2012 Formula One Italian Grand Prix Preview II
The thirteenth round of the present Formula 1 season takes us to the iconic and possibly the only remaining great high speed circuit of yesteryear, the Autodrome Nazionale Monza. With the season thrown into unprecedented turmoil by the last race weekend at the Spa, we have several questions and very few answers in the build up to the Italian Grand Prix.
Clearly, as Belgium proved, anything is possible right now. The heroes of one weekend can dissolve into nothingness in the weekend after, while underdogs today can rise to the occasion and spoil the game for the favorites tomorrow.
However, one thing is certain: all eyes will be on the prancing horse. Indeed, it cannot get more Italian than a Ferrari driver heading into Monza with a 24 point lead in the driver’s tally. Because all said and done, Monza is Ferrari’s backyard. Monza is where all the Ferrari fans are. Or where they aspire to be. And a Ferrai upset in one of Monza’s high speed straights will surely break a million hearts in the grandstands and worldwide.
Alonso has it all going for him this season, but stuff like the near fatal incident at Spa would have set him thinking twice about his chances at Monza. And the fact that the F2012 is still not the best car on the grid, can sow seeds of doubts in the minds of people. Couple that with the question as to what Ferrari can do to fix Alonso’s crushed F2012, and you have serious questions suddenly being raised about the home team. However, Massa’s unexpectedly impressive pace at Spa can help answer those with some degree of lacklustre confidence.
Talking of high speed straights, we can surely expect the Red Bulls to be among the top runners. The car is top notch, and it delivers when it needs to. And going by this season, they’ve been pretty impressive throughout, whatever the track or weather conditions may have been. With Spa, Vettel has closed the gap between him and Alonso, and he can still ride on his hope for a third world championship if he manages to close the gap even further this weekend. His pace in Belgium, coupled with Red Bull’s epic single stop strategy would have definitely furrowed several rival brows. It remains to be seen if Red Bull can work with all that expectation in a rival’s home circuit with equal satisfaction or not.
For Mark Webber, who had a pretty ordinary last weekend, he will be trying to capitalise on all of his experience and give it his best again at Monza. He is still up there among the top title contenders for the season and as we have seen him win before, he won’t definitely play second fiddle to Vettel anymore.
Which brings us to the most difficult team to assess. McLaren. Agreed, they have been one of the most successful teams in history; but one thing that they definitely haven not been this season, is consistent. Stray wins here, podiums there and atrocious performances (including pit stop mess ups, driver failures) elsewhere have seen them trudge through this season with very little apparent ambition and aim.
Of course, Lewis can still try for a title run in the closing half of the season, but Jenson, despite two wins this season, including a definitive one at Belgium, needs a miracle to stay in contention with the rest of the pack. However, his surprising choice of a low downforce wing in Spa, which produced good results and his inclination to try out the same this weekend, would have raised some eyebrows. Needless to say, Monza will be very crucial for both, more so for Lewis than for Button, but bigger on the whole for McLaren who will definitely want to stay in the race for the constructor’s title this year. But then again, speaking of constructor’s titles, the way Red Bull has been performing this season, it doesn’t look like any other team can upset their apple cart any more, come what may. And oh, a word of advice for Lewis – maybe tweeting less might help get better results, who knows?
One team, I can always write so much about: Lotus. And how. Though their result somehow seems tied to whether it rains or not, and going by the fact that Monza has sunny forecasts for the weekend ahead, we can expect them to be at the usual best. Speaking of which : Kimi Raikkonen needs to win. Period. It is baffling how he’s not won in this season yet, despite scoring all those impressive podiums now and then : the sum total of which has taken him to the 4th position on the driver’s tally, just 1 point shy of Webber’s 3rd. A single win now would take his game right up to the likes of the table leaders and give him a chance for a second world title. Which, of course, would be epic, to say the least.
Unfortunately (or maybe not) Romain Grosjean won’t be there breathing down anyone’s neck at Monza, both literally and figuratively – thanks to his one race ban resulting out of the four car pile up that he caused at the first corner last Sunday. It is sad, because the young lad did have a lot of promise in him with a fast car at a track which rewards nothing but pure speed. Stepping into his shoes will be Belgian driver Jerome d’Ambrosio. Yes, he is Belgian, and may possibly be the first Belgian driver in history to score a point in Formula 1. Oh and I repeat, he might sound Italian, but he is Belgian. Which brings me to a rather significant observation, that this will be the first Italian Grand Prix in forty years to not have an Italian driver on the grid. How will the Italian fans react to this? Let us wait and see.
To wrap up, here’s a thought on Pastor Maldonado, the infamous troublemaker this season. He really does need to get a hold on himself. He hasn’t tasted bad medicine yet, but if he continues his literal track record of crashes and jump starts, he will have some thing distasteful forced down his gullet very soon. Something worse than ten grid penalties that he presently goes into Monza with. And I dare not think what it might be.
So that’s that. Monza. That’s where all the excitement this weekend will be. Let’s hope the Pirellis stay put in the heat and that the field drives through the first corner.
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