The battle at the back of the grid has become closer in recent races with Force India taking the fight to Honda and Williams-Toyota.
Will Monza offer Force India, with their powerful Ferrari engines, a realistic chance of beating Honda, whose engine is believed to be one of the weakest?
Adrian Sutil led Force India?óÔé¼Ôäós charge at Spa. He beat Kazuki Nakajima?óÔé¼Ôäós Williams in qualifying and in the race passed Nakajima and Honda?óÔé¼Ôäós Jenson Button in the dying stages to finish 13th, his best result of the year so far. Force India and Honda’s lap times were quite close at Spa.
The promise of rain this weekend might help their cause: Sutil scored the team’s only point last year at Fuji in the rain (when it was Spyker).
Force India have been boosted by a series of improvements including their seamless shift gearbox, which made its debut at Valencia. The team claimed it was worth 0.3s over a typical lap, and that seems to have been borne out by the gains made to its rivals.
Team boss Vijay Mallya said recently:
Compared to where we were last year, we’re clearly more competitive. We are racing teams with far higher budgets than we have, and beating them on occasion. I have two strong, hungry drivers who have delivered, and I have a very solid basis to build on.
Honda and Williams are realistic targets for Force India over the final races. Both these teams have admitted they are focussing their resources on 2009 in anticipation of the substantially revised rules.
But Force India are not without their problems. Mallya recently admitted there are often differences of opinion between team principal Colin Kolles and technical director Mike Gascoyne.
During the F1 Fanatic qualifying live blogs we often take it for granted that the Force Indias and Hondas will be eliminated in Q1. But could one of the Force Indias finally make it into Q2 this weekend?
And could they beat both the Hondas in the dry? If so, Honda might have taken the mantle of F1?óÔé¼Ôäós slowest team.