Formula 1 Preview: Italian Grand Prix
Written by Marcus Woodhouse, Edited by Simran Kanthi
Formula 1 is back for the final part of this triple header, and it will take place in the internationally revered Temple of Speed: the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. The Italian Grand Prix is one of the most hotly anticipated races on the calendar, due to the incredible passion shown by the hordes of Tifosi that live for Ferrari and turn up en masse to support their team, as well as the sheer speed showcased by these phenomenal machines on the straights. So, will Ferrari finally reward their fans with a brilliant performance, will the Red Bull drought at Monza finally end, or can Mercedes keep up the pace they showed at Zandvoort?
The Autodromo Nazionale Monza was built 100 years ago, originally containing a set of punishing, banked corners that allowed no room for error. It hosted the Italian Grand Prix in the F1 calendar in 1950 and has done so every year since then (with one exception). The circuit is steeped in emotion, with the tragic deaths of Alberto Ascari and Jochen Rindt occurring there, among others. Memorable F1 races include the 1971 Italian Grand Prix, in which five cars constantly traded places at the top, and despite being in fourth place on the final lap, Peter Gethin had a very good exit from Parabolica and won the race by 0.01 seconds to Ronnie Peterson behind, while 5th place was Mike Hailwood, only 0.61 seconds behind the winner. Additionally, the 2008 Italian Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel take a shock pole and win in his Toro Rosso, embarrassing the Ferraris and becoming the youngest driver to ever achieve these accolades in F1.
As for the circuit itself, speed is the keyword, with the fastest ever F1 lap set around Monza by Juan Pablo Montoya during a practice session in 2004. Cars should find themselves in full throttle for 80% of the lap while cornering speeds are still of the essence in the tricky sections midway through. Variante Ascari is a technical section of corners that even drivers of the highest quality such as Vettel have fallen foul to in the past. The Curva Alboreto (formerly Curva Parabolica) is the high-speed final corner that is vital to a competitive speed on the start-finish straight, which again has caught drivers out like Charles Leclerc in 2020. Overtakes aren’t simple but races tend not to be lacking in them, with DRS (Drag Reduction System) now in place to aid modern cars with passing each other. The circuit is 5.793km and lasts for 53 laps of non-stop action, with two DRS zones around the lap.
Coming off the back of last year, we saw a crazy race involving a crash between title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen allow McLaren to claim a historic 1-2, their first win since 2012. And 2020 saw varying issues for Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari that led to a battle between Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz for the win, the former coming out on top to claim his maiden victory. 2019 saw a triumphant display from the vastly supported Leclerc to lead home the two Mercedes, while his Ferrari teammate Vettel had a race to forget. So we have been treated to some epic races in recent years, and while we can certainly hope for that to continue, we cannot expect the same calibre of drama and thrill every year, but the Italian Grand Prix will surely still be unmissable for all fans of the sport.
Last week in the Netherlands, we witnessed somewhat of a power swing, as Mercedes looked to almost have the superior car, although the inevitability of a Max Verstappen win still came to fruition in the end, much to the delight of the home supporters. Ferrari were fortunate to come away with a podium after yet more mistakes cost them valuable points, while Alpine and McLaren seemed fairly similar in pace, although Daniel Ricciardo had a disappointing showing. Aston Martin looked up there as well, and while a mistake for Vettel in qualifying ruined his race, Lance Stroll still earned the team a valuable point. Alfa Romeo had a poor weekend, while Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda both made it to Q3 (Qualifying 3) but lacked race pace.
Therefore, the spoils of Monza seem all to play for, with Max Verstappen probably still the favourite going into the weekend, but the Tifosi could boost Ferrari to victory, and you can never count out Mercedes. Better still, we could see another crazy race where the top teams struggle and see midfield teams taking over the podium slots, but that is by no means a guarantee. In any case, the Italian Grand Prix looks set to be another stunner of a race and watching it should be the number one priority for every F1 fan this weekend.