Our resident Formula Once scribe returns to preview the Italian Grand Prix which takes place at Monza this Sunday.
After leaving the historic Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium’s Ardenne mountains, the Formula 1 teams make their way to yet another one of the Grand Prixes historic venues, the Royal Park of Monza in Lombardy, Italy.
Monza is the Formula 1’s oldest races on the calendar and like it’s predecessor in Belgium they share two key characteristics, very high speeds and a tangible sense of history. Although Spa may be one of the world’s greatest tracks, it cannot rival Monza for its atmosphere. This track has seen all the greats race on it, and some of them have died on it as well. The ghosts of the drivers are always watching and waiting for Monza to roll around so that they can once again experience the thrill of the race and the roar of the crowd.
Italian Grand Prix | Sunday 4 September | Autodromo Nazionale Monza | 13:30
The peaceful calm of the summer break was utterly shattered by last week’s Belgian Grand Prix. The drivers wasted no time jumping right back in, with the first two days rife with grid penalties and unusual tire pressures. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was shoved back to the 21st starting position because of a 55 place grid penalty for engine and gearbox changes, not a great start for Hamilton at all. Fernando Alonso started 22nd due to a 60 place penalty for the same offenses which must have caused him some disappointment.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg took off from pole and the cameras barely bothered with him until he took the checkered flag 44 laps later. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen got swallowed by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen on the way to Turn 1, then attempted to recover by bravely sticking his Red Bull’s nose between Räikkönen’s sidepod and the apex at the first corner. Vettel, who didn’t see Verstappen, turned into La Source leaving only enough room for Räikkönen. Three cars don’t fit in a space for two cars, and the drivers realized this just a bit too late. Vettel spun, Räikkönen and Verstappen clobbered into one another and all three drivers had to pit for repairs, probably cursing their own stupidity at the move.
Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg zig-zagged his way into second ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, and Sergio Perez in the second Force India. On lap 6 Kevin Magnussen lost his Renault at Raidillon at the top of Eau Rouge and flew backward into an enormous crash. Magnussen luckily escaped with just a cut ankle.
After all these calamities and chaos the Safety Car obviously had to be brought out and paraded the field for four laps before officials red flagged the race to repair the barriers.
When racing resumed on lap 10, Rosberg led Ricciardo, Hülkenberg, Alonso, and Hamilton. Ricciardo impressively stayed ahead of Hamilton to keep second place at the end of the race, Hamilton easily got around Alonso and Hülkenberg to lock up third, which was even more impressive considering his grid starting position. Hülkenberg – who’d given up second to Ricciardo by pitting during the Safety Car period – earned another career-best fourth position ahead of teammate Perez in fifth.
As I stated before, Monza is the oldest track on the calendar with the first Grand Prix being held there in 1950. It has witnessed some of the greatest races of all time as well as the worst accidents – it also holds a special place in all Formula 1 lovers hearts and will forever.
The Italians don’t call it La Pista Magica (the magic track) for nothing. The drivers will be doing 53 laps on a circuit that is 5.793km long, so a total of 306.72km being raced all in all. The track has 11 corners, all in all, most of them being gentle curves with the sharpest corner being the first and second ones. This means that the track is built for high speeds and aggressive driving, providing many points in which drivers can overtake. This is probably the reason for the many crashes that have happened here.
The first DRS detection zone starts in sector three just before the 11th corner and the activation zone starts right at the beginning of the race and finishes just before the first corner. The second DRS detection zone starts in sector two, in the straight between the 6th and 7th corners with the activation zone starting a little bit after the seventh corner and going up to just before the 8th corner.
The weather for this weekend is looking good, if not very hot. With Friday, Saturday and Sunday having highs of 30 degrees celcius, but Saturday and Sunday have a little cloud cover to relieve some of that heat. Due to this tracks history and high speeds F1 fans are in for a doozy of a race.
To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 7/10 | Nico Rosberg 22/10 | Daniel Ricciardo 12/1 | Max Verstappen 12/1 | Sebastian Vettel 16/1 | Kimi Raikkonen 28/1 | Sergio Perez 125/1
Fastest Qualifier: Sebastian Vettel 5/4
Ferrari will be looking to get back in the game so Vettel needs a good grid position. Assuming his luck holds and he does not do anything out of hand during qualifying, he has a good chance of starting in the top 3 if not first.
To Win Outright: Lewis Hamilton 7/10
As we saw in Belgium, Hamilton can still finish on the podium even starting at the back of the grid. With his Mercedes speed and his driving skill, earning a victory at this track should not be a problem for this Brit.
Podium Finish: Nico Rosberg 2/10
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, has had very few problems in keeping his head above water and putting himself in with the front runners of the pack, so assuming it all goes right for him (no penalties or accidents) he can easily cruise to a podium finish, if not an outright win, if he manages to snatch it from his team mate Hamilton.
Fastest In Practice One: Kimi Raikkonen 20/1
Ferrari will be looking to lay a marker down from the outset and I reckon we’ll see them have a full go during P1. The ‘Flying Finn’ is also no stranger to setting blistering quick laps at Monza having claimed the fastest lap accolade during the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. The Ferrari man represents great value at 20/1.