The 2006 European season comes to an end this weekend with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. The circuit, situated just north of Milan, is one of motor racing's historic venues. Indeed, visitors can still see the banking which played host to many of the sport's legendary battles down the years. Now the track is famous for being the fastest on the F1 calendar, with cars pushing the very limits of their engines as they scream along its characteristic long straights. Panasonic Toyota Racing's Jarno Trulli relishes the special atmosphere of his home grand prix and both he and team-mate Ralf Schumacher will hope to have something to celebrate with the local fans on Sunday evening.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 7): "Monza has a special place in the heritage of F1 and it is a very fast circuit with long straights interspersed with chicanes. Because we run with such low downforce at Monza you can always notice the drop in grip compared to the more typical circuits we run on. So we have to adapt for that with your set-up because confidence is important under braking for the tight chicanes. You have to be precise when you switch between high and low speed sections so that is a good challenge for the drivers. To keep up your momentum you have to get the chicanes just right so setting up the car for the kerbs is crucial. Last year we had a good weekend and I made up ground during the race to finish 6th due to good strategy work from the team. In the last few races we have shown we can be quick. So we will look for more of the same this weekend and hope for an even better result."
Jarno Trulli (Car 8): "I always enjoy coming to Monza. I'm at home so I enjoy more support than usual and the atmosphere is excellent. I like the circuit too and I have usually had good results there, including last year when I had a good run to 5th place in the Toyota. Because Monza is the quickest circuit of the year, straight line speed is essential and everyone runs with as little wing as possible. With such low downforce you push the limits of the grip. The car has a tendency to be more nervous, even on the straights, so you have to drive smoothly. You have to be very precise with your braking points, ride the kerbs and get a good exit out of the chicanes. If you can get it right every lap and always be on the limit you can make a lot of difference. Our package has been strong in recent races so we will try to make it through the weekend and score a good result in front of my home fans."
Pascal Vasselon – Senior General Manager Chassis: "Monza is the last surviving high speed circuit in Formula 1. Since the layout of Hockenheim was changed it is by far the fastest on the calendar, with average speeds over 250kph. Because it is now unique it produces extra work for engineers. The circuit is obviously hard on engines because the throttle is open for most of the lap. The conditions obviously place an emphasis on low drag and low downforce but the efficiency of the packages remains the key and you still want as much downforce as possible without increasing the drag. For that reason we will also have a customised aero package for Monza including a new front and rear wing. It is important to ride the kerbs well and the long straights and slow corners mean that it is one of the hardest circuits of the year for brakes. Monza is critical for tyre blistering, which comes from internal heat generation on the long straights. So although the layout is not very demanding i n terms of graining and degradation, you cannot go to Monza with a soft tyre. You have to aim for the middle of the range and we will make our choice based on last week's Monza test, which is always an essential part of our preparations."