The 15th round of the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix, will take place at Monza this weekend. It is the final European race of the season. The 5.79-kilometre Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is the fastest track on the F1 calendar, with an average lap speed of 245kph. It is situated in one of Milan's picturesque royal parks and has been the home of the Italian GP every year since 1950, except the 1980 race which took place at Imola.
Monza is also the oldest track on the F1 calendar, its original oval having been built in 1922 by the Milan Automobile Club. Panasonic Toyota Racing conducted a productive four-day test at the track last week. Test drivers Stéphane Sarrazin and Ryan Briscoe kicked off the session on Tuesday, but both Allan McNish and Mika Salo were also on testing duties. As well as general set-up work, the team tested new aerodynamic parts and some new tyre compounds for the team's tyre partner Michelin. One area that will determine the competitiveness of the Panasonic Toyota Racing team at Monza will be the way in which the TF102 race cars ride the kerbs at each of the three chicanes. This was a challenge the team had to face at Imola and Montreal earlier in the year, but the team felt that "significant progress" was made in this area at last week's test.
"We are already at the last European race of the season - unbelievable! Our first season in Formula 1 has passed so quickly. I hope that we can continue at Monza where we left at Spa two weeks ago, where we had our most competitive race of the year. That was a big confidence boost for everyone in team and it would be great to leave Europe on a high."
"Having had a great race at Spa last time out, I'm looking forward to Monza. It's a great place for a race because the track and the atmosphere are like nowhere else. Now that Hockenheim has been altered, Monza is the only truly high-speed track on the calendar, which gives it its own challenges. And, as for the fans, they are mad for Ferrari, but they have respect for everyone on the grid, which is how it should be."
"Monza is a very high-speed track, so the most important thing that you need is a good engine, and we have one of those in our RVX-02. I did three days of testing at the track last week and got through a large workload, so I feel that we are going to the race quite well prepared. I don't want to predict how we'll get on in terms of results, but I hope we can be at least as good as we were at Spa."
Mika Salo on Monza
"Ever since I finished third at Monza in 1999, the track has been very special to me. I enjoy racing here and enjoy the high speeds. It's a given that power is important and, in terms of set-up, I tend to focus on getting the car stable under braking. We brake from such high speeds - 330kph - and with such little downforce that you don't want the car to swap ends when you get on the brake pedal as hard as you can. Other things to consider are traction away from the chicanes and tyre wear, which can be quite severe because the car is sliding around quite a lot. It's a good challenge."