Ferrari look strong ahead of home race (Italian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Monza, 2010

It’s very rare for pole sitters to get beaten off the line at Monza – and Fernando Alonso has a straight-line speed advantage of more than 11kph over fellow front-row starter Jenson Button to boot.

With Felipe Massa starting close behind the two Ferraris have a chance to score the first one-two for the Scuderia at home in six years. Can they do it?

The start

Here’s some good news for Alonso: since the first chicane at Monza was re-profiled in 2000, the pole sitter has kept the lead at every F1 start there with one exception: Juan Pablo Montoya in 2002.

Alonso and Button have collided at the first corner once already this year. But they both know they have to make the most of this opportunity to convert their strong grid positions into a decent championship score.

Starting off the racing line appears to be a disadvantage here but Button’s unusual high-downforce set-up may help him on the short sprint to turn one.

But history tells us that that driver who starts second on the grid here has to keep an eye on whoever starts third. In 2006 and 2007 the driver who started second was passed by the third-place starter off the line – but re-passed them around the outside of turn one.

For Button, once the cars are up and running out of the first chicane his lack of straight-line speed could leave him vulnerable. Here are the maximum speeds the drivers in the top six drivers on the grid registered during qualifying:

1. Fernando Alonso – 341kph
2. Jenson Button – 329.5kph
3. Felipe Massa – 341.1kph
4. Mark Webber – 339.4kph
5. Lewis Hamilton – 344.3kph
6. Sebastian Vettel – 336kph

The advantage of Button’s set-up in a racing situation is that he should be able to carry higher speed through the corners, making it harder for a chasing car to get much of a tow off him. But even so a 12kph top speed deficit on a track that’s 70% full throttle is a worry.

Hamilton might only be fifth on the grid but it won’t be lost on him that he’s sandwiched between his closest championship rivals on the grid and has an opportunity to extend his points advantage over them.

The narrow width of the Monza track makes it difficult for drivers to gain a lot of places at the start. That’s bad news for Vitaly Petrov who’s been relegated to 20th on the grid and faces another long slog to bring his Renault home in the points. However he’s made some very good starts this year (as well as one conspicuously bad one in Canada).


All the drivers in the top ten are starting on soft tyres. As for those outside the top ten, it’s the usual story of being able to gamble on the harder tyre if they wish, but it doesn’t look like a good deal: they’ll be slower at the start and potentially vulnerable if the safety car comes out.

Bridgestone expect the first pit stops to come around lap 14. The Monza pit lane may be short but because the cars passing it are going so quickly drivers lose the best part of 20 seconds coming into the pits.

So they’ll be keeping an eye on what’s going on around 24 seconds behind them – and not pit until they know they’re going to come out in clean air.

Lap 14 is also around the time the front runners are likely to reach the first of the lapped cars. In final practice we saw a perfect example of Monza’s ‘traffic roulette’ in action: Hamilton caught a slower car on the back straight and used the slip stream to set the fastest lap of the session.

Then Alonso came along and caught another car a few metres later and had to follow it around the Parabolica, losing time. But a spot of bother in traffic may be the only thing that can get in his way tomorrow.

Otherwise, starting from pole position, alongside a car that’s 11.5kph slower in a straight line, and directly in front of his team mate (who, as we all know by now, is not allowed to beat him), it’s looking very good for Fernando Alonso.

How do you think the Italian Grand Prix will unfold? Who’s your tip for victory? And how will Button’s unusual set-up work for him in the race? Have your say in the comments.

2010 Italian Grand Prix

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