It’s time for Formula 1 to reach its highest speeds of the year as the sport heads to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. Can Ferrari win on home turf? Will Red Bull continue their winning streak?
And, are Mercedes back in victory contention? Here’s what to watch out for at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix!
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The fastest track of the year
Monza is a high-speed, old-school, classic circuit. The venue has gained legendary status thanks to its incredible speeds and its enduring tenure on the Formula 1 calendar. Since the sport’s formation in 1950, the Italian Grand Prix has not been held at Monza only once. With the nickname ‘Temple of Speed’, it’s no surprise that Monza offers up the fastest average lap speed of the season. Lewis Hamilton set the fastest ever lap in Formula 1 history here in 2020. Due to the latest generation of cars being slightly slower than the previous era, we won’t be seeing
record-setting lap times this weekend – but the speeds will still be ferocious. Straight line speed and engine power will be key to success this weekend. Red Bull are the red-hot favourites to have the advantage.
Unexpected winners in recent years
While the usual frontrunners are the obvious favourites heading into the weekend, it’s worth pointing out that in the last two years, the Italian Grand Prix has had two unexpected winners.
Pierre Gasly took his maiden victory at the track with the AlphaTauri team in 2020, while Daniel Ricciardo ended McLaren’s almost decade long win-less period in 2021. In both years, the title contenders suffered misfortune. A time penalty put Lewis Hamilton out of contention in 2020, while he and Max Verstappen dramatically collided last year. Could another surprise be in store this weekend?
Will Verstappen sail to a fifth successive win?
Max Verstappen’s winning ways continued last week at the Dutch Grand Prix. Now searching for his fifth consecutive win, Verstappen holds a 109-point advantage in the title race. It seems that it’s a case of when, not if, Verstappen will claim his second title. He will have a mathematical chance of doing so at the next race, the Singapore Grand Prix in October, should he out-score Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz by a sufficient margin at Monza. Red Bull’s straight line speed should give them the upper hand at the Italian Grand Prix. However, the team will be wary of a worrying statistic: they have not finished on the podium here in almost a decade. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were the last Red Bull drivers to stand on the podium at Monza back in 2013. Will the team finally end their Italian Grand Prix podium drought?
Ferrari back on form on home soil
The expectant Tifosi will be out in force at the Italian Grand Prix. A weekend crowd of 350,000 is anticipated, which will be a record-breaking figure in Monza’s long history. Ferrari will celebrate their home weekend in style and run a special livery, celebrating Monza’s centenary year and the 75th anniversary of Ferrari. The Tifosi haven’t had much to cheer about at Monza in recent years. In 2020, both drivers retired from the race, while 2021 saw Charles Leclerc come home fourth and Carlos Sainz sixth. There hasn’t been much to cheer for the Scuderia recently this season, either. The latest in a string of catastrophes for the team saw only three wheels prepared for Sainz’s pit stop at the Dutch Grand Prix, costing him valuable time during the race. Even if Ferrari are operating without errors, there’s no guarantee that the Scuderia will present a challenge to Red Bull at the Italian Grand Prix. Leclerc has confessed that he expects a “difficult” weekend for the team in Monza. Ferrari’s last home win came in 2019, when Leclerc took victory. Can he or Sainz find their way to the top step of the podium this weekend?
Are Mercedes back?
They may be focussed on the team ahead, but Ferrari also need to be looking over their shoulders as Mercedes continue to close the championship gap. The Silver Arrows appeared to be back on form at Zandvoort, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both in the mix for victory until a late race Safety Car period. It might not be plain sailing for the team this weekend, however. Porpoising has been Mercedes’ weak point in 2022 and the long straights at Monza could see a resurgence of those issues. The low downforce track is similar in nature to Spa, where the team were well off the pace of the frontrunners. Nevertheless, Team Principal Toto Wolff has said he’s confident that the team will avoid a repeat of those problems in Monza. Mercedes have finished on the Italian Grand Prix podium in all but one of the last eight seasons, winning five of those races. Will they be in the fight to score their first win of the 2022 season?
Perez and Bottas have the longest Monza scoring streaks
Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas have the longest unbroken scoring streaks at the Italian Grand Prix. Both drivers have picked up points at Monza in every season since 2014. For Perez, that’s despite him starting outside of the top ten twice in the last four years. He’s yet to repeat his podium finish here with Sauber in 2012, when he finished as runner-up. His best result since then came last year, coming home in fifth place. With Red Bull looking likely to be at the front of the pack, Perez will have a good chance of returning to the Monza podium. Bottas, meanwhile, finished on the podium last year despite starting at the back on the field. He has a 100% finishing record at Monza, and has finished in the top six in all of the last eight years. He’s unlikely to score another top six result with Alfa Romeo in 2022 – but the Finn will be keen for a good result following an unlucky run of three successive retirements in the last three races.