After a tragic weekend at Spa, the Formula One season arrives at another iconic circuit this weekend. Monza is the venue for the Italian Grand Prix, as it has been every season since 1981. Lewis Hamilton is looking to break yet another record this weekend and become the most successful driver in Italian Grand Prix history with a sixth victory.
Hamilton, who extended his Drivers’ Championship lead to 65 points in Belgium last weekend, is cruising to yet another title, but heads to Monza feeling pretty pessimistic against his chances of beating the raw power of the Ferraris. The Mercedes couldn’t keep pace with Ferrari at Spa, and those straight-line speed issues are going to be exaggerated further at Monza. Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas excelled in the second sector at Spa, but suffered mightily on the straights.
Both Ferrari and Mercedes arrive in Italy with concerns about their engine reliability, however. The Phase 3 engines were used by other Mercedes-powered teams at Spa. Robert Kubica and Sergio Perez had engine issues over the weekend, causing concern for Toto Wolff’s team.
The two Haas cars and Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo opted for new Ferrari engines last weekend. The Haas’ struggles continued, and Giovinazzi suffered a failure in qualifying. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, fresh off his first Formula One victory, are expected to use the new engines at Monza, but the team are understandably a bit cautious.
Sticking with the engine news, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will start from the back of the grid on Sunday after moving to the Spec 4 engine. Daniil Kvyat and Verstappen’s new teammate Alex Albon made the same move last weekend with Albon producing a magnificent drive to work his way up to fifth.
The Red Bulls may well be closer to the midfield than the top two this weekend. Verstappen is confident of working his way through the field – as Albon did in Belgium. It will be worth keeping an eye out for Verstappen’s price for a top six finish over the course of the weekend.
One man not changing engine is Kimi Raikkonen. The ice-cool Finn clashed with Verstappen at the first corner at Spa, ruining both of their races. His Ferrari power unit will be very competitive, and should give him an advantage over his midfield peers. With Verstappen at the back of the grid, the +450 on a top six finish looks superb value.
Cars will have minimal downforce to maximise speed on the long straights, meaning the tyres have to provide the grip. Pirelli have selected the C2, C3 and C4 compounds for the eighth time this season. Verstappen has maxed out the soft tyres, as have Perez and Lance Stroll. It’s expected to be a one-stop strategy with good weather likely, which could give an advantage to the Mercedes drivers.
Mercedes’ degradation has been much better than their rivals at Ferrari. It earned Hamilton victory in Hungary and there was very nearly a repeat performance in Belgium last weekend. If the championship leader is to stand atop the podium on Sunday afternoon, it will likely be because of a charge in the final few laps of the race once again. Hamilton is +200 to win the race with BetStars.
Barring another strategic masterclass from Mercedes, this should be a happy home race for the Ferraris, however. Leclerc’s victory through the picturesque Ardennes Forest last time out represented a power shift at the team as Vettel once again struggled to keep pace with his younger teammate. The Monegasque 21-year-old showed maturity to guide his car home, making him the +137 favourite with BetStars to win in northern Italy this Sunday.
By Sam Cox