The Italian Grand Prix signals the end of the European races for another season and will be the first since the announcement of Daniel Ricciardo as Mark Webber’s Red Bull replacement. Despite this, all eyes will be on Ferrari who return to their home track with overwhelming support.
One thing to remember: Ferrari is Italy and Italy is Ferrari.
The Italian Grand Prix is as old as Formula 1 itself. Since making its debut in 1950, Monza has been a stomping ground for their beloved Ferrari and, with a total of 19 wins at the circuit; it would take somebody very brave to rule them out, even on their current form.
Indeed, Fernando Alonso will need to rely on home support if he is to make a dent in the 46 point deficit to Sebastian Vettel. The Spaniard has two previous wins on the Italian tarmac and finished third last year causing a lavish celebration with avid Ferrari fans.
Monza is a great fan spectacle, not least because drivers are forced to be at full throttle for the vast majority of a lap as they face fast corners and long straights. This is a circuit which, unsurprisingly, works in favour of the prancing horses. The Autodromo Nazionale Monza, designed by Alfredo Rosselli, is best completed on a one stop strategy. This will suit the McLaren drivers of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez who may leave with a double points haul from this weekend. Lotus too are light on their tyres so could begin to close the 31 point gap to Ferrari.
In theory, the drivers could reach speeds of up to 231mph but records suggest that 211mph is a more realistic speed, lap on lap. These are speeds, I struggle to fathom.
For all the good Monza offers, it has been a place of great tragedy in the past. It was here, Jochen Rindt lost his life. Tragically the Austrian, who had promised his wife he would retire when he won a world championship, would be awarded the championship posthumously.
To many, it will be the place of Michael Schumacher’s first retirement announcement in 2006. With, a record, five victories on the Italian tarmac, it is a place Schumacher fans remember well.
One thing all championship contenders must consider is Monza 2008, the race which saw Sebastian Vettel (then a mere up and comer) win his first Grand Prix in rain-sodden conditions. Little did people know, it would become the start of three years of dominance and three years at the top.
If conditions are wet once more, we could see some surprise performances. In which case, look out for Toro Rosso – Daniel Ricciardo has to prove that his Red Bull signing is a sensible decision by the Austrain outfit whilst, a most-likely disappointed, Jean-Eric Vergne will have to show them the talent they have bypassed. Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil also thrive whilst others struggle; the team sit sixth in the team battle. Nico Hulkenberg is also a contender in wet conditions.
Simply, Monza can provide anything from dominate displays to closely-fought battles. As the scramble for seats begins behind closed doors, only few drivers have their futures guaranteed. Regardless of whether Felipe Massa is able to retain his seat at Ferrari, except joyous applause as his engine fires up in anger once more.
Fernando Alonso is the hero of Ferrari; their number 1. Let us hope there won’t be any disappointed Ferrari fans, for his sake as much as anything else.