2014 Italian Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

After the drama of Belgium, Formula 1 returns this weekend, as the teams arrive at Monza – the spiritual home of Ferrari. While the sport will be red this weekend, Mercedes are likely to claim most of the headlines, with all the pre-weekend discussion centering around Hamilton and Rosberg’s collision at the previous round. Today’s press conference was dominated by teammate rivalry discussions and of course, talk of the new-look Parabollica, which has certainly caused a stir in the paddock – is it a case of health and safety gone mad?

2012 Italian Grand Prix – Massa Pit” by Francesco Crippa
Licence: CC-BY-2.0

The Facts…

  • The Italian Grand Prix has been held in each and every FIA Formula One World Championship season.
  • The race is 53 laps in length, yet is the shortest of the year in terms of elapsed time, due to the circuit having the highest average speeds of the season.
  • Ruberns Barichello holds the lap record of a 1:21.046, set in 2004 in the V10 Ferrari F2004.
  • Ferrari have won the Italian Grand Prix a record 18 times, with their last coming courtesy of Fernando Alonso in 2010.
  • Micheal Schumacher has won at Monza on five separate occasions, all of which were behind the wheel of a Ferrari.

Rewind 12 Months…

Despite the circuit characteristics suggesting that Red Bull would be in for a difficult weekend, Sebastian Vettel continued his relentless march to the 2013 crown with his second consecutive victory, from Fernando Alonso in second and Mark Webber rounding out the top three. The race may not have been a classic, but Alonso’s celebrations on the podium afterwards were unquestionably memorable, with the Spaniard taking a ‘selfie’ with the adoring Tifosi, (it was only a mater of time until the T-word was mentioned in this preview). Lewis Hamilton will certainly hope for an easier afternoon than 12 months ago when a radio failure early on in the race meant that he was relying on the pit-board for all his information – a blast from the past, but after all, it is Monza.

Kobayashi Returns

Yes, Kamui Kobayashi will be back in the Caterham this weekend but until when is still a question to be answered. One thing is for sure – Andre Lotterer’s stock rose significantly over the course of his one-off weekend in Belgium. Despite his race ending on the second lap and retiring in far from graceful fashion by breaking down in the pit-entry, the German’s heroics on Saturday have certainly not gone unnoticed.
However, the team maintained that Kamui Kobayashi always remained part of the team and this is at least apparent this weekend. Caterham are potentially already planning ahead of this Sunday though, with Roberto Merhi getting his first taste of Formula 1 this weekend by taking Kamui’s seat in FP1. The Spanish youngster is flying high in Formula Renault 3.5 this season and joins Carlos Sainz Jr as a man in line for a Caterham drive before the season draws to a close.
“I am delighted to be taking part in my first ever Formula 1 Free Practice session and I want to thank Caterham F1 Team for this opportunity – it’s something I’ve wanted for a very long time!” Merhi stated. Whether this leads to a Sunday outing in the future remains to be seen, but it would certainly make this FP1 drive far more logical. Unfortunately, Kobayashi may be booted out of his seat again in the near future despite his recall for this weekend.

New and Improved?

If you haven’t seen the photo which angered traditionalists all around the world, where have you been! The Parabollica, one of Formula 1’s most famous and spectacular corners has been sanitized, with a tarmac runoff replacing the perilous gravel trap of old. While many fans and pundits have suggested that this is an awful decision and has ruined the challenge of the corner, I dare to disagree.
The gravel trap did add some trepidation to drivers heading into the corner, as they knew that a mistake which saw them run deep could potentially end their race. However, how many drivers have seen their race end in such a manner in recent years? – very few, (unless a technical issue has led to such an excursion.) 
Meanwhile, many drivers have suggested that the exit of the corner is now no longer a concern as running wide will result in nothing more than a loss of fractions as oppose to a loss of seconds and a fair portion of bodywork. Admittedly, the gravel on the exit of the corner did punish the car and often caused floor damage, but their is still a price to pay for running wide due to the artificial grass which lines the outside of the corner. Drivers will still have to remain within the confines of the track if they are to post a competitive sector time. Moreover, this is the part of the corner which is now significantly safer and while I agree that the sport should not become too sanitized, this is not a step too far. It is still the Parabollica and it will still be a huge challenge, but feel free to disagree in the comments.

Prediction Corner

My favorite part of the weekend. The part in which I predict how the weekend will unfold and once I am proven to be horribly incorrect, I state that at least I am demonstrating the unpredictability of Formula 1. Joking aside, it would by fantastic to see a 19th Ferrari victory at Monza, but in all honesty, it seems unlikely, considering that Monza is all about power. Consequently, I would expect a Mercedes 1-2 this weekend, in both qualifying and the race, as it is just the tonic that the team need on the back of such turmoil two weeks ago. However, Williams should stand a better chance of challenging the silver arrows this weekend as they will not suffer from the technical sector two which put them at a disadvantage in Belgium.   

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