Monza mulling revamp to bypass Curva Grande

© XPB 

While its future on the FIA Formula One Calendar is not yet completely assured, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza is reported to be considering a significant revamp to the existing 3.6-mile, 11-turn circuit.

The changes being considered would affect the Curva Grande, which along with the first chicane would be effectively bypassed in favour of a shorter radius turn, deflecting the cars onto a currently disused section of track that was originally built in 1938 and used until 1954 for Pirelli tyre testing which is entirely separate from the famed banked speedway.

There would then be a new left-right chicane that would angle the track back toward the existing circuit in time for the approach into Variante della Roggia.

The chicane would also feature an elevation change of 2.5 metres to make it more challenging. According to the reports from La Gazzetta dello Sport, the new chicane has already been tried out in a simulator by Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel who reported that it could make the turn very tricky for drivers to judge in race conditions.

It's unclear whether the changes would mean a permanent dismantling of the Curva Grande, or whether the new section of track would just be for motorcycling events with Formula One continuing to run the traditional layout. Charlie Whiting is believed to have given his approval to the changes for use in LMP1 testing.

The need for the modification is being considered as part of a bid by Monza to win back the Italian motorcycle grand prix, part of the MotoGP championship. The event was held at Monza for 23 years between 1949 and 1971 but Monza then had to share it with Imola, Mugello and Misiano.

The last time the motorcycle grand prix was staged at Monza was 1987, with the event having been continuously held at Mugello since 1994. MotoGP organisers Dorna are wary of agreeing to return to Monza until problems with the way riders would be 'funnelled' through the first chicane and into fast sweeping right-hander have been addressed

Monza has continued to hold the Italian round of the Superbike World Championship which is back on this year's calendar in place of Portimao after a two-year absence, but the circuit has become less appealing to motorbike racing since the last major layout change in 2000 which removed the double chicane at Rettifilio.

More modest recent changes to the circuit include replacing much of the gravel run-off on the outside of the Parabolica with asphalt, which has allowed cars to run wide without suffering a major accident as a consequence.

Making changes to the historic venue are always fraught, partly because of fan backlash at losing iconic features of the track but also because of the circuit's location within a Royal park, which prevents the organisers from cutting down any existing trees to make way for redevelopment. Around 400 trees would still need to be moved under the current plans, which are waiting for approval from the necessary public authorities having already received executive sign-off.

Even a relatively modest redirection such as the one proposed comes with a hefty price tag, with the proposed changes having been costed at around four million euros.

That's a lot of cash to find, especially since the future for the FIA Formula One Italian Grand Prix at Monza has not yet been secured with the organisers still said to be negotiating with commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone over an extension of the existing deal to keep Monza on the calendar beyond 2016.

Italian publication Autosprint reported this week that Ecclestone is seeking $28m in hosting fees from Monza, comparable to that paid by the Red Bull Ring in Austria, but that the organisers are only able to offer $20 million.

Angelo Sticchi Damiani, the head of the Italian Automobile Club (ACI), is reported as saying that a new seven-year deal is “very close to being finalised, though we still have to agree on some details”.

The 94-year-old circuit has been a near-permanent fixture on the Formula One calendar ever since the championship started in 1950, hosting every Italian Grand Prix bar 1980.

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