In the recently concluded Italian Grand Prix qualifying session, there was utter pandemonium. Apparently, the drivers were so busy backing into each other that they forgot to keep an eye on the clock. Then, inspiration struck Carlos Sainz at the head of the pack and he rabbited off, well in time to start his lap.
Unfortunately, the next car on track, Charles LeClerc, was not so lucky and the same could be said for the rest of the pack. Everyone knows that Monza is all about straight-line speed, as if the moniker, “Temple of Speed” was not obvious enough. That straight line speed stems from two key factors, engine power and drag.
This year, the Formula One cars possess very high downforce, which leads to more drag. In simple terms, if one car is following another into a corner, the air in front of the driver behind, is disturbed, which results in a loss of downforce.
However, in a straight-line is it a completely different story, where the lead car provides less air resistance. So drivers can use less power to achieve the same speed as the car in front. On the other hand, if they use the maximum power from the engine, with less drag, the car behind gets sucked in, thus the slipstream is born.
Since Monza does not have many corners driver can lose massive amounts of downforce. So, in the Italian Grand Prix 2019 Q3 session, they wanted to take advantage of the slipstream, or tow, and hence, all hell broke loose.
The teams were partially to blame because the average lap time at Monza was around 80 seconds. If they wanted a slow outlap to try and get a tow from a teammate or a rival, sending the cars out with 2 minutes to spare was always going to be dicey.