Autosport writers' favourite F1 Italian Grands Prix

No circuit has held more Formula 1 races than Monza, part of the original calendar in 1950 and a virtual ever-present since. Ahead of this year's 73rd Italian Grand Prix, Autosport's writers pick their favourite editions of the stalwart race.

Autosport writers' favourite F1 Italian Grands Prix

From tragedy in 1961 and 1978, to slipstreaming heroics and jubilation at home success for its beloved Ferrari, Monza has played host to some of the best and worst of Formula 1.

It was at Monza where Peter Collins, despite being in contention for the 1956 world title himself, stepped out of his Ferrari and handed over to Juan Manuel Fangio, enabling the Argentine to clinch the crown.

PLUS: How Britain’s lost Ferrari star epitomised a bygone F1 era

Phil Hill scored the last win for a front-engined F1 car in 1960 when organisers reintroduced the banking to favour Ferrari, while the 1971 edition produced grand prix racing's closest-ever finish, with Peter Gethin's winning margin just 0.01s over Ronnie Peterson after a race that featured 25 official lead changes. Click here to find out more about that race in the latest edition of Autosport's “Short View Back to the Past”.

Here, Autosport's team of writers have picked their Monza favourites.

1988, Ferrari scores emotional 1-2 soon after Enzo’s death – Charles Bradley

Senna's clash with Schlesser opened the door for an emotional Ferrari 1-2, the only time in 1988 that a McLaren was beaten in a grand prix

Senna's clash with Schlesser opened the door for an emotional Ferrari 1-2, the only time in 1988 that a McLaren was beaten in a grand prix

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“And spin! Senna!” TV’s Murray Walker was on his rev limiter as Jean-Louis Schlesser became an unlikely national hero at the 1988 Italian Grand Prix, causing a Ferrari 1-2 and breaking McLaren’s stranglehold on the season.

Schlesser, driving at Williams to sub for Martin Brundle (barred from taking part by his Jaguar sportscar team boss Tom Walkinshaw) who previously at Spa had subbed for the chicken-poxed Nigel Mansell, outbraked himself on the penultimate lap of the race just as dominator Ayrton Senna came up to lap him.

JLS skittered wide of the first apex of the left-right Rettifilo chicane, allowing Senna space on the inside. Then, as Mercedes-Benz sportscar star Schlesser (after this sole F1 start he was beaten to the World SportsCar Championship by Brundle) clumsily slid over the sand and across the kerb at the right-hand apex, he made contact with Senna’s right-rear wheel and removed the Brazilian from the race.

Live TV missed the shunt while focusing on the tense duel between the Arrows of Eddie Cheever and Derek Warwick. There’s a video of this race on YouTube with natural sound only; as you watch the Arrows in battle, you can hear the massive cheer from the crowd at the first chicane as Senna gets spun out…

Top 10: Ranking the greatest Arrows Formula 1 drivers

Back to Murray: “And into the lead goes Berger, into second goes Alboreto – what a fantastic situation!”

Not only had Schlesser unwittingly banjaxed McLaren for what would have been the first manufacturer winning lockout in Formula 1 World Championship history – with a nod to Alfa in 1950 and Ferrari in ’52 if you ignore the Indy 500 requirement – he gave the Tifosi a dream 1-2 finish on home ground just one month after company founder Enzo Ferrari’s death.

However, it must be said that it probably wouldn’t have happened without Alain Prost’s Honda engine failing in the other McLaren, for he had been running in second, ahead of the Ferraris, until it began misfiring…

Berger is joined by Alboreto and Cheever on the podium after the improbable result, days after Enzo Ferrari's death

Berger is joined by Alboreto and Cheever on the podium after the improbable result, days after Enzo Ferrari's death

Photo by: Sutton Images

Prost had his own agenda: Desperate for Senna not to win, due to the dropped scores system, he ran full-rich to try and make his team-mate overuse his fuel-sapping turbo boost. Some believe this is why Senna, with the Ferraris closing as he was forced to back off near the end to make the finish, was overly hasty with his move to pass Schlesser.

“This is for Mr Ferrari and for myself both together,” said Berger of his victory afterwards. “And for Ferrari in general.”

As the cars returned to the pitlane, it was quite fitting that Schlesser – classified 11th, two laps down – trundled in right behind the two Ferraris on their way to parc ferme. Berger admitted he was on the limit on fuel, as Alboreto caught him rapidly in the closing stages, and had a nervous wait for post-race scrutineers to complete their fuel tank capacity checks – only passing at the fourth attempt.

Meantime, Alboreto – delayed by gearbox issues in the opening stages – reckoned he only needed one more lap to pass Berger for victory and was only half a second behind his team-mate at the flag. Cheever, another Jaguar sportscar star who was allowed by Walkinshaw to race here, joined them on the podium.

1993, First-corner pile-up and engine failures help Hill to third F1 win - Jake Boxall-Legge

Warwick and Suzuki clashed at Turn 1 - while Apicella and Barrichello were knocked out by Lehto

Warwick and Suzuki clashed at Turn 1 - while Apicella and Barrichello were knocked out by Lehto

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The 1993 edition of the Italian Grand Prix began with a multi-car pile-up and ended in a Minardi taking off like a jet-liner at the chequered flag. On a day that the drivers could scarcely keep their hands off each other, Damon Hill recovered from a slow start and was the main beneficiary of the others' misfortune to grab his third consecutive F1 victory. It was also the last time that an Andretti graced an F1 podium.

There were two epicentres to the first-corner pile-up. The first was a clash between Footworks, as Derek Warwick and Aguri Suzuki met in the middle of the corner and earned team boss Jackie Oliver's ire, while the second was produced by JJ Lehto. The Finn had stalled on the formation lap and was shuffled to the back, and caused further chaos when he ploughed into rookie Marco Apicella, in his first race for Jordan.

Lehto then speared across the track and wiped out Rubens Barrichello - likely receiving a hefty repair bill from Eddie Jordan. Apicella's first-corner retirement ended an F1 career that lasted all of 800m.

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Hill's slow start had sent him down to ninth, but made his way past Riccardo Patrese, Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert to get into the points. Brundle then relived his British F3 title battle a decade prior by coming to blows with Ayrton Senna.

In the meantime, Alain Prost was leading from Michael Schumacher, who'd cleared Jean Alesi - and Hill was homing in on the trio, clearing Gerhard Berger and closing on Alesi for third. A podium position was Hill's as early as lap 10 as the Ferrari was dispatched with apparent ease.

Schumacher's Ford engine then blew up before half-distance, creating a Williams 1-2, but with Prost miles in the lead. Hill, however, underlined why Williams had given him a somewhat surprising promotion at the start of the season and began to close in on his team-mate, taking the lead down to two seconds. Prost's Renault V10 then went pop, and Hill moved through to assume the lead and pick up victory, with Alesi second.

Michael Andretti, then in the throes of a miserable season in F1 with McLaren, claimed a surprise podium for his third points finish of the year. But it was to be his last, as he was replaced by Mika Hakkinen for the rest of the year.

Erik Comas notably scored his only point of the year in sixth as, behind him, the two Minardis clashed at the line. Christian Fittipaldi hit Pierluigi Martini at the wrong angle as he closely followed his team-mate to the line, and the M193 was propelled into a backflip worthy of Olympic gold. Miraculously, Fittipaldi's car returned onto its wheels to finish the race without losing a position.

INSIGHT: Top 10 Minardi F1 drivers ranked

1995, Herbert profits from mayhem - James Newbold

As at Silverstone, Herbert profited from a Schumacher-Hill clash to win for Benetton

As at Silverstone, Herbert profited from a Schumacher-Hill clash to win for Benetton

Photo by: Motorsport Images

That Johnny Herbert went on to become a three-time grand prix winner after his horrifying Formula 3000 crash at Brands Hatch in 1988 is little short of a miracle. And you could consider his 1995 Italian Grand Prix victory in similar terms. Indeed, in his autobiography, Herbert describes it as "one of the most mind-boggling in the history of motorsport". He's not wrong.

True enough, he was driving a Benetton B195 - the car Michael Schumacher took to the world championship. But he'd only qualified eighth at Monza and required "a huge amount of drama" - something of an understatement from Autosport's Nigel Roebuck - to scoop his second F1 victory.

Remarkably, like his first at Silverstone, it came after a clash involving title protagonists Schumacher and Damon Hill, plus misfortune that befell Hill's Williams team-mate David Coulthard (who had lost out on a maiden win on home turf with a pitlane speeding penalty caused by an electronics glitch). There was also one of the most bizarre incidents you'll ever see that befell the Ferrari pair, who should have scooped a 1-2 result to emulate the euphoria of 1988. The 1995 Italian GP had a bit of everything.

Poleman Coulthard was lucky to take part in the race at all after going off on the warm-up lap, blaming oil at the Ascari chicane. He was fortuitously permitted to take the restart as the race was red flagged following a pile-up at the same corner, triggered by a spinning Max Papis's Footwork that embroiled several cars including Jean-Christophe Boullion's Sauber.

Coulthard was reinstated for the spare car at the restart, leading Gerhard Berger (Ferrari) and Schumacher until a front wheel-bearing failure put him into the gravel. Schumacher's hopes of catching Berger were ended when he was hit from behind by Hill while the pair lapped Taki Inoue's Footwork. Hill was furious with the Japanese driver for changing his line, and Schumacher was no less irate with the Williams man after they'd also collided at the British Grand Prix.

The fracas put Jean Alesi's Ferrari into second and the Frenchman took the lead when Berger was slowed by an uncooperative clutch at his pitstop. That would prove doubly costly for the Austrian later on.

Herbert had jumped Rubens Barrichello's Jordan and the McLaren of Mika Hakkinen with a longer first stint, and then took second when Berger was dramatically sidelined - a camera mounted on the rear-wing of Alesi's car falling off and breaking his suspension.

Then, as in 1994, Alesi retired from the lead with a wheel-bearing problem, gifting victory to Herbert - who was wearing the same underpants he'd taken to victory at Silverstone. He shared the podium with Hakkinen and his 1996 Sauber team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen, after Barrichello's clutch exploded.

Behind Mark Blundell (McLaren) and Mika Salo, who gave Tyrrell its first points of the year, Boullion in the spare Sauber denied fellow first lap casualty Papis sixth with two laps to go.

1998, Tifosi joy in Ferrari 1-2 - Stefan Mackley

Schumacher leads the Ferrari celebrations in front of the tifosi

Schumacher leads the Ferrari celebrations in front of the tifosi

Photo by: Motorsport Images

A change of lead twice in the space of a few hundred metres, a popular home win in front of the Tifosi and a thrilling championship battle that was left finely poised with two rounds remaining. The 1998 Italian Grand Prix had it all.

Having lost a golden opportunity to close the seven-point gap to title rival Mika Hakkinen courtesy of an infamous collision with David Coulthard at the Belgian GP just two weeks before, the pressure was on Michael Schumacher in Ferrari’s backyard at Monza.

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Initially it didn’t show as he took pole while Hakkinen occupied the second row alongside McLaren team-mate Coulthard, with 1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve a surprising second for Williams.

At the start though fortunes reversed as Schumacher suffered a dreadful getaway while Hakkinen got a flyer, just squeezing between the Ferrari and Williams to lead while Coulthard moved into second.

As the two McLaren-Mercedes cleared out up front, Schumacher was making up for lost time, passing Villeneuve before the end of the opening lap and being allowed into third by team-mate Eddie Irvine on lap three.

The Ferrari driver began to steadily close the gap over the next five laps as Coulthard moved ahead of his team-mate and pulled away to the tune of several seconds.

It wasn’t long before Schumacher was on the gearbox of his title rival, but on lap 17 a wall of smoke greeted the battling pair at more than 160mph through the Curva Grande, Coulthard’s Mercedes having gone bang.

Schumacher capitalised on McLaren's woes to lead a popular Ferrari 1-2

Schumacher capitalised on McLaren's woes to lead a popular Ferrari 1-2

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Through the smoke Hakkinen put two wheels on the grass before going defensive into the Variente della Roggia chicane. This compromised his exit and allowed Schumacher into the lead. It was a breath-taking moment, made all the more exhilarating by the shrill of the V10 engines and famous commentary from Murray Walker.

Schumacher began to gap the Finn and was still ahead after both had made their only pitstops, as Hakkinen began to gain in the closing stages.

A pass for the lead looked unlikely but then Hakkinen spectacularly spun at the Variente della Roggia chicane. Having impressively kept the engine running despite the high-speed excursion backwards through the gravel, Hakkinen rejoined, but it soon became clear all was not well with the McLaren - which was suffering a braking issue - as Irvine and Ralf Schumacher’s Jordan passed in the closing laps.

Hakkinen did though beat Jean Alesi's Sauber to fourth, while Damon Hill completed the top six for Jordan.

It was the perfect day for the Scuderia, with a 1-2 and a result that put Schumacher level on 80 points with Hakkinen at the top of the table and would ultimately set up a thrilling showdown in Suzuka.

2008, A new star is born as Vettel scores historic maiden win – Haydn Cobb

Sebastian Vettel takes his and Toro Rosso's maiden F1 win - the first time his one finger celebration was seen in grand prix racing

Sebastian Vettel takes his and Toro Rosso's maiden F1 win - the first time his one finger celebration was seen in grand prix racing

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

It might have looked a damp and dreary Italian Grand Prix heading into the race weekend, but F1 was delivered a new star to shout about.

Sebastian Vettel, a hotly-tipped youngster having burst on to the F1 scene with BMW Sauber the year before as Robert Kubica’s injury stand-in, had already produced standout performances that year but this would to be on an entirely different scale.

The mid-season switch to the Toro Rosso STR3 made an instant impact for Vettel, who went from a best result of 17th from the opening five rounds to a regular points finisher including eye-catching fifth places in Monaco and Belgium.

All the pieces came together perfectly at a wet Monza, which blunted Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, while Lewis Hamilton spun in qualifying for McLaren. With the usual frontrunners struggling in the rain, Vettel demonstrated his masterful car control to take a stunning maiden pole position – Toro Rosso’s first grand prix pole to boot.

Despite Ferrari’s miserable showing, the Italian fans found a new favourite to back as Toro Rosso still held the familiarity of Minardi since its Red Bull buyout and rebranding for 2006. What’s more, Toro Rosso was powered by Ferrari and was affectionately seen as “little Ferrari” that weekend.

The pressure of leading from the front was somewhat abated for Vettel due to the race starting behind the safety car given the torrential rain and slippery conditions. But, in truth, Vettel appeared unfussed and simply drove away from the competition, led by McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen, rarely putting a wheel wrong to charge to victory unchallenged. It would be a hallmark of what was to come during his most dominant days at Red Bull.

Insight: Autosport writers' favourite Sebastian Vettel F1 drives

Vettel’s first F1 win, the team’s first F1 win and a new youngest-ever winner. The story wrote itself, even if the pages needed drying out after the Monza monsoon.

2018, Hamilton storms to one of his best ever wins - Alex Kalinauckas

Hamilton tracked down Raikkonen to score a significant win in his title fight with Vettel

Hamilton tracked down Raikkonen to score a significant win in his title fight with Vettel

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Charles Leclerc’s brilliant, battling drive to hold off the charging Lewis Hamilton a year later was the original pick for this slot – a fond memory of Ferrari’s new star delighting the home fans with the team’s most recent Italian GP victory. But Hamilton’s 2018 triumph gets the edge for two reasons.

For one, this was one of Hamilton’s best-ever wins. Autosport magazine’s report of the race even begins: “This was a grand prix Lewis Hamilton had no business winning”. He, not Mercedes, ultimately made the difference. The second reason is pertinent to 2022 – Ferrari made two decisions that were questionable at best, major misjudgements at worst.

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The first baffling Ferrari decision was for Sebastian Vettel to give Kimi Raikkonen a tow for the lap that gave the Finn pole (his 18th and last in F1), when Vettel was Hamilton’s only title threat. The second call, probably the worse one in hindsight although Ferrari insists it wasn’t a factor in the race’s outcome, was to inform Raikkonen he was to be dropped from his seat with Leclerc incoming for 2019 on the eve of this event.

Perhaps this was the main reason for Raikkonen’s fierce defence against Vettel at the Monza lap’s two opening chicanes. This thwarted Vettel’s attempts to seize the lead and head off for a second win in succession after Ferrari had decisively defeated Mercedes at Spa the week before. But it also meant Hamilton had a chance to do something brilliant.

For all Vettel’s protestations of being turned in on, Hamilton’s outside-line attack at the Roggia chicane once Raikkonen had “opened the brakes”, per Vettel, and seen off the other Ferrari’s inside-line look was judged to perfection.

It meant he was alongside Vettel for the complex’s second part, where the Ferrari glanced the Mercedes and spun down the order. Although Vettel would recover to fifth on the road and take fourth thanks to a Max Verstappen penalty for one of his early-Red-Bull-era gaffes – drifting to the left at the first chicane when under attack from Valtteri Bottas and getting a penalty – this was a pivotal moment of the 2018 season. After this, Vettel wouldn’t win again as Hamilton waltzed to a title Ferrari had the speed but not the guile to win.

The Vettel/Hamilton lap one clash was followed by a safety car period, after which Hamilton immediately pounced on Raikkonen on the restart. But the 2007 world champion responded to go around Hamilton’s outside at the Roggia chicane to retake first.

From there, Ferrari and Mercedes ran long to create a gap to the ‘Class B’ midfield runners, with both pit crews emerging for a lap 20 stop but with Hamilton under orders to do the opposite to his rival. He did and extended his stint in the hope of a safety car that never came, while Raikkonen abused his fresh rubber to ward off the overcut threat. The even longer-running Bottas then held up his compatriot before his stop in the second Mercedes, after which Raikkonen’s tyre-life struggles – exacerbated by Ferrari’s rear handling wobbles throughout the weekend – were exposed.

Mercedes ordered Hamilton to be patient and he sat behind Raikkonen until lap 44, where he got an excellent run on the gripless Ferrari out of the Parabolica. Raikkonen defended the inside to Turn 1, but Hamilton executed another outside pass to take the lead and romp off to a famous win on a day Ferrari should’ve finished 1-2.

2020, Gasly takes his chance in madcap race - Luke Smith

Gasly fended off Sainz for AlphaTauri team's first win - coming 12 years after it had won under the Toro Rosso name at the same track

Gasly fended off Sainz for AlphaTauri team's first win - coming 12 years after it had won under the Toro Rosso name at the same track

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Through the predictability of the COVID-affected 2020 season that saw Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes romp to both titles, the Italian Grand Prix offered the greatest of shocks.

Pierre Gasly’s unlikely victory for AlphaTauri completed a redemption arc that had featured him face huge struggles the previous year, losing his Red Bull F1 seat, encounter great loss after the death of his friend, Anthoine Hubert, at Spa, and try to rebuild his career.

But everything changed at Monza for Gasly. Running 10th in the early stages, Gasly came in for an early stop on lap 19, one lap before the safety car was deployed following Kevin Magnussen’s stoppage at pit entry. The subsequent closing of the pitlane meant by the time the snake of cars did come in, Gasly had vaulted all the way up to third.

The red flag for Charles Leclerc’s crash at Parabolica evened out the field on strategy, leaving Gasly trailing Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll for the restart. But when Hamilton was hit with a penalty for stopping when the pitlane was closed and Stroll fluffed the restart, Gasly found himself at the head of the field.

What followed was a tense game of cat and mouse between Gasly and his Toro Rosso predecessor, Carlos Sainz. Sainz had slower cars to battle past in his McLaren, giving Gasly a four-second buffer by the time the Spaniard had got up to P2. With the usual pretenders out of contention, a shock, first-time winner was on the cards.

The McLaren was undoubtedly the quicker car, but Gasly held his own as the laps and gap gradually ticked down. It would be a question of what ran out first.

Sainz finally got within DRS range with two laps remaining, allowing him to take bigger bites out of Gasly’s lead. By the time they came to the final tour, he seemed to be within spitting range - but the challenge of passing at Monza meant it wasn’t enough. Gasly weaved his car back and forth to break the tow on the back straight on the final lap before exiting Parabolica and crossing the line, becoming France’s first grand prix winner in 24 years and, at long last, answering his critics.

Gasly’s jubilation on the radio descended into screaming as the enormity of the achievement sunk in. Twelve years on from Sebastian Vettel’s victory at Monza for Toro Rosso, the Faenza team was back on the top step. And Gasly, at long last, had joined F1’s winners’ club.

After being dropped by Red Bull the previous season and demoted back to AlphaTauri, the victory was one to savour for Gasly

After being dropped by Red Bull the previous season and demoted back to AlphaTauri, the victory was one to savour for Gasly

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

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