We’ve barely had time catch our breath after all the action in Spa-Francorchamps last weekend. This weekend sees the Formula 1 field grid up in Europe for the final time before its 2017 season draws to a close with seven flyaway races. Here is MotorsportM8‘s preview of the upcoming action at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza…

The Circuit

Autodromo Nazionale Monza

Autodromo Nazionale Monza
Location Monza, Belgium Circuit Length 5.793 km / 3.600 mi
Opened 1922 First Grand Prix 1950
Capacity 113,860 spectators Direction Clockwise
Turns 11 Lap Record 1:21.046 – Rubens Barrichello (2004)

Being the spiritual home of Ferrari’s fans, the tifosi, the atmosphere at Milan’s Monza circuit is really something else.

The huge crowd has eyes for just one team and two drivers – if you’re not driving a car from the Prancing Horse stable, then you may as well not exist in their eyes.

Having hosted a Grand Prix in every season – bar one – since the inception of the World Championship in the modern era, the Monza circuit occupies a position as one of the few remaining traditional circuits left on the calendar.

And with the wealth of medium-downforce autodromes cropping up everywhere, it remains the only circuit on this year’s calendar where a truly low-downforce set-up is required. If your is not slippery in a straight line and blessed with plenty of grunt from its engine, then you are in for a weekend of pain.

This pistol-shaped circuit is essentially a series of high-speed blasts punctuated by chicanes and some wickedly quick corners such as the Curva Grande, Lesmo corners and the Parabolica.

However, the current version is a vastly emasculated form of its original incarnation, which was virtually flat out.

Back then, the cars would trail each other in huge slipstreaming packs, and the races during that era often featured some of the highest average speeds, and closest race finishes, of the era.

With the understandably increasing concerns for driver and spectator safety, chicanes were gradually introduced to slow the cars down, but that has done little to dull the action at this passing-friendly circuit.

2016 Italian Grand Prix fans

The tifosi demand nothing less than a Ferrari victory at the team’s home race. (XPB Images)

The Event

Formula 1 Gran Premio Heineken d’Italia 2017
Event Dates 01-03 September 2017 Free Practice Session 1 Fri 10:00-11:30
Free Practice Session 2 Fri 14:00-15:30 Free Practice Session 3 Sat 11:00-12:00
Qualifying Sat 14:00-15:00 Race (53 laps) Sun 14:00-16:00
Driver Steward Emanuele Pirro Pirelli Tyres Pirelli Super Soft Pirelli Soft 
2016 Pole Winner Lewis Hamilton 2016 Race Winner Nico Rosberg

Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (GMT + 02:00)

Rewind to 2016

After claiming a critical win from pole last time out at Spa-Francorchamps while teammate Lewis Hamilton was forced to start at the back of the grid thanks to a power unit change penalty, Nico Rosberg arrived at Monza just 9 points adrift of his teammate in their battle for Drivers’ Championship honours.

As expected, the Silver Arrows dominated qualifying and locked out the front row of the grid, with Hamilton claiming pole by almost half a second.

The Englishman’s hopes of extending his championship lead evaporated within seconds of the starting lights going out. He fluffed the start from pole and fell to sixth by the Roggia chicane, allowing Rosberg to run unchallenged into the lead off the start line.

Hamilton was quickly able to dispose of Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull Racing entry, but took a further 10 laps – not to mention plenty of valuable Soft compound tyre life – trying to get by Valtteri Bottas’ fourth-placed Williams.

Once up to fourth place, the two Ferraris of Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel ahead of him removed themselves from the Briton’s path by pitting for another set of Soft rubber to confirm both red cars would run a two-stop strategy.

By contrast, the two Mercedes – now running 1-2, although with Hamilton sufficiently behind Rosberg thanks to his poor start – would see out the race on one stop. Rosberg would be the first to pit, briefly handing the lead to Hamilton until the three-time World Champion made his sole tour through the pits.

Once again released by the second pit stops of the Ferraris, Hamilton set about slashing Rosberg’s lead to the tune of nearly a second a lap and closed the gap down to less than 10 seconds on Lap 41 before he locked up at the Roggia chicane and ram wide. That cost him a couple of seconds and all but killed his slim hopes of challenging his teammate for victory.

Rosberg ultimately won by over 15 seconds to close to just two points behind Hamilton in their title battle; Sebastian Vettel completed the podium in a rather lonely run to third ahead of teammate Räikkönen.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 - 2016 Italian Grand Prix

Race-winner Nico Rosberg crowd-surfs in parc ferme after claiming a crucial victory in last year’s Italian GP (XPB Images)

The Form Guide

The pendulum swung back in favour of Lewis Hamilton in Belgium after he resisted a serious challenge from Sebastian Vettel to cut the German’s lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings to just seven points.

With his win and teammate Valtteri Bottas finishing fifth, it also allowed Mercedes to further extend its Constructors’ Championship lead over Ferrari to 44 points.

Many had expected Mercedes to dominate at the high-speed Spa-Francorchamps circuit, however Ferrari’s SF70-H proved more than equal to the task and took the fight to the Silver Arrows. Whether the red cars have enough straight-line speed around Monza’s 5.kilometre layout remains to be seen, but their performance last time out will be a major confidence booster for the team as it appears on home soil. The team hasn’t claimed victory at home since Fernando Alonso’s win in 2010 – could it finally break its duck?

The grid’s top two teams are expected to canter away from the rest of the field this weekend.

Ongoing reliability concerns and the limitations of its Renault-built engines suggests we should not see Red Bull Racing threaten to repeat the podium-winning feats achieved by Daniel Ricciardo last weekend. The Australian’s teammate Max Verstappen will be demanding better reliability from his RB13 after chalking up his sixth DNF in 12 races this season.

The dark horse for a possible podium might come from Force India. Blessed with Mercedes’ ultra-powerful engines and a chassis that is proving to be increasingly slippery in a straight line, the ‘Pink Panthers’ may spring a surprise this weekend. All of that, however, is contingent on how it is able to rein in the egos of its drivers, Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon. Describing the relationship between the two as toxic would be an understatement following the pair twice coming together at Spa-Francorchamps and throwing away a chunk of points for the Silverstone squad.

The lower midfield will once again be a tight scrap between Williams, Haas, Toro Rosso and the rapidly improving Renault. The four teams are covered by just 11 points in their battle for fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings. Williams should ease clear thanks to the grunt of their Mercedes engines, but setting up the troublesome FW40 remains an ongoing challenge which means that nothing is truly certain.

What is seemingly certain is the McLaren-Honda partnership will move a step closer to an ugly divorce this weekend. Despite some crafty slipstreaming teamwork that allowed Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne to flatter their cars in qualifying at Belgium, Sunday’s race proved to be the nadir of the season as both drivers found themselves easy pickings to any driver running in their wake. Monza will prove even more galling with an engine that can barely take the skin off a bowl of custard.

Italian Grand Prix Weather Forecast
Friday Thunderstorm and Rain 15°C – 26°C Saturday 13°C – 24°C Sunday 13°C – 25°C

Images via Formula1.com, XPB Images

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.