Massa’s chance to shine at home of Ferrari

2012 Italian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Monza, 2012Ferrari’s hopes of a home victory rest on Felipe Massa’s shoulders after Fernando Alonso hit trouble in qualifying.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, at Monza to watch his team, spelled out the importance of the race for Massa: “Felipe has a huge opportunity to win the race tomorrow, for him, for us, for his future.”

The start

Lewis Hamilton lines up on pole position for the fourth time this year and the second time at Monza. Will this be the year he scores his first win in the Italian Grand Prix?

A lot of that will depend on how well he gets away at the start. Before the Hungarian Grand Prix he revealed concerns about getting the MP4-27 off the line quickly. On that occasion he did it beautifully but at Spa he made a sluggish getaway before being clobbered by Romain Grosjean.

Monza has one of the longest runs to the first corner – 630m from pole position to the apex of the first part of the Rettifilio chicane. That means good starts are highly rewards and poor ones are even more costly.

Last year Fernando Alonso made a peach of a start from fourth on the grid to take the lead at the first corner. He’ll do well to repeat that from tenth on the grid but he sights will be fixed on fifth-placed Sebastian Vettel, having set himself the target of beating his closest championship rival this weekend.

Felipe Massa has made some excellent starts this year. With just the McLarens in front of him, he has a massive opportunity to take the fight to McLaren at the start.

The first corner can be very chaotic as it funnels into a narrow, tight and slow corner. Any drivers who cut the chicane will have to make sure they relinquish any advantage gained.

After the chaos of Spa the drivers should be on their best behaviour and avoid any repeat of last year’s carnage, when Vitantonio Liuzzi arrived at the first corner going backwards on he grass, and took two other cars out of the race.


Two stop strategies were the order of the day last year when Pirelli brought the soft and medium tyres. This year, with the medium and hard tyres on offer, one-stop strategies are more likely.

“Degradation is comparatively low, while we have the usual levels of wear on the front-right tyre due to the characteristics of the Parabolica,” explained Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery.

“We’ve reduced the tread gauge for the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix this year, which diminishes heat build-up and reduces blistering but accounts for the tyres taking slightly longer to warm up, particularly at Monza where downforce levels are extremely low.

“The benefit of that is improved durability and with only about 0.3 seconds per lap time difference between the two compounds, we could be in line to see quite a variety of different strategies tomorrow with both two stops and perhaps even one stop possible.”

Red Bull had excellent race pace in Spa and that could help Sebastian Vettel make progress from tenth on the grid. In 2010 – when the tyre were very conservative – he postponed his mandatory pit stop until the final lap of the race.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’24.211 1’24.394 (+0.183) 1’24.010 (-0.384)
2 Jenson Button McLaren 1’24.672 1’24.255 (-0.417) 1’24.133 (-0.122)
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’24.882 1’24.505 (-0.377) 1’24.247 (-0.258)
4 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’25.302 1’24.675 (-0.627) 1’24.540 (-0.135)
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’25.011 1’24.687 (-0.324) 1’24.802 (+0.115)
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’24.689 1’24.515 (-0.174) 1’24.833 (+0.318)
7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’25.151 1’24.742 (-0.409) 1’24.855 (+0.113)
8 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’25.317 1’24.683 (-0.634) 1’25.109 (+0.426)
9 Paul di Resta Force India 1’24.875 1’24.345 (-0.530) 1’24.304 (-0.041)
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’24.175 1’24.242 (+0.067) 1’25.678 (+1.436)
11 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’25.556 1’24.809 (-0.747)
12 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’25.300 1’24.901 (-0.399)
13 Bruno Senna Williams 1’25.135 1’25.042 (-0.093)
14 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’25.728 1’25.312 (-0.416)
15 Jerome D’Ambrosio Lotus 1’25.834 1’25.408 (-0.426)
16 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’25.649 1’25.441 (-0.208)
17 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’26.382
18 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’26.887
19 Timo Glock Marussia 1’27.039
20 Charles Pic Marussia 1’27.073
21 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’27.441
22 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’25.103 1’24.820 (-0.283)
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’27.629
24 Nico Hulkenberg Force India

Having been quickest in Q1 and Q2 Alonso believes he would have had an “easy” pole position without his problem in Q3. He said he was capable of lapping half a second faster than Hamilton’s pole position time.

Jenson Button said McLaren “didn’t consider” emulating Ferrari’s tactic of having their drivers slipstream each other: “It?s a difficult thing to get right and if you get it wrong you end up being compromised elsewhere around the lap.”

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton 27.040 (1) 28.596 (1) 28.158 (3)
Jenson Button 27.045 (2) 28.743 (5) 28.269 (10)
Felipe Massa 27.319 (6) 28.740 (4) 28.142 (2)
Michael Schumacher 27.345 (7) 28.801 (7) 28.303 (12)
Sebastian Vettel 27.527 (13) 28.825 (8) 28.226 (6)
Nico Rosberg 27.293 (4) 28.796 (6) 28.285 (11)
Kimi Raikkonen 27.362 (8) 28.949 (11) 28.312 (13)
Kamui Kobayashi 27.492 (10) 28.936 (10) 28.250 (7)
Paul di Resta 27.251 (3) 28.714 (3) 28.266 (9)
Fernando Alonso 27.317 (5) 28.686 (2) 28.109 (1)
Mark Webber 27.539 (15) 28.862 (9) 28.340 (14)
Sergio Perez 27.538 (14) 29.058 (13) 28.212 (4)
Bruno Senna 27.559 (16) 29.151 (15) 28.262 (8)
Daniel Ricciardo 27.492 (10) 29.372 (17) 28.446 (15)
Jerome D’Ambrosio 27.741 (17) 29.095 (14) 28.516 (16)
Jean-Eric Vergne 27.440 (9) 29.315 (16) 28.636 (17)
Heikki Kovalainen 27.814 (18) 29.655 (18) 28.788 (18)
Vitaly Petrov 27.952 (19) 29.871 (21) 28.890 (19)
Timo Glock 28.132 (22) 29.703 (19) 29.204 (21)
Charles Pic 28.093 (20) 29.812 (20) 29.078 (20)
Narain Karthikeyan 28.097 (21) 29.918 (22) 29.358 (23)
Pastor Maldonado 27.522 (12) 28.990 (12) 28.225 (5)
Pedro de la Rosa 28.161 (23) 30.024 (23) 29.350 (22)
Nico Hulkenberg 35.393 (24) 36.850 (24)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 342.7 (212.9)
2 Jerome D’Ambrosio Lotus 342.4 (212.8) -0.3
3 Jenson Button McLaren 342.3 (212.7) -0.4
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 341.6 (212.3) -1.1
5 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 341.1 (211.9) -1.6
6 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 341.0 (211.9) -1.7
7 Paul di Resta Force India 340.4 (211.5) -2.3
8 Sergio Perez Sauber 340.2 (211.4) -2.5
9 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 339.8 (211.1) -2.9
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 338.6 (210.4) -4.1
11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 338.5 (210.3) -4.2
12 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 338.1 (210.1) -4.6
13 Felipe Massa Ferrari 337.8 (209.9) -4.9
14 Bruno Senna Williams 336.7 (209.2) -6.0
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams 336.7 (209.2) -6.0
16 Timo Glock Marussia 336.4 (209.0) -6.3
17 Charles Pic Marussia 335.9 (208.7) -6.8
18 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 335.8 (208.7) -6.9
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 334.2 (207.7) -8.5
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 334.0 (207.5) -8.7
21 Mark Webber Red Bull 334.0 (207.5) -8.7
22 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 333.8 (207.4) -8.9
23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 333.5 (207.2) -9.2
24 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 333.3 (207.1) -9.4

The straight-line speed disadvantage of the Red Bulls may not be as much of a problem for them as it first appears. It’s less than half the deficit he had last year when he won.

On that occasion Vettel was over 21kph slower than the quickest drivers in qualifying. But come his shorter gear ratios meant he was better-equipped for the race – something Button pointed out after today’s qualifying.

Button led Vettel home at Spa and the Red Bull’s pace in the second half of the race did not go unnoticed by McLaren.

Your view on the Italian Grand Prix

Who do you think will win in Italy? Can Massa take the fight to the McLarens?

And what can Alonso salvage from tenth on the grid? Have your say in the comments.

2012 Italian Grand Prix

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Image ?? Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo

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52 comments on Massa’s chance to shine at home of Ferrari

  1. OOliver said on 8th September 2012, 23:26

    Nice choice of words to instill confidence in your driver.

  2. I think you’ve made a slight error @keithcollantine :

    Red Bull had excellent race pace and that could help Sebastian Vettel make progress from tenth on the grid

    I think you’ve tried to say two things in one sentence; it should either read “that helped Vettel make progress from tenth” or “that could help Vettel make progress from fifth on the grid”.

  3. F1Yankee (@f1yankee) said on 8th September 2012, 23:40

    The straight-line speed disadvantage of the Red Bulls may not be as much of a problem for them as it first appears. It’s less than half the deficit he had last year when he won.

    On that occasion Vettel was over 21kph slower than the quickest drivers in qualifying. But come his shorter gear ratios meant he was better-equipped for the race – something Button pointed out after today’s qualifying.

    ah, but hamilton was crippled by his short gearing in that race. he was lucky to match schumacher’s speed with the draft and drs.

    …another reason i don’t like rev limits.

  4. So if Massa is third with a non championship contenter Like Schumi fourth and Alonso fifth, would Massa give up two spots to let Alonso through? I think he might…

  5. robk23 (@robk23) said on 9th September 2012, 0:02

    This looks like it might be interesting, it’s going to be a good day with this and the GP3 title decider tomorrow (Evans vs Abt)!

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 9th September 2012, 1:06

      I would not have picked Abt for the title a month ago. I thought da Costa was a much better pick.

      Mind you, he basically needs to win and pick up the fastest lap while Evans fails to score in order to be crowned champion.

      • robk23 (@robk23) said on 9th September 2012, 7:42

        Evans starts at the back due to his DNF while Abt starts eighth, it’s unlikely Abt will be champion but its possible from those starting positions. Abt won from 7th yesterday (with the help of problems for Evans and da Costa however).

  6. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 9th September 2012, 1:04

    Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo says Felipe Massa as a “huge opportunity to renew his contract” at Monza.

    I think that’s a little bit more accurate.

  7. Himmat Singh. said on 9th September 2012, 4:40

    I am no fan of Ferrari, but alas I hope Massa wins tomorrow. He needs it. He even deserves it I think. For too long a time he has suffered in the shadows on the ‘mighty’ and highly snobbish Alonso. Who does that clown thinks he is? Mocking his team mate who qualified 3rd by saying “I could’ve gone 5 tenths quicker than Lewis”.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 9th September 2012, 11:29

      He has out qualified Massa every race except this one this season. Even Massa would struggle to defend that one. He is a better driver and has delivered more success to the team. Massa only deserves it if Ferrari deem him good enough, it isn’t a charity.

  8. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 9th September 2012, 11:26

    I can’t see Massa winning this on unfortunately, by virtue of Hamilton being ahead of him. I think Massa could beat Button but that might be about the best of it.

    I’m intrigued to see what Schumacher can do from 4th. He usually makes good starts. Whether or not the car will fall to bits is another question!

    Alonso, hmmmmm. I reckon he will do well. He’s a smart racer and I can only imagine him having a headache if he runs up behind Vettel. I wouldn’t put a podium out of the question for him and Ferrari are likely to use Massa to aid him in that mission (and rightfully so).

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