ACI Federation president Angelo Sticchi Damiani says the Monza circuit needs support with fears that it could ultimately lose its place on the F1 calendar in the face of mounting competition.
The history of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza stretches back far beyond the point where the Formula 1 World Championship even began in 1950, making this venue a true icon of the Formula 1 calendar.
The exclusive host of the Italian Grand Prix since 1981, Formula 1’s next visit to Monza will come in September as the venue plays host to Round 15 of the F1 2023 campaign, with the event secured on the Formula 1 calendar through until the end of 2025.
However, Monza is one of several iconic Formula 1 destinations which must continue to battle for its survival in the sport, with the series’ immense popularity these days creating something of a scramble to secure a place on the calendar between existing, past and new venues.
As such, Damiani, president of the Automobile Club d’Italia, says Monza must “evolve”, something which it is very much in the process of doing.
That though comes at a cost, and without some help he fears the long-term prospects for an Italian Grand Prix at Monza could be bleak.
“The Monza circuit must evolve, change, keep up with the times,” he said at the circuit’s presentation evening for the upcoming season, as per La Gazzetta dello Sport. “But in this we cannot be left alone.
“They say that Europe has too many GPs, and there are requests from America, Asia and now also Africa. We invested €44 million [£38.8m], and last year, which went very well, we still lost money, because the Autodromo has a very high running cost, regardless of the Grand Prix. Now our budget is beginning to have difficulties, and we cannot be left alone in this challenge.
“In the meantime, we must concentrate on the first works planned for the coming months. Four projects, two of which are definitive, on asphalt and subways.
“The project to resurface the asphalt of the track has been delivered, while soon we will have the final project of the subways, which are necessary and indispensable because in the flow of the public we cannot have promiscuity between pedestrians and cars. We expect a quick approval in order to proceed with the tender.”
At this stage it is not clear whether these tasks can be carried out before the 2023 Italian GP.
“When the works are handed over to the company we will talk about the calendar,” said Damiani as per Corriere dello Sport, “and at that point it will be easy to understand if it is possible to do them before or immediately after the GP.
“But what we have to show [F1 president] Stefano Domenicali and F1 is that we are proceeding with seriousness and concreteness. We did what we had to do, now the rest is done entirely by procedures.”
Right now Italy is the only nation other than the United States to have multiple races on the F1 calendar, with the series visiting Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix before Monza. The 2023 Emilia Romagna GP it set to take place on 21 May.
However, with Imola also secured on the calendar until the end of 2025, Damiani cannot currently see a scenario where two Italian races remain beyond that.
Domenicali has maintained that 24 grands prix is the limit for a Formula 1 season.
“We have done a miracle to have two races until 2025, you have to be very optimistic to think that they remain beyond that date,” Damiani suggested.
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If there can be only one, Monza should stay over Imola
Imola returned to the calendar back in 2020 when the global pandemic forced F1 to rip up the original calendar and produce a new one to ensure a season of action.
That has been followed by two further Emilia Romagna GPs with the venue now operating under the safety of a multi-year deal.
However, with China’s anticipated return to the schedule in future, as it was set to do in 2023, that will already take Formula 1 back to the limit of 24 without another event dropping off the calendar, and the interest from prospective new hosts means the competition for places does not end there, Madrid the latest to plan for a Grand Prix.
So, if after 2025 there is only space for Monza or Imola to host an Italian Grand Prix, then history aside and looking at this just from an entertainment standpoint, Monza would surely be the better venue to keep.
The ‘Temple of Speed’ is always a high-adrenaline thrill for the drivers and provides plenty of overtaking action at the end of that huge start/finish straight into the Rettifilo chicane, which of course goes a long way to keeping the fans entertained.
Imola is a venue steeped in Formula 1 history and a unique challenge in itself for the drivers, but with these modern, bulky cars, overtaking around this fairly narrow circuit can be at a premium, even with the new overtaking-friendly Technical Regulations that were rolled out for F1 2022.
So, while it would be great if Damiani was simply lacking optimism, and Italy can still have two grands prix after 2025, if that cannot be the case, then Monza will surely be the better of the venues for Formula 1 to keep visiting, as long as Monza finds the help it needs to keep the budget stable of course.