Will this year see Monza at its best?

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The tifosi: Bare-chest and passionate about Monza

A week after one classic track, Formula 1 moves to another, swapping the pine forests and high-speed corners of Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps for the long straights and chicanes of the Monza royal park and the Italian Grand Prix.

The tracks are equally historic, but for evocativeness nowhere comes close to Monza.

Spa’s past is visible everywhere. Half the current track formed part of the longer, faster old one. And the famous corners – Burnenville, Masta – are now part of the road network around the modern circuit.

But at Monza the history is tangible.

If that sounds ridiculous – I can only suggest you go there. Somehow at Monza, yesteryear is present, and the present carries the sense of future memories.

And the track has hardly changed. Apart from the chicanes that were inserted to slow it down 40 or so years ago, the one on which Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will race this year is the same as the one from the 1970s, 1950s and the 1920s.

Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine make it a Ferrari one-two during the 1998 Italian Grand Prix

So much has happened there. Great triumphs and great tragedies; and the ghosts of both feel like they haunt the place.

The late-summer Lombardy light is golden. Trees casting tangential shadows through the early morning mists, Alps on the northern horizon.

There is a serenity to the place. But also a madness.

Campsites in the ancient woods, barbecues smoking morning and night.

Fans packing the grandstands, chanting, cheering. And the traffic can be crazy.

Silverstone is its equal in terms of the dedication of the fans, but only the Japanese at Suzuka can match the enthusiasm of the tifosi as they worship at this great temple of speed, and the famous team that is such a part of it.

This year should be something else again. This decade, a Ferrari driver has twice come to Monza as a title contender – Fernando Alonso in 2010 and 2012. But the Spaniard was fighting against the odds. This year, Vettel is not only leading the championship but is arguably the favourite for it.

It should be Monza in extremis. And there is nothing in motorsport like that.

Andrew Benson, chief F1 writer

The track

The locals call it ‘La Pista Magica’ – the magic track

Memorable moments

Sebastian Vettel is one of the favourites to claim the championship title this season, but back in 2008 the German was celebrating his maiden F1 win in Monza
He held the record for the youngest driver to win an F1 race at 21 years 73 days, before Max Verstappen of Red Bull nipped in with a Spanish GP victory at the age of 18 years and 228 days in 2016

Esteban’s ready

Force India’s Esteban Ocon is the first driver out of the Twitter blocks this week.

How to follow on BBC Sport

BBC Sport has live coverage of all the season’s races on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live online commentary on the BBC Sport website and mobile app – including audience interaction, expert analysis, debate, voting, features, interviews and video content.

Coverage details (all times BST)
Date Session Time Radio coverage Online text commentary
Wednesday, 30 August Preview 21:00-22:00 BBC Radio 5 live
Friday, 1 September First practice 08:55-10:35 BBC Radio 5 live sports extra From 08:30
Second practice 12:55-15:00 BBC Sport online From 12:30
Saturday, 2 September Final practice 09:55-11:30 BBC Sport online From 09:30
Qualifying 13:00-14:00 BBC Radio 5 live From 12:00
Sunday, 3 September Race 13:00-15:00 BBC Radio 5 live From 11:30
Monday, 4 September Review 04:30-05:00 BBC Radio 5 live

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