2017 Italian Grand Prix Preview

Last weekend saw history in Formula One. On his 200th Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton equalled the 68 career pole position record set by Michael Schumacher with an incredible performance and setting the new track record for Spa-Francorchamps along the way. In the race, Hamilton was equally supreme in keeping the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel behind as the four-time World Champion was never more than 2 seconds behind him throughout. Championships the frustrations of Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen was evident in the early stages. The latter suffered his 6th mechanical DNF of the season as his car simply lost power. The former, felt the sinking feeling of a lack of power in his Honda engine as car after car found their way past him with the Spaniard telling his team to leave him alone at one stage. The Force India drivers were the major talking point. They had already banged wheels on the slope down to Eau Rouge on the opening lap when the collided again on lap 29. Sergio Perez tried to block his teammate getting past but succeeded in picking up a rear right tyre puncture and front wing damage for his Esteban Ocon. The contact and resulting debris brought out the Safety Car which became the defining moment of the race.

Lewis Hamilton takes the chequered flag to win the Belgian Grand Prix [Image from The Guardian]
Lewis Hamilton takes the chequered flag to win the Belgian Grand Prix [Image from The Guardian]

From the restart, Hamilton did well to defend from Vettel who picked up a tow after climbing Eau Rouge and almost had the move done. However, the Mercedes man held the inside line very well indeed. Kevin Magnussen squandered a points scoring position by locking up under braking at the restart and running wide. Daniel Ricciardo meanwhile, was the big winner. The Red Bull looked comfortable for 5th before hand. At the restart, he drove daringly to pass both Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas along the straight up to Las Combes and took 3rd place. He managed to hold on for the podium; Renault. Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag to win on his 200th Grand Prix start. He became only the fourth driver to do so after Michael Schumacher (2004 European Grand Prix), Jenson Button (2011 Hungarian Grand Prix) and Nico Rosberg (2016 Singapore Grand Prix).

2017 Belgian Grand Prix Result

1st Lewis Hamilton 1:24:42.820, 2nd Sebastian Vettel +2.358, 3rd Daniel Ricciardo +10.791, 4th Kimi Raikkonen +14.471, 5th Valtteri Bottas + 16.456, 6th Nico Hulkenberg +28.087, 7th Romain Grosjean +31.553, 8th Felipe Massa +36.649, 9th Esteban Ocon +38.154, 10th Carlos Sainz +39.447, 11th Lance Stroll +48.999, 12th Daniil Kvyat +49.940, 13th Jolyon Palmer +53.239, 14th Stoffel Vandoorne +57.078, 15th Kevin Magnussen +67.262, 16th Marcus Ericsson +69.711, Sergio Perez DNF, Fernando Alonso DNF, Max Verstappen DNF, Pascal Werhlein DNF

Drivers: Lewis Hamilton 25, Sebastian Vettel 18, Daniel Ricciardo 15, Kimi Raikkonen 12, Valtteri Bottas 10, Nico Hulkenberg 8, Romain Grosjean 6, Felipe Massa 4, Esteban Ocon 2, Carlos Sainz 1

Constructors: Mercedes 35, Ferrari 30, Red Bull 15, Renault 8, Haas 6, Williams 4, Force India 2, Toro Rosso 1

F1 Drivers Championship after the Belgian Grand Prix [Image from BBC Sport]
F1 Drivers Championship after the Belgian Grand Prix [Image from BBC Sport]

Hamilton’s 58th career victory puts him just 7 points behind Sebastian Vettel in the Championship. Vettel leads with 220 points to Hamilton’s 213. Valtteri Bottas fell slightly more behind on 179 points in 3rd while 4th place belongs to Daniel Ricciardo. Verstappen’s mechanical woes are highlighted in the Championship as he has almost half the points of his teammate with Kimi Raikkonen sandwiched between them in 5th. 6th place for Nco Hulkenberg in Belgium has meant he has closed down the gap to Carlos Sainz for 9th in the Championship while Romain Grosjean’s 7th place finish has drawn him closer to Felipe Massa for 11th. The Championship from Lance Stroll down in 13th remains unchanged with Marcus Ericsson and Jolyon Palmer the only two regular drivers without a point.

F1 Constructors Championship after the Belgian Grand Prix [Image from BBC Sport]
F1 Constructors Championship after the Belgian Grand Prix [Image from BBC Sport]

Mercedes lead the way in the Constructors Championship on 392 points with Ferrari 44 points adrift in second with 348 points. It is then a long way back to Red Bull in 3rd who have 199 points and then Force India comfortably 4th on 103. The battle for 5th is heating up rather with 11 points separating Williams in 5th on 45 points and Renault in 8th on 34. In between them, are Toro Rosso in 6th (40 points) and Haas in 7th (35 points). The bottom two; McLaren and Sauber remained unchanged.

It really is heating up in the 2017 F1 season and we now move on to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

History of the Italian Grand Prix

Motor racing has always been huge in Italy. In Formula One you have Ferrari as the mainstay Constructor in the sport and while Italian drivers have not participated widely in Formula One in recent years, Italians do like their motor racing. You have Valentino Rosso in Moto GP.

Ariel view of Monza, with the old banking part of the circuit and the current circuit clearly visible
Ariel view of Monza, with the old banking part of the circuit and the current circuit clearly visible

The Monza Circuit was built in 1922 and at that time was only the third permanent race facility built anywhere in the world. Only Brooklands in England and Indianapolis in the US were built earlier which makes Monza one of the oldest circuits in history. It is the oldest on the F1 calendar. The inclusion of the Italian Grand Prix in the inaugural Formula One World Championship was a no brainer and the event has been a mainstay ever since. Only the British Grand Prix can boast the same record. That means 2017 will be the 67th staging of the Italian Grand Prix as a Formula One World Championship event with Monza hosting all but one. The 1980 event was run at the Imola circuit while Monza underwent a major upgrade which included the building of a new pit lane.

The old sopraelevata curves in use as the banking section ends on the main straight while the Parabolica turn on the inside starts the banking section of the lap [Image sourced from http://www.livegp.it/en/memories/77-racing-stories/2856-monza-a-nearly-century-old-history.html]
The old sopraelevata curves in use as the banking section ends on the main straight while the Parabolica turn on the inside starts the banking section of the lap [Image sourced from livegp.it]

The famous banking at Monza was only used on four occasions in the Grand Prix at Monza. The first of these races came in 1954 which also saw the introduction of the now famous and much loved Parabolica (turn 11). The banking was made of concrete and was built on stilts, not into the earth which made it seem scary to a follow teams. The concrete bankings which were called the Sopraelevata Curves were added to the circuit and made for a 10km track with average speeds in the race that was faster than Indianapolis at that time. However, the rough surface of the banking led to a number of teams boycotting the 1960 race while the 1961 event was the last time the banking was used. It also witnessed the tragedy of Wolfgang von Trips. Going into Parabolica off the back of the banking, Von Trips caught the car of Jim Clark and was catapulted into fans standing on the top of the embankment by the track. 14 spectators and Von Trip were killed. The banking was never raced on again.

The famous, drivers and fans favourite Parabolica

After 1971, changes were beginning to be made to the circuit over the next few years in an attempt to slow the cars down. The current turns 1 and 2 (Ratafilio) were added to the circuit though was altered into its present layout in 2000. In came the two turn sequence of turns 4 and 5 (The curve of Della Roggia) after being reconfigured in 1976. The Valentino Ascari which begins the third sector of the lap having gone under the old banking was introduced in 1971 with the turn being re-profiled in 1972 to its current layout. Meanwhile, the second lesmo was slowed down slightly after the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994.

Monza has seen some historic moments. The circuit has seen the World Champion crowned 11 times with the last one being Jody Schekters triumph in 1979. There have been many emotional moments such as the announcement of Michael Schumacher’s first retirement in 2006, Sebastian Vettel’s maiden win in the Toro Rosso in 2008, Ferrari’s first win after the death of founder Enzo Ferrari in 1982 as well as the tragic deaths of Jochen Rindt in 1970 and Ronnie Peterson in 1978.

Circuit map of Monza
Current Circuit map of Monza

However, the history of Monza has counted for little in recent times with the future of the race being called into doubt last year. Imola claimed to have a five-year deal to host the Italian Grand Prix before Monxa agreed a £57.2 million three year deal to host the event. Italy and Monza are the heart of Formula One and the calendar would not be the same without its iconic ‘temple of speed’ as well as, the carnival atmosphere brought out by the Tifosi year in, year out.

The scenes of the podium celebration at Monza last year, where else in the world do you see this?
The scenes of the podium celebration at Monza last year, where else in the world do you see this?

Italian Grand Prix in Stats, Facts, and Numbers

First Race: 1950

Number of editions since: 67

No. Circuits to host the Italian Grand Prix:2                                             Monza 66 (1950-79, 1981-present), Imola 1 (1980)

Current Circuit: Monza

Circuit Built: 1922

Circuit length: 5.793km

Number of turns: 11

Race Distance: 306.72km

Average Speed: 257km/h

Full throttle: 79%

Gear changes per lap: 36

Metres to turn 1: 615m

Number of times won from pole: 25

Pole conversion rate: 37.88%

Lowest winning position: 11th Peter Gethin 1971

Number of times Championship won in Italy: 11

Number of times Italian Grand Prix winner gone on to win Championship: 24

Fastest Qualifying lap: 1:19.525 Juan Pablo Montoya (2004)

Fastest Race Lap: 1:21.064 Rubens Barrichello (2004)

2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton 1:21.135

2016 race winner: Nico Rosberg

2016 fastest race lap: 1:25.340 Fernando Alonso

Most wins (Driver): Michael Schumacher 5

Most Wins (Constructor): Ferrari 18

Most Podiums (Driver): Michael Schumacher 8

Most Podiums (Constructor): Ferrari 65

Most Pole Positions (Drivers): 5                                                                  Juan Manuel Fangio, Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton

Most Pole Positions (Constructors): Ferrari 19

Number drivers to win in Italy: 36

Number Constructors to win in Italy: 20

Number of Drivers to be on the podium in Italy: 88

Number of Constructors to be on the Podium in Italy: 28

Number of Drivers on Pole: 36

Number of Constructors on Pole: 16

Highest Point Circuit: 153.2m above sea level (Turn 3)

Lowest Point Circuit: 140.4m above sea level (just before turn 11)

Elevation Change: 12.8m

Italians in Formula One

Number of Italians to contest a Grand Prix: 98

Number of Italians to win a Grand Prix: 14

Most Grand Prix Victories by an Italian: Alberto Ascari 13

Number of Italian pole sitters: 13

Most pole positions by an Italian: Alberto Ascari 14

Italian Drivers to have been on the podium: 25

Most Podiums by an Italian Driver: Ricardo Patrese 37

World Championships won by Italian Drivers: 3

Italian Drivers to be World Champion: 2                                                Alberto Ascari (1952, 1953) Giuseppe Farina (1950)

Italian Constructors in F1 History: 25

Italian Constructors on the Current Grid: 2                                              Ferrari and Toro Rosso

Italian Drivers on the current grid:  0

Last Italian to enter a Grand Prix: Antoine Giovanazzai (China, 2017)

Last Italian to win a Grand Prix: Giancarlo Fisichella (Malaysia, 2006)

Last Italian to be on the podium: Giancarlo Fisichella (Belgium, 2009)

Last Italian pole sitter: Giancarlo Fisichella (Belgium, 2009)

Number of Italians to win at home: 3                                                      Giuseppe Farina (1950), Alberto Ascari (1951, 1952), Ludovico Scarfiotti (1966)

Last Italian winner of the Italian Grand Prix: Ludovico Scarfiotti 1966

Grand Prix wins by Italian Constructors: 275

Pole positions by Italian Constructors: 236

Podiums by Italian Constructors: 869

Constructors Championships won by Italian teams: 16 (All Ferrari)

Drivers to have won World Championship in an Italian car: 19                Ferrari 15, Maserati 2, Alfa Romeo 2

Italian Grand Prix Winners

Drivers: Michael Schumacher 5,

Nelson Piquet 4,

 Juan Manuel Fangio 3, Stirling Moss 3, Ronnie Peterson 3, Alain Prost 3, Rubens Barrichello 3, Sebastian Vettel 3, Lewis Hamilton 3,

Alberto Ascari 2, Phil Hill 2, John Surtees 2, Jackie Stewart 2, Clay Regazzoni 2, Niki Lauda 2, Ayrton Senna 2, Damon Hill 2, Juan Pablo Montoya 2, Fernando Alonso 2,

Giuseppe Farina 1, Tony Brooks 1, Graham Hill 1, Denny Hulme 1, Peter Gelkin 1, Emmerson Fittipaldi 1, Mario Andretti 1, Jody Scheckter 1, Rene Arnoux 1, Gerhard Berger 1, Nigel Mansell 1, Johnny Herbert 1, David Coulthard 1, Heinz-Herald Fretzen 1, Nico Rosberg 1, Ludovico Scarfiotti 1, Jim Clark 1

Constructors: Ferrari 18,

McLaren 10,

Williams 6,

Mercedes 5, Lotus 5,

BRM 3, Brabham 3,

Maserati 2, Vanwall 2, Renault 2, Red Bull 2,

March 1, Alfa Romeo 1, Cooper 1, Matra 1, Bennetton 1, Jordan 1, Toro Rosso 1, Brawn GP 1, Honda 1

Italian Grand Prix Pole Positions

Drivers: Juan Manuel Fangio 5, Ayrton Senna 5, Lewis Hamilton 5,

Jim Clark 3, John Surtees 3, Michael Schumacher 3, Juan Pablo Montoya 3, Sebastian Vettel 3,

Alberto Ascari 2, Stirling Moss 2, Jacky Ickz 2, Nikki Lauda 2, Mario Andretti 2, Jean Alesi 2, Rene Arnoux 2, Nelson Piquet 2, Fernando Alonso 2,

Stewart Lewis-Evans 1, Phil Hill 1, Wolfgang von Trips 1, Mike Parkes 1, Jochen Rindt 1, Chris Amon 1, Ronnie Petersen 1, Jacques Lafitte 1, James Hunt 1, Jean-Pierre Jabouille 1, Riccardo Patrese 1, Teo Fabi 1, Nigel Mansell 1, Alain Prost 1, David Coulthard 1, Damon Hill 1, Mika Hakkinen 1, Rubens Barrichello 1, Kimi Raikkonen 1,

Constructors: Ferrari 19,

McLaren 11,

Williams 7, Lotus 7,

Mercedes 5,

Renault 3,

Alfa Romeo 2, Vanwall 2, Brabham 2, Bennetton 2, Red Bull 2,

Cooper 1, Honda 1, Matra 1, Ligier 1, Toro Rosso 1,

Italian Grand Prix podiums

Drivers: Michael Schumacher 8,

Fernando Alonso 6,

Juan Manuel Fangio 5, Nelson Piquet 5, Alain Prost 5, Ayrton Senna 5, Rubens Barrichello 5, Lewis Hamilton 5, Sebastian Vettel 5,

Alberto Ascari 4, Phil Hill 4, Bruce McLaren 4, Clay Regazzoni 4, Ronnie Peterson 4, Emerson Fittipaldi 4, Niki Lauda 4, Gerhard Berger 4, Mika Hakkinen 4, Ralf Schumacher 4, Jenson Button 4,

José Froilán González 3, Stirling Moss 3, Richie Ginther 3, Jackie Stewart 3, Denny Hulme 3, Alan Jones 3, Carlos Reutemann 3, Nigel Mansell 3, Jean Alesi 3, Heinz-Harold Frentzen 3, Juan Pablo Montoya 3, Kimi Raikkonen 3, Felipe Massa 3,

Nino Farina 2, Luigi Viloresi 2, Mike Hawthorn 2, Jack Brabham 2, Dan Gurney 2, Graham Hill 2, Jim Clark 2, John Surtees 2, Jean-Pierre Beltoise 2, Jody Scheckter 2, Mario Andretti 2, Rene Arnoux 2, Eddie Cheever 2, Michele Alboreto 2, Damon Hill 2, Eddie Irvine 2, Robert Kubica 2, Nico Rosberg 2,

Dorino Serafini 1, Luigi Fagioli 1, Felice Bonetto 1, Umberto Maglioli 1, Piero Tauffi 1, Eugenio Castellotti 1, Peter Collins 1, Ron Flockhart 1, Wolfgang von Trips 1, Tony Brooks 1, Willy Mareisse 1, Lorenzo Bandini 1, Ludovico Scarfiotti 1, Mike Parkes 1, Johnny Servoz-Gavin 1, Jacky Ickx 1, Jochen Rindt 1, Peter Gethin 1, François Cevert 1, Mike Halwood 1, Peter Revson 1, Jacques Lafitte 1, John Watson 1, Gilles Villeneuve 1, Patrick Tambay 1, Riccardo Patrese 1, Stefan Johansson 1, Thiery Boutsen 1, Martin Brundle 1, Michael Andretti 1, Johhny Herbert 1, David Coulthard 1, Mika Salo 1, Giancarlo Fisichella 1, Heikki Kovalainen 1, Sergio Perez 1, Mark Webber 1,

Constructors: Ferrari 65,

McLaren 26,

Williams 21,

Lotus 10,

Mercedes 8, Brabham 8,

Cooper 6, BRM 6,

Renault 5, Bennetton 5,

Alfa Romeo 4, Maserati 4, Matra 4, Sauber 4,

March 3, Jordan 3, Red Bull 3,

Vanwall 2, Honda/BAR Honda 2, Tyrell 2, Brawn GP 2,

Connaught-Alta 1, Porsche 1, Surtees 1, Ligier 1, Shadow 1, Arrows 1, Toro Rosso 1.

Last time in Italy…

The 2016 race in Italy added to the rich history of Monza. Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the third consecutive Italian Grand Prix (something only Ayrton Senna had previously achieved) and had matched Senna and Juan Manuel Fangio for the record of most pole positions at Monza: 5. All that counted for nothing on race day though as a loose clutch caused Hamilton to have a poor start and fall down from 1st to 6th into turn 1. His teammate and Championship rival Nico Rosberg inherited the lead. From there, Rosberg led all but one lap of the race as he went on to win his only Italian Grand Prix and close the Championship lead to 2 points. Hamilton meanwhile, limited the damage by climbing back to finish 2nd while Sebastian Vettel finished 3rd for Ferrari meaning the Tifosi had a Ferrari podium to celebrate. The atmosphere was incredible, especially considering the Ferrari man was 3rd. Only the top 5 in the Constructors Championship scored points (Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and Force India) while the race also saw two huge announcements. Felipe Massa announced what would amount to his first retirement from F1 racing coming into the weekend and McLaren announced their three driver solution with Stoffel Vandoorne taking a 2017 race seat and Jenson Button taking a sabbatical.

Victory at Monza clearly meant a lot to Nico Rosberg who went for a spot of crowd surfing to celebrate! [image from Formula One]
Nico Rosberg won last years Italian Grand Prix and celebrated by going for a spot of crowd surfing [image from Formula One]
2016 Italian Grand Prix Result

1st Nico Rosberg, 2nd Lewis Hamilton, 3rd Sebastian Vettel, 4th Kimi Raikkonen, 5th Daniel Ricciardo, 6th Valtteri Bottas, 7th Max Verstappen, 8th Sergio Perez, 9th Felipe Massa, 10th Nico Hulkenberg, 11th Romain Grosjean, 12th Jenson Button, 13th Esteban Guttierez, 14th Fernando Alonso, 15th Carlos Sainz, 16th Marcus Ericsson, 17th Kevin Magnussen, 18th Esteban Ocon, Jolyon Palmer DNF, Felipe Nasr DNF, Pascal Werhlein DNF, Daniil Kvyat DNF


Drivers: Nico Rosberg 25, Lewis Hamilton 18, Sebastian Vettel 15, Kimi Raikkonen 12, Daniel Ricciard0 10, Valtteri Bottas 8, Max Verstappen 6, Sergio Perez 4, Felipe Massa 2, Nico Hulkenberg 1

Constructors: Mercedes 43, Ferrari 30, Red Bull 16, Williams 10, Force India 5

All this and more can be found in my review of last years race, here.

Developments since Belgium

• During the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Sebastian Vettel signed a new three year deal with Ferrari which will keep him at the Scuderia until 2021.   Speaking about his new deal, Vettel claimed, ‘It was a no-brainer to continue’ with Ferrari.

• Looking nearer to the present, new Team Principal Frederic Vasseur indicated that Sauber’s 2018 driver line up will be influenced by Ferrari. With Longbow Finance being widely believed to favour Marcus Ericsson which led to Monisha Kaltenborn leaving, it would look doubtful that Ferrari would want Pascal Werhlein (a Mercedes Development Driver) to be in the seat despite scoring the team’s points this season. Instead, they may well give the seat to Charles Leclerc.

• Following the coming together of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon at Spa, Team Principal Vijay Malaya more than hinted at the implementation of team orders at Force India. In the aftermath of the race in Belgium, Malaya declared, ‘However, as much as I support competitive racing, the repeated incidents between both our cars are now becoming very concerning. Under these circumstances, I have no choice but to implement a policy of team orders in the interest of safety and to protect the team’s position in the constructors’ championship.’

Things to look out for this weekend…

1. Can Lewis Hamilton create F1 history outright by claiming pole position which would be his fourth consecutive at Monza (no other driver has achieved that) and take the record for most career pole positions outright?

2. Will Ferrari pick something special from the bag at home in front of the Tifosi which would be their first victory at home in seven years?

3. Having beaten Francesco Toldo in a go-kart race, can Daniel Ricciardo secure his second podium in as many weeks and will Max Verstappen actually get some good luck with reliability?

4. After the revelation their relationship ‘completely broke’ after the incident in Baku and the implementation of team orders by Vijay Malaya in the wake of last weekend, will the two Force India drivers behave?

5. Could Toro Rosso give the Italian fans something to cheer for as the second Italian team on the grid?

6. Are Williams going to struggle again for pace like they did last weekend?

7. Could Renault follow up their performance at Spa with Nico Hulkenberg finishing 6th with a double points finish?

8. Haas could easily have had that double points finish in Belgium, will they have the pace and will Kevin Magnussen have recovered mentally from that race ruining move at the Safety Car restart?

9. Will it be another painful weekend of misery in the race for Fernando Alonso in the Honda powered McLaren?

10. Can Sauber lift themselves off the back of the field in Qualifying?

11. Lewis Hamilton’s pole position lap was 1.61 seconds off the out-right lap record at Monza set by Juan Pablo Montoya which is also the fastest ever lap in an F1 car, could that record tumble this weekend…

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