Ferrari to the fore at Monza? (2008 Italian Grand Prix preview)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Felipe Massa will be looking for his third win in a row this weekend
Felipe Massa will be looking for his third win in a row this weekend

At Valencia Ferrari and (Ferrari-engined) Toro Rosso dominated the speed traps.

Monza has a similar mix of long straights and slow corners, so will the Ferrari-powered cars be at the front once again?

And can McLaren or BMW do anything to stop the red cars running riot in front of their home crowd?

With the loss of the proper Hockenheimring Monza is perhaps the only track that calls for an ultra-low downforce setup, with the rear wings in particular trimmed out for maximum speed.

At Valencia the speed traps left no one in any doubt which engine was performing the best ?ǣ Ferrari?s V8. So will Ferrari run away with the Italian Grand Prix?

Perhaps, but there are a few other things to consider. Monza’s extreme low-downforce demands are perhaps most similar to that used at Montreal. The performance of each team will come down to how well the their cars work in low-downforce configurations.

This year Bridgestone are bringing tyre compounds one stage harder than they used at Monza last year: hard and medium, rather than medium and soft. Ferrari has claimed this will benefit McLaren (who ran away with last year?s race).

There was some evidence of this being the case at Spa, where Bridgestone also brought harder tyres than last year. There wasn?t much to choose between the McLaren and Ferrari on the medium tyres, but in the beginning of the final stint of the race Lewis Hamilton?s McLaren took a few seconds out of Kimi Raikkonen?s Ferrari while both were using hard tyres. But we are not talking about a huge difference in performance.

Temperature will certainly play an important role. The autumnal Italian weather can be expected to provide warm-to-hot conditions that will suit Ferrari. Only on odd occasions, such as in 2004, has it been cool, which would play into McLaren?s hands.

There wasn’t much to choose between McLaren and Ferrari during the F1 test at Monza at the end of last month. Heikki Kovalainen and Felipe Massa tested on the first two days and were within a tenth of a second of each other on both days. On the third day Hamilton was 0.4s faster than Raikkonen. You can review the times in full on this page on Vittorio’s website but it’s important not to read too much into testing times – Nico Rosberg was half a second faster than Kovalainen on the second day.

Reliability has been a problem for Ferrari. Massa lost a certain win at the Hungaroring with a con rod failure, a repeat of which eliminated Raikkonen at Valencia. Massa’s unit is also being inspected the by FIA in accordance with their ‘random check’ rules. Lewis Hamilton had his engine inspected in similar circumstances earlier this year.

Ferrari seem likely to have the upper hand, but McLaren should be close enough to get in among them. We?ll follow their progress as usual in the practice, qualifying and race live blogs here at F1 Fanatic.