Modern-day Monza is the last one of a dying breed. It is the last proper low-downforce track on the calendar. With Hockenheim’s revision in 2002, Monza’s value to the calendar jumped even further.
And even though the chicanes cut off much of the slipstreaming, we still see more overtaking here than anywhere else in the calendar. Here’s the final part of our retrospective, covering the best races of the modern era.
1995 – Just like seven years earlier, it was a race of emotions. And the Tifosi went through the entire spectrum of them, from shock (at seeing first David Coulthard, then Damon Hill plus Michael Schumacher, spin into the gravel at Variante della Roggia) to delight (at seeing both Ferraris lead) and finally despair (after Alesi’s camera took out Berger’s car and Alesi’s engine blew itself to bits).
With the five favourites for victory eliminated, it was left to Johnny Herbert to take the win.
1998 – McLaren were initially looking good for a win here, or maybe even a one-two. Instead, Coulthard blew his engine, blinding Mika Hakkinen and allowing Schumacher to charge through. To add insult to injury, Hakkinen spun off and lost second to Eddie Irvine. The potential McLaren one-two ended up being a Ferrari one-two. Mika wasn’t pleased, not at all.
1999 – But it would only get worse for Mika the following year. Leading comfortably, he suddenly spun off at the Retifillo, stalling his engine in the process. Hakkinen was beside himself, got very emotional and cried in the bushes. Behind him, the Tifosi were ecstatic, cheering loudly that Irvine still had a chance in the championship.
As for the race, it was won by Jordan’s Heinz-Harald Frentzen. The win set him up as a long shot in the title race that year. One could say that this was the Jordan team’s absolute peak.
2000 – Schumacher had fallen six points behind Hakkinen at this point after being more than 20 points ahead at some points. He needed to get the momentum back, and he did it the hard way. He held off Mika Hakkinen all race to take the win. Twenty-one years after Jody Scheckter’s triumph, a Ferrari driver was on the bring of winning the drivers’ championship once again.
But all this happened after a huge pileup at the Variante Della Roggia that took out several drivers, and took the life of a track marshal.
WARNING: This video shows a fatal racing incident. A marshal lost his life, although no drivers were seriously hurt. Discretion is advised.
And of course, after the win came that press conference. You know, the one where Schumacher outdid Hakkinen’s outburst of emotion the year before.
2001 – A year later, and another somber race, after the events of 9/11. Many teams, most notably Ferrari, ran with special liveries, some with no sponsorship.
Schumacher wasn’t really in the mood to go racing, so it was left to Rubens Barrichello to try and take victory. But he was unable to get past the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya. The much-vaunted rookie finally took his first Grand Prix win.
2003 – Just like 2000, Schumacher’s title campaign was in serious trouble. But also like 2000, he bounced back and took the fastest-ever race win (surpassing the 1971 race). Many wagged their tongues, though, at the setback Michelin got from the FIA after Bridgestone and Ferrari showed some pictures from Budapest.
2004 – After an atrocious start for Schumacher and a delayed tyre choice for Barrichello, neither Ferrari was in the top eight mid-race. No problem: they just increased the available revs and duly showed the field how good the F2004 really was. They finished 1-2 anyway. There was nothing anyone can do against Ferrari’s version of ‘shock and awe’.
Read more about the 2004 Italian Grand Prix
2006 – Schumacher went head-to-head against his future successor Kimi Raikkonen. Kimi was ahead at the start. No problem: Schumacher simply jumped him at the stops and never looked back. Alonso, meanwhile, had been demoted to tenth after the stewards had said that he was blocking Felipe Massa on his final flier. Alonso fought back to third, but his engine gave way. The Spaniard was furious, to say the least.
And of course, there was that press conference. Obviously, Schumacher was much better at controlling his emotions now than 2000.
2007 – Last year’s race wasn’t a classic by any means, but it had its spots. Most notably, there was that great battle between Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton. Although Fernando Alonso was running away with the win, the battle for 2nd kept the tifosi entertained. Kimi got ahead at the stops thanks to some great strategy, but Lewis pulled off a stunning banzai move near the end to take back second (and I was sat there! – smug ed.).
McLaren saw the one-two as a great way to bounce back after Budapest. But the hearings not long after sent the team tumbling down again.
This year, we’re coming from Spa, fresh from a new scandal. Let’s hope we see some proper racing, with more rain and less chicane-cutting. And let’s hope the Tifosi are their usual raucous selves.
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