Ferrari arrive home with Alonso leading championship

2012 Italian Grand Prix preview

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Monza, 2011Monza means three things: heritage, speed and Ferrari.

The sense of history from the parkland circuit and its crumbling banking, last used for F1 over 50 years ago, is unmissable. As is the screaming speed of the cars as they nudge 350kph (217mph on the straights).

And Ferrari’s passionate legions of followers turn the stands into a sea of red. Their sense of expectation can only be increaseed by the fact that this year, for the first time since 2003, the drivers’ championship is yet to be decided and is being led by a Ferrari pilot.

Fernando Alonso has tasted success here twice in the past. However after his 2010 triumph for Ferrari he acknowledged the result went down better with the crowd than it had three years earlier when he won for McLaren.

The F2012 is competitive enough that a home win can’t be ruled out, but Alonso is up against some tough opposition, particularly from McLaren. Leaving Monza with his championship lead intact might be a more achievable target.

Safety and driving standards are a major talking point ahead of the race following the Spa shunt and Romain Grosjean’s one-race ban. Monza saw a destructive first-lap shunt last year too, when home driver Vitantonio Liuzzi smashed into Vitaly Petrov and Nico Rosberg.

Monza has seen dome devastating first-lap crashes in the past, not least the one in 2000 which claimed the life of marshal Paolo Ghislimberti. Grosjean’s ban shows that any driver who transgresses the weekend is likely to be with harshly.

Monza circuit information

Lap length 5.793km (3.6 miles)
Distance 53 laps (306.7km/190.6 miles)
Lap record* 1’21.046 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)
Fastest lap 1’19.525 (Juan Pablo Montoya, 2004)
Tyres Hard and Medium

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Monza track data in full

As at Spa, a more conservative choice of tyres is the order of the day at Monza: the medium tyre remains but the soft is swapped for the hard.

Last year two-stop strategies were the order of the day for most of the field. Whether the change in tyre compounds will lead drivers back towards single-stop strategies, as was the norm in 2010, will depend on what the weather does.

Pirelli’s motor sport director Paul Hembery said: “Ambient temperatures can be very high in Italy, which places further demands on the tyres, so we would normally expect two pit stops.” A pit stop costs around 24 seconds, higher than average, which adds to the attraction of one-stopping.

Last year’s race was the first two feature two DRS zones and activation points per lap. It remains to be seen if that arrangement will remain for this year.

Italian Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Vettel gave Red Bull their first Monza win last year. The high-speed nature of the circuit has tended not to play to the main strength of their cars – superior downforce – as it usually comes at the expense of top speed.

But the gains Vettel was able to make in Monza’s low-speed chicanes more than made up for that shortcoming. Even when he dropped behind early leader Alonso, Vettel was able to pass the Ferrari on the outside of Curva Grande – despite Alonso edgeing him onto the grass.

The Red Bull clearly does not enjoy the same performance edge this year, so it could be a tougher weekend for Vettel and Webber this time. However Vettel was able to salvage an excellent second in Spa despite not reaching Q3.

McLaren

Jenson Button, McLaren, Monza, 2010Hamilton and Button went for opposing set-ups in Spa: Button preferring the low-downforce wing, Hamilton taking the high-downforce version. Given their qualifying performances, it’s doubtful Hamilton will make the same decision here.

A similar situation unfolded at Monza two years ago when McLaren were using their rear-wing stalling F-duct. Button opted for a high-downforce set-up (pictured) and nearly won the race.

Continuing the parallel with the Spa race, Hamilton retired on the first lap, so we never got to see how the different approaches would have played out.

Such was the margin McLaren showed in Belgium they must arrive in Italy as early favourites, eyeing a third straight win.

Ferrari

Alonso’s first-lap retirement at Spa was a disaster for Ferrari fans who will be anxious not to see a repeat on home ground.

But Ferrari have cause for optimism. Felipe Massa ran some strong laps during the race at Spa and was able to pass and hold off Webber’s Red Bull for fifth.

Mercedes

Schumacher enjoyed one of his finest post-comeback drives at Monza last year, holding third place in the early stages and defending resolutely – perhaps a touch too firmly at times – from Hamilton. He finished fifth.

Mercedes tried and failed to run single-stop strategies at Spa, where Schumacher’s combative side remained much in evidence. He’s enjoying a strong run of form relative to his team mate at the moment, having beaten Rosberg in four of the last five races.

Lotus

Jerome D'Ambrosio, Lotus, Mugello, 2012There will be much interest in what Jerome D’Ambrosio can do as he makes a one-off appearance at Lotus in place of the suspended Romain Grosjean.

D’Ambrosio drove the E20 during the Mugello test earlier this year. Monza is a short and straightforward lap which should offer him a reasonable chance to get up to speed in practice.

Given how competitive the car has been a solid points finish would be a fair target.

Force India

Spa was a windfall race in terms of points for Force India, moving them back in front of Williams for the first time since Malaysia.

Whether they can stay there will depend as much on the performance of their drivers as it will the Williams pair continuing to throw points away.

Sauber

Following their best-ever qualifying performance on Saturday, the consequences of the first-corner crash were heartbreaking for Sauber. But the have the potential to do well here again – their drivers hit the highest top speeds at Spa.

Unusually, both drivers dropped out with gearbox problems at this race last year. Monza is a particular favourite of Sergio Perez following his two wins from 14th on the grid in Formula Three.

Toro Rosso

Italy’s other F1 team capitalised on the Spa shunt for their biggest points haul of the year so far. It will be hard for them to repeat that form here, but they also had strong top speed at Spa and may be in with a chance of scraping into the top ten.

Williams

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2012Another race, another hat-full of lost points for Williams at Spa. Pastor Maldonado will start on the back foot at Monza as he has a pair of five-place grid drops hanging over his head.

Caterham

Both Caterham drivers had problems in the pits in Italy – Kovalainen collided with another car, resulting in a fine for the team.

They need to fix more than just that to get on terms with the midfield, though having KERS should ensure they are more competitive at Monza than they were last year.

HRT

HRT will make history by a giving Chinese driver, Ma Qing Hua, his first run in an F1 car at an official race weekend.

Ma, a member of HRT’s Driver Development Programme, has mainly raced in Chinese Touring Cars of late, winning the 1600cc category last year. His last entry in a major single seater championship was two starts for Team China in Superleague Formula two years ago, where he was lapped in both races at the Ordos circuit in China.

Marussia

Marussia made clear progress with their upgraded car in Spa.

But Glock urged the team to stay realistic for this weekend given Monza’s particular demands: “We do need to keep our expectations in check though as Monza is a completely different challenge due to the low downforce set-up required and realistically we did not look too strong in Canada, which calls for the same type of set-up.”

2012 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 5 4.27 1 11 11/12 Form guide
Mark Webber 7.17 5.17 1 11 12/12 Form guide
Jenson Button 6.75 8.58 1 18 12/12 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 5.42 5.9 1 19 10/12 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 6 3.73 1 9 11/12 Form guide
Felipe Massa 11.25 10.36 4 16 11/12 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 8.5 7.33 3 10 6/12 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 8.92 8.17 1 15 12/12 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 7.92 5.25 2 14 12/12 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 6.83 6 2 18 7/12 Form guide
Paul di Resta 11.5 9.73 6 14 11/12 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 11.42 9.73 4 15 11/12 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 10.75 9.89 4 18 9/12 Form guide
Sergio Perez 12.92 8.33 2 14 9/12 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 13.83 12.82 9 17 11/12 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 16.67 12.73 8 16 11/12 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 10.75 12.22 1 19 9/12 Form guide
Bruno Senna 14.08 12.09 6 22 11/12 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.17 17.18 13 23 11/12 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 18.75 16.44 13 19 9/12 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 21.45 19.89 17 22 9/11 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23.27 20.29 15 23 7/11 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.82 17.7 14 22 10/11 Form guide
Charles Pic 21.42 18.33 15 20 9/12 Form guide

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2012 Italian Grand Prix

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Images ?é?® Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, McLaren/Hoch Zwei, Lotus F1 Team/LAT, Williams/LAT

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25 comments on Ferrari arrive home with Alonso leading championship

  1. Nick.UK (@) said on 5th September 2012, 16:50

    I’m hopiing Kimi can secure a decent finish. He is the form driver at the moment, having taken more points than anyone else during the last 4 races combined.

  2. caci99 (@caci99) said on 5th September 2012, 17:07

    I don’t think Red Bull can do anything this race, doesn’t look this track suits them, and as pointed out in the article they don’t enjoy any more the advantage of last year. McLaren look very strong, but can Lewis put aside the twitter story? Alonso and Kimi will be there up front, while I think that the Sauber will mix things up as well.
    Meanwhile I hope Schumacher will thrill in this race as he did last year.

    • It looked the same last year but Vettel won. It’s true that Spa showed once again that their top speed, even with DRS open, is lower than other teams’, but I won’t rule them out.

      • caci99 (@caci99) said on 5th September 2012, 18:24

        @fixy Yes, you’re right, it can never be ruled out such a team with two good drivers. But if the other teams are going to plan, I find it difficult for RB. In SPA looked like Ferrari had the pace of RB, McLaren is faster at the moment, so in Monza with less downforce required it’s not going to be their best weekend, I think.

        • @caci99 I think Red Bull are actually in a worse position than last year’s Monza race, when they had the best overall package. Despite the reduced importance of aerodynamics they won the race. This year they have one of the slowest cars, and makes them lose some tenths in comparison with the others. But while last year their lead was usually enormous and was cut for Monza, as the teams are so close this year a few tenths can make the difference. The Mercedes engine is the fastest overall, and Ferrari aren’t slow either. Alonso and Massa have shown good form here in the past years, and that helps. Perhaps Red Bull’s pace will improve in the race were the speed will have a minor importance in regards to qualifying.

    • They had a lower downforce package last year, I wonder if they’ll go for a more agrresively low downforce set-up this year. A longer 7th gear could help them in the race.

      • Kimi4WDC said on 6th September 2012, 1:31

        Of course, Spa was compromised by wet Friday, other wise Red Bull and Lotus would have all the straight line speed they wanted. High down-force set-up was a quick fix for not solved issues.

        Still I reckon it’s going to be so close, one small mistake during qualifying and you out of Q3 :)

  3. Jeanrien (@jeanrien) said on 5th September 2012, 17:08

    Can’t wait until friday for this to begin …
    McLaren has to be the team to beat after the last two races.
    I wouldn’t tip mercedes to do too well here, we have seen again in Spa that they are competitive only on one tyre spec, the other being damage limitation, suspect the same at Monza.
    Sauber definitly on a high, great straight line speed at Spa and amongst the top 5 for both car in the slower sector 2, could be great to see them up front.
    Looking at D’ambrosio time at Mugello, he did quite well on a “one day test” thus I expect him to be scoring his first point(s) in F1.
    And beware of an HRT, but that’s the one with the orange flashing light warning from Narai …

  4. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 5th September 2012, 17:47

    Alonso can win this time, but my hopeful prediction goes for Vettel. Any of them has a little more of possibilities now than one of the two crashkids is banned

  5. Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 5th September 2012, 17:55

    I think that the Mclarens are favorite for the victory in Monza , their car is exceptional good in almost every type of circuit but the bad news for them is the good form of Jenson who will be snatching some points from Lewis (Alonso’s most dangerous rival)
    As for Red bull i think that their car know is slightly slower than the F2012 now giving their driver’s performances in the qualifying in spa ,the performance of Felipe who managed to finish ahead of Webber & the fact that the track doesn’t suit them (there’s no exhaust blowing to use in the chicanes)
    Lotus chance this week will be only Kimi Raikonnen with all my respects to Jerome D’Ambrosio but i think that if he manages to finish in the top 10 that will be a decent performance by him maybe a podium to Kimi is a realistic goal
    As for Ferrari i think that they cannot be ruled for the win considering how well Alonso has been doing in Monza in the last years ,the tifosi will give them an extra 10 or 15 horsepower ,all the teams will bring their unique low downforce package for Monza & Ferrari’s upgrades this year seems to work very well ,without ignoring the fact that history is playing to their side (18 victories if i’am not wrong ,remember Monza 1988)
    maybe i’m very optimistic but i think that i don’t represent the exception as a Ferrari die hard fan

  6. smokinjoe (@smokinjoe) said on 5th September 2012, 18:06

    whats the weather forecast? if its a dry race i dont see any body can beat mclaren with the pace they got and specially in form button

  7. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 5th September 2012, 18:08

    To be honest I don’t think Red Bull will do as bad here as many people are saying. It’s just a hunch – but one I had last year too, and that turned out to be true. So I’m banking on another correct premonition here :P

    • Andrew81 (@andrew81) said on 5th September 2012, 20:42

      I agree. They were up there among the fastest in S1 and S3 in Spa, probably because the car has the best traction. Though their absolute top speed isn’t the fastest I expect them to be quickest over the lap because of their superior traction.

  8. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 5th September 2012, 20:44

    My favourites for Sunday are Alonso and Button. Alonso because I just have a feeling he will do well this weekend, and Button because this circuit is very good to him: he finished second in the last three editions, and on the official F1 site he said that the last two years he got a really good balance in the car. What’s more, I think his smooth driving style is suited to a track where you need to put in a clean lap (in qualifying). That he and McLaren are the form people does not require any motivation.

    I’m hoping Hamilton will be fighting for the victory as well, but he’s on a pretty bad run at the moment. Out of the last five races, he has retired three times, finished eight once, and of course scored that impressive victory in Hungary. Although he is largely blameless for his recent misfortunes, so many retirements cannot be good for a driver’s confidence (not to mention his tweeting faux pas). Also, Monza has been one of Lewis’s worst tracks (the worst?). His first visit in 2007 resulted in a good second place (including a daring pass on Raikkonen for second), in 2008 everything went wrong, in 2009 it was going pretty well up until 3 kilometres from the finish, and in 2010 he didn’t get 3 kilometres from the start. Last year’s fourth place was a finish, at least, but it was galling for him to see Button pass both him and Schumacher when he had been stuck behind Michael for half the race. Still, as I said, I’m hoping this year he will break with the past and win it, and I have faith that he has the speed to do so.

    I don’t see any other drivers feature at the front. I don’t expect Monza’s high speeds to favour either Lotus or Red Bull, especially since last year Red Bull’s low-downforce configuration seemed was more effective than this year’s (I believe last year they were only slow on the straights because of short gear ratios, similar to Hamilton). I won’t count out Vettel for a podium, but a win feels unlikely to me.

    As for Sauber, it will be interesting to see if they can repeat their performance of last Saturday, or whether they benefited from other teams not getting their act together in a single hour of dry practice. I did notice, though, that before he was taken out, Kobayashi had another poor start, like he did in China. Do those front row grid slots make his nervous?

  9. have tipped raikkonen 5 times to win this season, lotus is consistent at every race doesnt mean they have a fast car, they wont win in monza, kimi will probably get another podium and continue his fine run of podiums this season, then after the race lotus will celebrate finishing second, the media hype lotus up too much

  10. Lin1876 (@lin1876) said on 5th September 2012, 22:10

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Sauber will be on the podium. They had great pace at Spa until Grosjean had a few seconds of brain fade, and they’ve been consistently fast in a straight line this year. Both these factors suggest they could do very, very well at Monza.

    Beyond that, McLaren are probably favourites after Button’s win at Spa, with Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari thereabouts. With five teams in the running this weekend, it could be a properly epic race, even if it is short.

  11. Pedro Costa (@pnunocosta) said on 5th September 2012, 23:08

    My prediction for this race is Button-Ham-Alonso by this order. This is a Mercedes Benz track and Mclaren as at this moment the best chassis and engine.
    Unfortunatelly Lotus won´t have a chance due to their most evident lack of top speed, even if the change to the aero configuration will hide a little bit this problem. A top 5 would be sweet for Kimi.
    RB has a similar problem to Lotus and it will be more evident here than it was at Spa, even so Vettel usually goes well at this venue.
    It would be nice to see Alonso win at “home soil”, he kind of deserves it, because if it wasn´t the Spa incident he probably would be 45 points ahead in the championship.
    Not counting on a fantastic and thrilling race, Monza usually doesn´t give us that kind of race, altough the track configuration suggests the opposite.

    • Kimi4WDC said on 6th September 2012, 1:40

      Lotus is one of the fastest cars on straight lines during this season, they admittedly went the wrong way on set-up due to wet Friday.

      I’m looking forward to see what they got, after they will able to do their Friday homework.

  12. Kimi4WDC said on 6th September 2012, 1:44

    I reckon it’s going to be one of those damage limitation Grand Prixs for Alonso. Unless some incidents or failures will plague the contenders, Alonso will loose further ground to all of them. Sauber is going to be faster than Ferrari!!!

    Mercedes going to suffer, their tyres just don’t last with low down-force.

  13. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 6th September 2012, 18:10

    I can’t see RBR enjoying success here like they did last year, they just don’t seem to have the performance advantage necessary to regain ground on the corners. It’s hard to look past McLaren at the moment based on results alone and the E20 should have superb pace on this circuit with temperatures that may favour them too. Hopefully Sauber can bag some decent points too as no doubt they will be up there in qualifying.

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