After the delights of Belgium, Formula 1 has no time to waste as the paddock leaves one iconic venue and heads straight to another at the ‘Temple of Speed’ for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
While victory for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari was sweet at Spa-Francorchamps, it would pale in comparison to the emotion if the German was able to do what he did 10 years ago for Toro Rosso and stand on the top of the podium, only this time doing it for the Scuderia in front of their adoring Tifosi.
The thing is, however, no driver in red has stood on the top step at the Autodromo since 2010 and during the hybrid era this has been Mercedes country, with Lewis Hamilton winning three of the last four years.
About the race
Set in the Royal Park in a suburb of Milan, Monza is about one thing – speed.
The fastest circuit on the calendar, its long straights will see the cars get close to if not surpass 200mph on four separate occasions. That means engine power is the big performance dictator with the cars set-up to produce as little downforce as possible to achieve the optimum top speed.
F1’s fastest ever lap came on this track from Juan Pablo Montoya’s Williams in 2004 as he hurtled around in 1m19.525s, setting an average speed of just under 163mph. As the most historic race on the calendar, with Monza having only not featured once since 1950, the stories told throughout the decades are countless.
Michael Schumacher is still the master though with five wins all with Ferrari between 1996 and 2006, though success for Hamilton this weekend would tie him with the German legend. In addition to his remarkable first win in the wet in 2008, Vettel has won two more times in Italy with Red Bull in 2011 and 2013.
Who’s hot and who’s not going into this year’s edition? Here are our picks.
Top driver picks
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari ($28.6m)
Without a doubt, just like Spa, if all goes according to plan then nothing can stop Vettel and Ferrari from claiming a first victory together at Monza. Yes, the Maranello squad haven’t won at home in eight years but now with the most powerful engine on the grid that is pretty much all they need with Mercedes unable to make up the difference through the corners.
Sergio Perez, Force India ($12m)
After the team’s recent turmoil off the track was resolved, Force India once again showed off their strength on lower downforce circuit by finishing ‘best of the rest’ at Spa. With some uncertainty over where Lance Stroll or Esteban Ocon will be driving for the team at Monza (at the time of writing), the safe bet is to go with Sergio Perez, who also has a podium to his name at this race in 2012.
Romain Grosjean, Haas ($5.5m)
Grosjean is a great addition to any fantasy team currently as he is the second cheapest driver on the grid and drives for Haas, the outfit that will push Force India for the top midfield honours this weekend. Fighting for his F1 career, with rumours Charles Leclerc will replace him, the Frenchman has also stopped the errors from earlier in the year and is producing the goods like we know he can.
Worst driver picks
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull ($19.7m)
Back as our worst pick for the second straight weekend, things are not going well for Ricciardo right now. Effectively taken out by the flying McLaren of Fernando Alonso last Sunday, the Australian will also take a grid penalty in Italy for a new engine on a circuit where Red Bull will again struggle even if they did fight through from the back 12 months ago.
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault ($10.7m)
After causing the spectacular crash at the start in Belgium, Hulkenberg’s confidence isn’t likely to be high at the start at Monza as he will start close to the back again with a 10-place grid penalty and an even bigger braking zone into a tight first corner on a narrow track at the start. Renault’s pace in Belgium also wasn’t great and there’s very little reason to think they’ll be competitive against the likes of Haas, Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso again this weekend.
Top team pick: Ferrari ($30.1m)
Somewhat of a no-brainer for Italy (and probably the rest of the season) as Ferrari have the fastest car on the grid. At $30m it allows just enough of a budget to be left over for a strong five-driver line-up.
That’s all for our picks and preview for the Italian Grand Prix, now all you need to do is pick your team and play. Good luck!