Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Ishani Aziz
Scuderia Ferrari and Monza. They are definitely two icons of Formula One. Fans have thronged the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in droves to see their home team race. The Italian team hasn’t failed to disappoint, taking 19 Formula One victories, the most by any team at Monza, which has led to countless memorable moments for the team’s loyal fans to savour and soak up.
With the 2022 Italian Grand Prix not too far away, and Ferrari once again competing at the front of the field, we rewind the clock to look at some of the most memorable victories for the Scuderia at the Temple Of Speed.
2019 Italian Grand Prix
Let us begin this trip down memory lane with the most recent of the victories: Charles Leclerc winning the 2019 Italian Grand Prix. This victory is close to the hearts of the Tifosi, as it was the first home win for the team after a long nine years. Ferrari hadn’t taken a victory in 2019 until the preceding round at Spa-Francorchamps. The team had a lot of confidence coming into the weekend at Monza, with their set-up and engine playing to the characteristics of the Temple Of Speed.
Charles Leclerc set the bar for the rest to catch, and prevailed to take pole position by the slender margin of 0.039 seconds from Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Come race day, the Monegasque put in a drive worthy of a special occasion, barely putting a foot wrong. He soaked up all the pressure from the Mercedes drivers to take the chequered flag at the end of Lap 53, and a special victory in front of the rapturous Tifosi.
This was an important victory in the context of Leclerc’s career: It gave us a look at Leclerc’s maturity and street-smarts under immense pressure. This victory cemented his place as a hero amongst the Tifosi. It saw the spotlight shift at Ferrari, from the veteran driver to the young, upcoming talent, capable of taking on the best in the sport in the future.
2010 Italian Grand Prix
Nine years prior to Leclerc’s Monza special, a young Fernando Alonso would win Monza in his first year with Ferrari. The Spaniard had joined the team in 2010, in an attempt to win a World Championship for the Scuderia. It was a fairytale debut for Alonso, which saw him win the Bahrain Grand Prix, setting a marker for the others to match. After a series of mixed results, Alonso took an infamous victory at the German Grand Prix, to rejuvenate his championship challenge.
Alonso arrived at Monza with a point to prove. He took pole in the deciding final session, with a time of 1:21.962, over a tenth quicker than his nearest rival Jenson Button (then with McLaren). This was his first pole for the team, and how fitting it came at the home race for Scuderia Ferrari.
However, race day saw a stern challenge from Button. The Briton managed to outdrag Alonso into the first chicane, and take the lead of the race. Alonso managed to keep ahead of his teammate Felipe Massa, and remained in second behind Button. Ferrari devised a plan to get ahead of Button in the round of pit stops. Alonso harried Button all the way until the Brit made his only stop of the race on lap 36. Alonso stayed out, and came in at the end of lap 37. With a quicker pit-stop, the Spaniard emerged on track alongside Button, and the two duelled into the first chicane. Alonso had the better line through the chicane, and took the lead of the race. He went on to take the victory on lap 53, much to the delight of the Tifosi.
2000 Italian Grand Prix
The story of Monza cannot be told without recounting a victory by Michael Schumacher. Even further down memory lane, during the 2000 Formula One season, Schumacher returned for his first full season subsequent to his leg injury (due to a crash at Silverstone). The title would be a battle between himself and Mika Hakkinen.
Qualifying saw Schumacher take pole, by a slender margin of 0.027 seconds from his teammate, Rubens Barrichello. Hakkinen qualified third, almost two tenths off Schumacher’s time. Come race day, he made a good start, keeping Hakkinen at bay, and stayed ahead of the chaos that ensued. He led the entire race, only relinquishing the lead when he pitted on lap 40. Schumacher regained the lead on lap 43, when Hakkinen pitted, and kept the lead until the chequered flag, to take his 41st race victory in the sport.
With this victory, Schumacher equaled Ayrton Senna’s tally of 41 race wins in Formula One. When asked about what this feat meant to him, in the post-race conference, he broke into tears. Later, he regained his composure and stated that he got emotional thinking about Senna’s death in 1994 at Imola.
1988 Italian Grand Prix
We now look back at an emotional race victory by the Scuderia, in 1988. This was the first Italian Grand Prix for the team after the death of Enzo Ferrari, the founder of Ferrari. At Monza, the fans were praying for a Ferrari victory, to help lighten the mood. However, the odds of a race win looked very low, as McLaren had won all the races up to that point in the season, and had locked out the front row in qualifying.
Race day looked to be going in the same direction. Despite Prost’s engine misfiring from the first lap, it looked a certain McLaren victory from the off, as Senna drove away into the lead, with Prost later closing up to him. Things, however, took a turn for the worse for McLaren on lap 35, when Prost pulled into the pits with a mechanical issue, as the misfire worsened. This left Senna in a comfortable lead, and he began to reduce his pace, and look to make it to the end of the race. This saw the Ferrari drivers Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto close the gap to Senna.
Suddenly, the race took a turn for the Brazilian as he attempted to lap the Williams of Jean-Louis Schlesser into the first chicane. Schlesser tried to avoid going into the gravel trap, and thus stayed on track. Senna, who had not seen the French driver rejoin, took the normal racing line, and hit the left front tyre of Schlesser, and spun onto the kerb. He was beached, and saw the Ferraris go past. In a bizarre sequence of events, the race had opened up for the Scuderia, and Berger took an emotional victory, much to the happiness and joy of the Tifosi.
This victory will go down as one of the most memorable ones at Monza for the Scuderia.
1951 Italian Grand Prix
This was the beginning of it all. The first of many race wins at the historic, and mighty track, Monza. Ferrari hadn’t taken a single race win in the inaugural season of the sport. 1951 saw José Froilán González get the team’s first victory in the sport, two rounds prior, at Silverstone. The team headed into Monza with high hopes of taking their first victory in front of the home fans.
Qualifying saw the Ferrari and Alfa Romeo cars take the four-car front row of the grid. Juan Manuel Fangio took pole for Alfa Romeo. Ferrari’s Alberto Ascari and Gonzalez started third and fourth respectively.
Fangio took an early lead in the race, but had to cede position to Ascari. He pitted on lap eight for a tyre change and rejoined in fifth. Gonzalez inherited second place. Fangio tried to keep up with the Ferraris but his chance for the win was eliminated due to engine troubles. Nino Farina inherited third place when Fangio retired, but had problems of his own with fuel leakages, and was unable to challenge the Ferrari drivers, who took a comfortable win, Ascari ahead of Gonzalez. This was their first win at Monza, and third in the sport. The Italian team has taken 18 further victories at the Temple Of Speed till date.
Can Ferrari add to their tally of race victories at the mighty Temple Of Speed? Only time will be able to tell us the answer to this question.