2020 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX RACE PREVIEW: THE QUALIFYING PARTY IS OVER
The Italian Grand Prix will remain at Monza until 2024 at least after a deal was agreed between F1 and the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI).
Formula 1 heads to Monza for the eighth grand prix of the 2020 season and here are five things you can expect from the Italian Grand Prix weekend.
Lewis Hamilton arrives at Monza with a 47 point lead in the drivers’ standings from Max Verstappen while Mercedes as a team holds 106 point advantage from Red Bull in the constructors’ championship.
After the Belgium Grand Prix was labelled as “boring” by teams and fans alike, can Monza deliver a more enjoyable race?
FERRARI WILL HIT A NEW LOW
“Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines,” said Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari at Le Mans in 1960. Well, right now it appears aerodynamics are all Ferrari has got to work with, and that will be of little comfort heading to ‘the cathedral of speed’ that is Monza.
Just 12 months ago, Ferrari, through Charles Leclerc, ended a nine year wait for a victory on home soil. The victory came off the back of a one-two at the Belgian Grand Prix and the Ferrari was utterly untouchable in a straight line.
Returning to the present day, Ferrari failed to score a point at Spa Francorchamps this time around and both cars also failed to reach Q3. The team still maintain the issue is not purely related to the power unit, despite all three Ferrari powered teams suffering the same problems, but team principal Mattia Binotto and driver Sebastian Vettel have both publicly stated they expect the weekend to be “difficult”.
To underline the scale of the problems at Ferrari, prior to last weekend, the 2010 British Grand Prix was the last time Ferrari finished a race with even a single car yet failed to score points. In this instance, a penalty to Fernando Alonso and an early puncture to Felipe Massa did the damage.
Stuck with the SF1000 with only relatively minor changes until the end of 2021, the coming weekend and the teams 1000th Grand Prix at Mugello in one weeks time will be far less enjoyable than had been originally hoped.
QUALIFYING CHAOS AND CLOSER TIMES
There are two factors at play here. For the Italian Grand Prix and all future events, Formula 1 has banned the use of changeable engine modes, and this includes Mercedes’ ‘party mode’.
Ferrari claim it will be the team least affected by the technical directive but it is unknown how each of the four power unit suppliers will fare.
It is widely accepted Mercedes has the most powerful ‘party mode’ and both Hamilton and team principal Toto Wolff have labelled the decision to ban the mode as an attack against the team, but the true extent of Mercedes reliability, if it has one, on the engine mode will become clear in qualifying on Saturday.
The element of chaos.referred to will likely be seen throughout the Saturday session as drivers battle for space to get the ideal slipstream without being in dirty air.
In Q3 last year, only Carlos Sainz was able to set a second lap time as the other nine drivers missed the flag while battling to get the optimum track position. As amusing as it was for spectators, the mood in the garages was likely very different.
MERCEDES DOMINANCE – AGAIN
Close to a direct contradiction of the point above, but if it is true Mercedes did not use ‘party mode’ in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, it is entirely likely the Silver Arrows will continue its near-perfect qualifying record.
Mercedes has qualified one-two in every race of the season so far save for the Styrian Grand Prix, a session that took place in extreme wet conditions. On that occasion, although Hamilton secured pole, Valtteri Bottas was fourth.
Toppled only once in 2020 with Max Verstappen taking advantage of the tyre difficulties suffered by the German manufacturer at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, it is difficult to envisage anything other than a sixth Mercedes Italian Grand Prix victory from seven years.
RICCIARDO WILL WIN THE TATTOO BET
Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon finished fourth and fifth in Belgium with Ricciardo bagging the point for the fastest lap of the race on the final lap. The 23 points accrued by the team is the most it has ever taken away from a single grand prix weekend.
Ricciardo was not far off Verstappen for a podium spot at the close of the race, but the reason a Renault podium is a real possibility is that Red Bull gained the majority of its lap time in the twisty middle sector of Spa Francorchamps whereas Renault was consistently fastest through the speed traps and the flat-out sectors one and three.
Monza, for the most part, is a flat-out roller-coaster ride. Renault scored its best result of 2019 at Monza with Ricciardo fifth and Nico Hulkenberg sixth, so a podium for the French manufacturer may not just be wishful thinking.
Should Ricciardo stand on the podium, team principal Cyril Abiteboul has confirmed he would honour a bet he made with his driver, a bet which involved him getting a tattoo of Ricciardo’s choice as a permanent memento of the occasion.
AN ABSENCE OF PASSION
While fans are missed at every grand prix venue they are unfortunately unable to attend in 2020, there are some circuits where the absence is felt more keenly than others.
There is possibly no greater example of this than Monza.
The stands erupt every time a Ferrari drives past, and if Vettel or Leclerc were to make a pass, the whole circuit bursts with cheers.
After the race the Tifosi flood the circuit, spraying clouds of red smoke into the air, unfurling the giant Ferrari logos underneath the podium.
Even with Ferrari struggling this year, Vettel still feels the fans would have supported the team instead of booing the poor performance.
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