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

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).

Strategy

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.

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

  1. f1yankee said on 11th September 2010, 22:34

    well, i expected red bull to defy the prevailing logic and continue to set the pace. wrong!

    i also expected hamilton to have the measure of button, 9 out of 10 times. wrong again!

  2. STRFerrari4Ever said on 11th September 2010, 22:38

    This race is set up perfectly to be a phenomenal one. Will the Ferrari’s have the pace to stay ahead of the McLaren’s and possibly the Red Bull’s?
    It’s going to take one hell of a drive to win this race I’m telling you. Personally I want Vettel to win but he’s going to have to stay out of trouble drive his heart out and maximise every opportunity.

    I see a potential Webber, Hamilton collision at some point in the first lap.

    Also the STR’s could be entertaining with their immense straight line speed. I’m expecting them to overtake some cars into the first and second chicane since they’ve been very fast through S1 all weekend.

  3. Hamilton is in a hell of a sandwich for the first corner. You have Mr. Wide-Car Webber ahead, and behind Vettel behind looking to shish-kebab anything in his path.

  4. Dr_Jones said on 12th September 2010, 0:42

    This will be a Ferrari 1-2 on Monza. And I would like to expect the underdogs will win the next remaining races – whether Alonso, Button & Vettel.

    Wouldn’t be nice if we have a 5 car horse race until the end instead of 2? (Webber vs Hamilton). Just like in 2008 when 3rd placer Raikkonen won the WDC. ;)

  5. I’ve got to admit I’m unsure about this race. It looks like it’ll either be a fantastic race or an incredibly boring one. The mixed up positions and strategies suggest it should be good but Button’s not exactly got a great setup for overtaking and Webber, Hamilton and Vettel are far enough back that its entirely possibly that they’d be out by the end of the first lap (hardest braking of the season, and they’ve not tried it yet on full tanks!).
    If the positions are the same at the end of the first lap though (which i highly doubt, but if the front is relatively unchanged) I expect a good race.

  6. José Baudaier said on 12th September 2010, 1:22

    I’m sad I won’t be able to watch the race tomorrow. Does anybody know a way to record an internet stream, or somewhere I can watch/download the full race after it’s finished?

  7. Alex Bkk said on 12th September 2010, 1:22

    I not really sure who has the bigger problem here, Webber or Hamilton. I’m not sure that Webber can do anything about what is in front of him at the start, so I think we can expect a defensive move to try to block Hamilton. But Hamilton knows that his best chance to to get by Mark is at the start and he has to do it with out taking his eyes off of Vettel.

    My attention at tomorrows start will be on cars in the 4th-6th positions. It should be a great race and one I hope will be without too much controversy.

  8. Staffan said on 12th September 2010, 2:51

    Anyone more than me that thinks it will be a SC after lap 1?

  9. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 12th September 2010, 3:36

    Can’t wait for turn 1 action with heavy fuels, I think Alonso to win with Massa with him & Button 3rd. It will be interesting to see how Button play in the race with a high downforce setting.I don’t think that the Red Bull can be on the podium on raw pace so they just have to catch the maximum that are thrown to them.

  10. As a few poster have mentioned, I fear 1st corner mayhem.
    It could have a big effect on the outcome of the championship, not a sporting outcome!
    They are always changing the rules… so why don’t they adopt rolling starts like Nascar, Le Mans?

  11. Charles Carroll said on 12th September 2010, 3:59

    I predict Ferrari engine/car trouble and Alonso not finishing the race.

    I also predict the Yam to pull over at the parabolica and have a nice picnic lunch.

  12. Ricardo said on 12th September 2010, 6:03

    The big question we should be asking is who will Vettel run into this afternoon, I think it must be about Hamilton’s turn. Watch-out Lewis he’s right beside you……..

  13. Jared404 said on 12th September 2010, 6:06

    That first chicane reminds me of a shop sale. Everybody piles in at 100 miles an hour and on the other side they come out bedraggled in single file.

  14. John H said on 12th September 2010, 9:10

    Button has earnt more respect this season than even winning a championship gave him by staying in touch with Hamilton by using his head, even though it seems clear he doesn’t quit match Lewis for speed.

    I think for Jenson that’s what this season was about. Not necessarily beating Hamilton in the points table (although that would have been nice) but showing that, yes, he was a worthy winner of the WDC.

  15. Phil4sport said on 12th September 2010, 9:58

    If i was Hamilton driving into the first corner i’d be very worried because that lunatic Vettel is behind me. That promises to be the first collision unless Hammy overtakes a slow starting Webber. Then it’ll be Webber taken out by Vettel again!

    • Jared404 said on 12th September 2010, 11:00

      Can I have Webber in the “who will Vettel run into this time sweep” please … I hear they don’t get on.

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