New Zealand's Brendon Hartley is in for a new kind of challenge at this weekend's Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The Toro Rosso driver will tackle the famous Monza circuit for the first time in the sport's top echelon of racing. It is unique in that it is a very high-speed track and cars are set-up differently to maximise their outright speed.

"Monza is famous for the speeds you reach and, as a Formula 1 driver, you definitely become numb over time to these speeds, because we are going that quick a lot of the time," the 28-year-old explained.

"Damping and suspension are so good now that the cars are quite stable, which also makes the high speeds less obvious. But I think that at Monza, the Ascari Chicane, the Parabolica and hitting the brakes at more than 350km/h is going to be a great experience, running with as low downforce as we can get away with, given that all the teams bring a Monza-specific aero package. So, the cars will be different to drive for everyone."


Hartley actually thinks the racing might be better at Monza because teams are running cars without a lot of the aero package that helps them stick to the road better at most tracks.

"Maybe it will create even better racing actually, because we have less downforce to lose when we're following other cars and slip-streaming them," he said.

"Usually, we have so much downforce and grip, all the corrections we're doing, the amount of sliding, is not always visible to the spectators, even if it feels like a lot when you are in the car. So, at a track like Monza with lower downforce, I guess those issues are more obvious. Braking distances will be longer with less downforce, which creates more overtaking opportunities, especially as it's easier to lock the front brakes.

"I guess in a way it will be a little bit more challenging for us and it will be enjoyable for sure. Racecraft is always at play there and the weather can also sometimes be a factor.

"It's a track I'm looking forward to. It's going to be a home race for us at Toro Rosso and so I'm expecting to see many Tricolore flags amongst the other ones."

Hartley has raced at Monza before in other categories so he has some first-hand knowledge of what to expect despite never visiting the place in an F1 car.

"I've had some success at Monza in the past, I won a race there in Formula Renault 2.0 on my way to the European Championship, I had podium finishes there in Formula 3 and I remember testing there in LMP1 but we never raced. Monza has huge history, which means you can feel a special atmosphere as soon as you get there, and I'm really looking forward to driving a Formula 1 car there for the first time."