KERS?
The motor in the MGU is approximately ten times smaller than commercial automotive units, while the battery is around eight times smaller than those commercially available. Overall, there are approximately 3,500 parts in a single KERS! It is a true example of cutting-edge engineering.
What is the lap time benefit of KERS at Monza?
The lap time gain from full use of KERS is over 0.4s at Monza. This compares to a lowest value so far this season of approximately 0.3s per lap in Hungary.
Why is Monza such a potent circuit for KERS usage?
The best-case scenario for KERS boosting is relatively slow corners followed by very long straights – exactly what Monza features plenty of. There are four times in the lap (out of Turns 2, 7, 10 and 11) when the car accelerates from relatively low speed to near terminal velocity, and this means that there is a relatively large lap-time benefit from boosting out of any of these four corners. Typical KERS deployment in Monza would see four boosts per lap, which are delivered to the wheels 20ms after the button is pressed.
As well as high speeds, Monza features heavy braking. Does that make it a good circuit for harvesting energy?
The cars spend over 12% of the lap (more than 10 seconds) on the brakes in Monza, with the braking event for Turn 1 seeing them shed around 265kph. However, Monza is actually the most marginal circuit of the year for KERS harvesting, owing to the low number of braking events during the lap: just six in total (Turns 1, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 11).
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Picture credit: Mercedes Grand Prix