Italian Grand Prix Preview

Date published: September 7 2011

With two DRS zones, the flat out blast around Monza’s royal park could see a return to the days of slipstreaming. Purists will love it…

With two DRS zones, the flat out blast around Monza’s royal park could see a return to the days of slipstreaming. Purists will love it.

The Italian GP marks the finale for the European segment of the World Championship and the start of long-haul flights. Whereas in most seasons we’d be looking to see who’s in with a shout in the final few races, this year we’re calculating which race Sebastian Vettel will be crowned a double World Champion.

It’s amazing to think that Seb could even get to his triple crown before Fernando Alonso now, but such is life. Had the Ferrari pit-stop in Abu Dhabi in 2010 been a couple of laps later then we’d have been looking at a Seb first in 2011 with ‘El Nano’ already a triple World Champion.

The Belgian Grand Prix demonstrated that Seb could possibly stop racing for four whole grands prix and still come back and win. Despite the Red Bull team having the jitters all race, faced with the scenario of the tyre delaminating and the tread parting company from the shoulder, none of that happened. With races running out they can possibly take Pirelli’s advice and run their wheels at the advised camber.

For Monza, Pirelli have revised their camber guidelines again, but boss Paul Hembery doesn’t see the blistering problem recurring, because the Belgian GP provided an unusual set of circumstances. It’s very unusual to have little or no dry running at all before qualifying which is what happened at Spa. At Italy it’s usually dry, occasionally wet, but never continually wet.

Nico Rosberg may have shown what the Mercedes engine could do with his first lap move on Vettel but that “underpowered”, wheezy old Renault engine didn’t do so badly on Spa’s straights. It will be exposed to more scrutiny on Monza’s two long straights, which will be some relief to Ferrari who need to score more than a podium at the cathedral of motorsport.

The Scuderia will be desperate to repeat their result of 2010 after a generally underwhelming season so far, but they are likely to be pressed hard by McLaren and Mercedes.

Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali said a funny thing this week – that Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso are the only team leaders in F1. Alonso, yes, he’s leading his team-mate 10-2 in qualifying and mostly finishing in front of him, but Schumacher’s qualifying record against Rosberg is pretty dire in 2011. Let’s not forget, this is the year that the car has been developed to Michael’s liking, we discounted the 2010 chassis on the basis that it wasn’t in the Schumi mould.

He may be leading the team from a Wise Old Head, Senior Statesmen P.O.V. but I’d be interested to hear former Nico engineer (and come to think of it, former Jacques Villeneuve engineer) Jock Clear’s opinion on the subject.

And surely Rubens Barrichello is the clear team leader over at Williams, Rubinho being the most experienced driver in F1 and leading his rookie team-mate in all the stats?

At Monza we are going to have the latest development in the technology that splits the purists. We are going to be having two DRS zones, one after the second Lesmo down to the Ascari chicane, and the other from Parabolica along the start-finish straight, with independent detection zones for each. It’ll be like the old slip-streaming days of 1971 when five cars crossed the line covered by the length of a fag packet.

It’s unlikely that the first five cars can cross the line separated by less than a second, as they did when Peter Gethin’s BRM won from a laggardly Ronnie Peterson – 0.010 behind, and Francois Cevert a distant 0.080 behind Peterson. Miles back was Mike Hailwood in fourth place 0.090 behind Cevert with the dawdling Howdon Ganley coming in eventually 0.430 to the rear of Hailwood.

Murray Walker didn’t stand a chance on that one.

The 2011 version should be interesting. Having witnessed many, many races at Monza where the only thing that separated one car from another was the length of its pitstop and progress was limited to that one opportunity, the DRS zone is welcome. Lewis won’t even have to try anything rash to get past other cars.

Last year he was trying too hard too early and his fragile McLaren couldn’t stand a relatively mild bash from Felipe Massa’s tyre. This year’s car is a lot tougher, though he really should try a GP where he doesn’t put it in jeopardy, if only to prove to some people how boring that can be.

There are various points to be proven up and down the field. Michael will want to do well in front of his former tifosi, Mark Webber will want to lay the ghost of a start that cost him the Belgian GP, Jenson will want to outqualify Lewis, Bruno Senna will want to prove that Belgium wasn’t a flash in the pan and Sergio Perez will want to do well in front of his future tifosi.

But most of all, Ferrari will want to impress on home turf. The media pressure on Stefano Domenicali will be immense. One good result in the Monza royal park will buy him a lot of time.

AD