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Formula 1 Italian GP

How Monza lost an iconic element ahead of F1 2023

Formula 1 fans will have noticed the Monza circuit hosting this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix looks rather different in 2023 – particularly around the famous Lesmo turns – for one sad reason.

Wood at Monza

The towering trees that used to push right up against the twin, quick right-handers early in the second sector have been dramatically thinned – the race missing an almost tunnel-like area where natural beauty met cutting-edge racing technology. 

The area around the track’s second chicane – the Variante della Roggia – is also looking shockingly barren this year, including as it backs onto the long straight that leads up the Ascari chicane. 

This is because just six weeks ago, this part of northern Italy was struck by a series of severe thunderstorms. 

These were so ferocious that the wind felled approximately 10,000 trees in the former royal Monza park, as per information gathered by Autosport from event organisers. 

Two storms in four days between 21-24 July did the real damage, with wind speeds clocked at over 60mph, well over gale-force level, and the trees, once many had been uprooted, fell in a domino-like effect as they hit others nearby.  

The falling branches and trunks also badly damaged Monza’s track barriers and guardrails, although the circuit’s asphalt surface and its kerbs escaped harm. 

Monza staff, working with employees from the local government, worked hard to clear the debris and repair the damage in the time that led up to this weekend’s event and it has resulted in no disruption. 

The Woods at Lesmo

The Woods at Lesmo

Photo by: GP2 Media Service

Trees had to be cleared from many of the walkways and access roads around the Monza circuit site, although the larger fanzones placed on wider grassy areas were largely unaffected. 

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said ahead of the Italian GP weekend: “We have to thank the circuit managers because, after all the damage to the structures caused by bad weather in July, they were engaged in a race against time to be able to guarantee the conditions to be able to carry out the race weekend.”  

He added: “It wasn't obvious [the race would go ahead]. We know that in August it's not easy to be able to count on businesses [that are typically short on staff due to the holiday season], but the effort was considerable.”  

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Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas said after driving the track in Friday practice that previously he could "never remember seeing those mountains so clearly, after the main straight” before so many trees had come down around the track.  

“It looks visually a bit different,” he added. “Obviously, when you're on a timed lap, you just watch the track but yeah, I could see the difference. 

“It's definitely different. Going on that back straight [through the Lesmo complex], just everything feels a bit more wide open.”  

Domenicali also said that the Monza event organisers are set to conduct a series of improvement works to the track and paddock ahead of the 2024 edition of the Italian GP. 

Approximately 10,000 trees were lost at Monza in recent storms

Approximately 10,000 trees were lost at Monza in recent storms

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

“As for the future, they confirmed to me that the necessary renovation work on the facility will begin after the end of the [2023] grand prix,” said the former Ferrari team boss. 

“It's an important step, because next year it's necessary to show signs of improvement.  

“The history of Monza is beyond question, but we also need to keep up with the times in terms of services, which must be in line with the prices paid by those who come to the racetrack.  

“Within the next year, we will have clear ideas about the future”.  

This is the second 2023 F1 race in Italy to be tinged with tragedy – albeit in this case only in terms of environmental damage, as nobody was hurt in the storms that damaged so many trees in the Monza parkland. 

Back in May, the Imola event had to be cancelled due to heavy rain causing severe flooding in the Emilia-Romagna region, where at least 15 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced. 

Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1

Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1

Photo by: Uncredited

Following the damage of this summer, the Monza track organisation is embarking on a replanting effort to replace the lost trees, with Domenicali joining in at the start of this weekend’s event (pictured above). 

But with many of them being hundreds of years old, it will take a long time before one of motorsport’s brilliant beauty spots is anything like what it used to be.

Additional reporting by Roberto Chinchero and Jonathan Noble

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