Fernando Alonso in his 2011 Ferrari F1 race car

Fernando Alonso in his 2011 Ferrari F1 race car

This weekend Formula 1 teams head to Monza in Italy for the 2011 Italian Grand Prix.

Described as the fastest track in F1, Italy's Autodromo Nazionale Monza race track is known colloquially as “La Pista Magica”, and with good reason: the atmosphere is second to none.

Additionally, the cars exceed 200 mph at four different points on the lap, so the combination of straight-line speed and braking stability is the key for race engineers and drivers.

A single lap measures 3.6 miles, and with drivers covering some 53 laps during the race, the total distance of the race is about 190 miles.

The numerous fast straights and tight chicanes demand the lowest downforce settings of the season, bringing engine power to the fore. Drivers can typically spend over three-quarters of the lap at full throttle, delivering the fastest average speed of the season and top speeds of over 211 mph down the main straight.

During practice today, McLaren came out on top at the end of the first session, with Lewis Hamilton coming out quickest in 1.23.865, ahead of team-mate Jenson Button in 1.24.786 and Red Bull Racing Sebastian Vettel in 1.25.231.

Going into qualifying tomorrow, and Sunday’s race, Vettel leads the 2011 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship with 259 points, followed by his team-mate Mark Webber on 167 points and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso 157 points.

In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull Racing remains the clear leader with 426 points, followed by McLaren on 295 points and Ferrari on 231 points.

Stay tuned for our complete coverage of the 2011 Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix this weekend.