The fourteenth round of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship season sees the field complete another back-to-back run of Grands Prix. Hot on the heels of the crash-marred Belgian Grand Prix comes a visit to another favourite on the calendar: Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix.
|Autodromo Nazionale Monza|
|Location||Monza, Italy||Circuit Length||5.793 km / 3.600 mi|
|Opened||1922||First Grand Prix||1950|
|Lap Record||1:21.046 – Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari, 2004)||2017 winner||Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)|
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 left where a truly low-downforce set-up is required.
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.
Rewind to 2017
Lewis Hamilton ended a dominant Italian Grand Prix weekend as he meant to, claiming a lights-to-flag victory and the outright lead of the Drivers’ Championship standings for the first time in 2017.
The Mercedes driver led home teammate Valtteri Bottas by 4.4 seconds to give Mercedes its first 1-2 finish since Hamilton’s home race at Silverstone in July, while his arch-rival Sebastian Vettel finished third for Ferrari.
After qualifying on pole position with a superb lap in Saturday’s rain-hit – and massively delayed – qualifying session, Hamilton dictated the race from the outset. He chopped across Lance Stroll’s Williams at the start, forcing the Canadian youngster who was making his first front-row start to momentarily lift on the run to the Rettifilo chicane. That allowed Esteban Ocon in the Force India to slot into second place, but the duo would soon find themselves overtaken by Bottas.
With the Mercedes’ having superior straight-line speed over the rest of the field and unlikely to face any serious threat from behind by Vettel, the pair turned down their engines and ran an economy race to the chequered flag.
The star performer of the race was Daniel Ricciardo, who tigered his unfancied Red Bull to a fourth-placed finish from sixteenth on the grid thanks to a succession of dazzling overtaking moves. His pass on Kimi Räikkönen – reminiscent of the move he put on the Finn at the same race in 2014 – caught the former World Champion completely by surprise and was one of the highlights of the race.
Räikkönen was left to finish fifth ahead of a closely fought scrap between the Mercedes-powered Force India and Williams entries, with the Force India teammates Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez sandwiching the Williams pair of Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa. Tenth place went to the second Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who recovered to a points’ finish after copping a puncture on the opening lap when he made contact with Massa.
Tyre Compound Selections
Pirelli is supplying the same three dry-weather tyre compounds this weekend as it did for the Belgian Grand Prix less than seven days ago, with the Medium, Soft and Supersoft compounds on offer.
The field’s top three teams have opted for varied tyre compound selections, with all six drivers making different choices. On home soil and expected to do well following Sebastian Vettel’s win over Lewis Hamilton last weekend in Belgium, both Ferrari drivers have opted for ten sets of Supersofts. Both Force India and Sauber drivers have also loaded up on the maximum number of Supersoft sets permitted.
Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have each selected eight Supersoft sets apiece and taken different paths on the Medium and Soft compound allocations.
With Red Bull Racing not expecting to challenge either Mercedes or Ferrari this weekend, Daniel Ricciardo has opted for eight sets of Supersofts, while teammate Max Verstappen has gone for seven sets of Supersofts and five sets of Softs – the most of any driver.
- This is the 69th running of the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix as a World Championship event. It, along with the British Grand Prix, is one of only two ever-present races on the calendar since the World Championship was created in 1950. The Autodromo Nazionale Monza has hosted 67 of the 68 Italian Grands Prix held, with Imola staging its sole event in 1980 before it became the permanent host of the San Marino Grand Prix.
- Two major configurations of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza have been used for the Italian Grand Prix. The road course familiar to today’s audiences has largely dominated proceedings, however the full course – utilising the road course and the clockwise banked oval which combined to form a 10-kilometre lap – was used in 1955-56 and 1960-61.
- The most successful driver at the Italian Grand Prix is Michael Schumacher, who achieved five victories – all for Ferrari – in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006.
- Ferrari is by far the most successful team to have contested the Italian Grand Prix with a total of 18 wins at its home event, although its last victory came in 2010. McLaren (10 wins) is the second most successful team here.
- Of the field’s current drivers, Lewis Hamilton has four Italian Grand Prix victories among his achievements, with wins in 2012 (with McLaren), 2014, 2015 and 2017 (with Mercedes). Fernando Alonso (2 wins, in 2007 with McLaren and in 2010 with Ferrari) and Sebastian Vettel (3 wins, in 2008 with Scuderia Toro Rosso and in 2011 and 2013 with Red Bull Racing) are the grid’s other drivers to have won here.
- Vettel’s win in 2008 for Scuderia Toro Rosso is significant for a number of reasons. It was the German’s first career win, making him the youngest ever Grand Prix winner at the time, aged 21. It was also Scuderia Toro Rosso’s first (and so far only) win or podium finish in its history, and the only time a team running a Ferrari customer engine has ever won a Grand Prix.
- Lance Stroll became the youngest ever driver to start from the front row of the grid at last year’s Italian Grand Prix, aged 18 years, 10 months and 3 days. The Canadian qualified a career-best fourth-fastest, but he was promoted to second place on the grid thanks to grid penalties for Red Bull Racing duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo who qualified ahead of him.
- All but four of the Italian Grands Prix held since the turn of the century have been won from pole position.
The Italy Form Guide
The championship battle is closely poised heading into this weekend’s race. While Ferrari seems to have the upper hand on pace, it was Mercedes that managed to extend its lead in the Constructors’ Championship standings last time out in Belgium to 15 points thanks to Kimi Räikkönen’s retirement from accident damage.
The Drivers’ Championship fight between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel is also closely poised, with just 17 points separating the two following Vettel’s victory at Spa-Francorchamps.
For Ferrari and for Vettel, victory here at the team’s home race will matter more than anywhere else this year. The red cars would appear, based on recent form and Monza being so horsepower dependent, to be the favourites to do so and end a winless drought on home soil that stretches back to Fernando Alonso’s victory in 2010.
Mercedes will be looking for a fast turnaround in form since its Hamilton’s drubbing by Vettel at Spa-Francorchamps less than a week ago. While he may have chalked up pole position, in truth the red cars had Mercedes’ measure in every other session. Will Monza strike a repeat, or will the Silver Arrows be back on form?
Don’t expect Red Bull Racing to be able to bring the fight to the top two teams this weekend. Monza’s requirement for horsepower will not play to its strengths and indeed all the Renault-powered runners are expected to have an uphill battle. Daniel Ricciardo and future Renault teammate Nico Hülkenberg will both be starting from near the back of the grid, having confirmed they will take on newly upgraded power unit elements this weekend ahead of the following Singapore Grand Prix where they are expected to be much more competitive.
Red Bull Racing’s anticipated struggles may pave the way for one of the midfield teams to emerge from the pack. Force India showed rapid straight-line speed last time out in Belgium and could well repeat the dose again, while the traditionally slippery Haas Ferraris should also be in the mix.
|2018 Italian Grand Prix Weather Forecast|
|Friday||15°C – 21°C||Saturday||14°C – 23°C||Sunday||14°C – 26°C|
Images via FIA, LAT, Mercedes AMG F1 Team, Pirelli Motorsport, Red Bull Content Pool
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