We bring you an Italian F1 Grand Prix Preview from our guest F1 writer Justin Johns
Ciao and welcome to the Ferrari,… oops I mean, Italian F1 Grand Prix preview. Home of the Tifosi and the Temple of Speed, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza will be all red this weekend. Italians are crazy about Ferrari, which, is not seen as just a racing team but rather a national symbol.
There’s a lot of pressure for any Ferrari driver when they turn up in Monza, even more so as the years progress without a win here for the home team. The last win for the Scuderia was in 2010 with Fernando Alonso. Ferrari do not want to let the Tifosi down here, not with the disaster of letting last year’s championships slip through their fingers still on everyone’s minds.
A Red Victory
So, will this be the year the Prancing Horse triumphs in Monza? In terms of the championship, I certainly hope so as Sebastian needs to claw back that points deficit. The season is building up to a final showdown in Abu Dhabi which will be even more epic as the #FightForFive title is on the line.
Ferrari are favourites to win, not purely based on the home support or the fact they have the most victories here (19), but because they probably have the best package right now. There’s no better place to show off a good engine than at this track. Monza is an ultra-fast circuit with top speeds in excess of 350 km/h. Picking your braking points correctly on varying fuel loads and tyre degradation is what this place is all about due to the high speeds approaching pretty much every single corner.
The final corner leading into the start line, Parabolica, is one of the most epic corners in existence as it rewards bravery and heavily penalises you if you get it wrong. It’s a super scary corner under braking and turn-in. Monza also happens to be the oldest circuit on the grid, having being built in 1922, even though it was a different configuration then and a definite death circuit by today’s standards, but we still use some of the original circuit, including the start/finish straight.
A Spa treatment
Last time out, Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel beat Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton fair and square. This fight for five championships thematic will most likely take centre stage going forward now and I never thought we will ever be in a position to see something like this play out from my years watching the sport.
Winning a race is a remarkable achievement on its own, and to win a championship automatically makes you a legend. To see two drivers fight it out for five championships, is maybe a once-in-a-lifetime moment for the sport. Sebastian did what he does best last time out by leading from the front, and he needs to do that again this weekend. Ferrari’s priority this weekend is to secure a victory for Seb and ideally have Kimi coming in second. This is their best shot for a one-two in Monza in a long, long while.
Ferrari, can you please not mess up Kimi’s strategy and race weekend like last time, that will be great, thanks. Raikkonen has to play a support role to help secure both titles, and weirdly I am okay with that. The only reason as to why is because I think Kimi has a year contract with a potential to make it a two-year stint with the Scuderia. And from next year, he will be the only driver from the old era I suppose. But he has been fast this year, it’s just his mistakes in Q3 and his opening lap performances which needs work, but he is still fast, at 39, and that’s awesome.
The other two Ferrari teams, Haas and Sauber, I feel can make Q3. All four drivers including Ericsson and Grosjean are driving well now with the only danger to their Q3 coming from Racing Point Force India (wow that name is a mouthful). I hope they do the right thing and rename the team “Stroll F1”. What a great race last time out with Perez really impressing. I’m starting to appreciate his pace now and I’m starting to think he is highly underrated. I think the fire has been reignited and expect another strong showing from Checo.
Now onto something people may consider controversial or unfair. At the time of writing this, Esteban Ocon still has a drive in F1. But rumour has it Lance Stroll will replace him soon, which will leave Esteban without a seat. This rumour is highly believable as Lance Stroll’s father, Lawrence, has purchased the old Sahara Force India.
The talent in Ocon is highly noticeable whereas Stroll does not possess the same amount of talent and drive, in my opinion. Lawrence Stroll loves F1 and motorsport and has been in the paddock from the nineties. It must be really cool to race for a team owned by your dad, or having your son drive for your own team. People may not like it, but this is a goal for Lawrence Stroll. You have to respect that, because, in all honesty, I’d do the same if I could. It doesn’t make it right, I know this, but I still think it’s cool.
It does raise some questions though with regards to the integrity of the sport. What is stopping Lawrence Stroll from buying his son a championship, as ludicrous as it sounds, it’s plausible. I also hate to see pure talent dropping off the F1 radar, I’m still bitter about Pascal Wehrlein losing his F1 drive to Marcus Ericsson. The other side of this coin, if it’s not possible to buy your son a championship, is Lawrence setting up his son for failure? I don’t see Lance beating Perez fair and square, but then again I did not expect Lance getting a podium in his debut season. Let’s see how this unfolds.
The eventual Lance Stroll move has triggered off wild discussions of who goes where with some of the most complicated moves ever encountered in this sport. Seemingly, it will sort itself out this way. Lance to Racing Point Force India, Kubica to Williams, Ocon to McLaren, Vandoorne to Sauber replacing Ericsson. All in this season already. As complicated as these driver movements are, it is entertaining and maybe mid-season driver movements should be a thing.
Nico Hulkenberg’s brain fade into Turn One at Spa has cost him a ten-place grid penalty at Monza. I was so surprised to learn he just braked too late, it was just a mistake, which has been a characteristic from time to time with Nico. I still rate him highly and is one of my favourite drivers. Spa was something to forget for Renault and its drivers, so let’s hope they have a better showing at Monza. It will be a tough weekend for Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg as the Renault should be outperformed this weekend.
Upsetting the form book
I wonder if Red Bull Racing is in danger of losing out to the Haas and Sauber at Monza. I also wonder if Toro Rosso could be strong in the hands of Gasly, he did well last time out and this circuit may suit the Honda powertrain.
Monza, the Temple of Speed, should be a fun watch, even if it’s just to see these awesome technological pieces of art fly around at 350 km/h. The pressure for Ferrari to win this one is on, the fight for five is on, and Formula 1 will surely rock Italy this weekend.
Here’s to a good race.