It’s a historic venue with wonderful tales to tell about the quickest drivers on the planet, of the closest of race finishes and of cars and drivers whose names are now legend. So let’s go on a photographic* journey, travelling through time once again with our AT03, as we look at events that have shaped the Monza track over the years.
How it started
The idea of building a motor racing circuit that could host all sorts of experimental activities was put forward by members of the Automobile Club Milano, who wanted to celebrate their 25th anniversary in grand style. The symbolic cornerstone was laid in February, however the real construction work did not begin until 15 May 1922 and it was finished on 15 August that same year. It took just 110 days of hard work to create the third race track in the world after those at Brooklands and Indianapolis.
One never forgets the first time
3 September 1922: the first official event at the Monza circuit was a race for voiturettes, won by Pietro Bordino, one of Italy’s most famous racers in the Twenties. His name is written on the role of honour for the Italian Grand Prix for cars, held one week later. When it comes to two wheels, the first winner was Amedeo Ruggeri on a Harley Davidson 1000.
Temple of speed
The first to hit 200 km/h was Achille Varzi in an Alfa Romeo P2. His win in the 1929 Monza Grand Prix was so spectacular that someone wittily suggested the track should be renamed as the “Varzodromo di Monza”. Varzi and Tazio Nuvolari enjoyed a great rivalry that produced some legendary races, the two of them at the wheel of Alfa Romeo cars for whom Monza was the home track. There was no racing during the Second World War and the venue was refurbished in 1948, although the biggest national races took place in Turin that year.
The start of a love affair
The Formula 1 World Championship was established in 1950 and Monza hosted the seventh and final round of the season. The Italians dominated, with Nino Farina winning in an Alfa Romeo to clinch the first world title. Alongside him on the podium were Dorino Serafini and Alberto Ascari who shared driving duties in a Ferrari – yes, different times – while third was Luigi Fagioli in another Alfa Romeo. Since then, with the exception of 1980 when the race was held at Imola, Monza has always been the home of the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix. When the Sopraelevata, or High Speed Ring, was built in 1955, F1 was quick to use it for the Italian Grand Prix, as it did the following year and again in 1960 and ’61.
After John Surtees’ wonderful win when he took the chequered flag just two tenths of a second ahead of Jack Brabham, Monza went one better in the 1971 Italian Grand Prix. The Temple of Speed provided the backdrop to a five-way battle for the win and at the chequered flag, the first two – Peter Gethin and Ronnie Peterson – were split by just one hundredth of a second!
Speed and safety
During the 70s, Formula 1 became more safety conscious and the Monza circuit was a pioneer in this respect. In consultation with the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association), two chicanes were introduced in 1972 to reduce speeds going into the Curva Grande and Curva Ascari. It was the first step in the evolution of the track, which underwent modifications on several occasions, until it became the circuit we know today. Monza has also played a part in improving safety in everyday life, playing an active role in research and development into solutions such as guard-rails and road drainage.
The sound of happiness?
We reckon it’s the noise of driving rain, which fell throughout the Monza weekend in September 2008. The memory of that event, when a very young Sebastian Vettel took pole position and went on to win the Italian Grand Prix, our first ever Formula 1 victory as Scuderia Toro Rosso, is still fresh in our minds.
Like a film
Like the perfect film script, our history again intertwined with that of Monza in 2020, our first year as Scuderia AlphaTauri. In front of empty grandstands, because of restrictions linked to the pandemic, Pierre Gasly broke the eery silence with his cries of joy, when he was first across the line in his AT01.
It’s a fantastic one hundred year story and we have played a part in it. We celebrate the 100 years, while looking to the future, as Formula 1 has always done. Venues such as the “Temple of Speed” are what make our sport magical. Happy birthday Monza!
*Photo Credit: Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Archive