Grand Prix 2012 Italian Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

After a long summer break, F1 has it's second race in a week as the circus rolls onto Monza for the last European race of the season and the season is finely poised as Championship protagonists Alonso and Hamilton failed to score after a lap one crash in Belgium. McLaren team-mate Button took his second win of the season to keep alive his Championship hopes and is 'only' just over 60 points behind Alonso and 16 points behind Hamilton.

Just as Spa is famous as a historical track, Monza is similar. Monza is the definition of speed and is one of the most famous tracks in history. But it's a track that has seen as much tragedy as success with several drivers losing their lives at the circuit, notably Ronnie Petersen and Jochen Rindt. This led to modifications in the circuit with the banking sections no longer used and chicanes added in to slow the cars down with the last change being in 2000 with a change to the first corner. However, drivers are still at full throttle for the majority of the lap and it presents a major challenge to the driver, even if overtaking isn't the easiest.

Going into the Italian Grand Prix, McLaren seem to be in the best form after taking 2 victories in the last two races but were very Jekyll and Hyde as in Hungary, Hamilton won as Button struggled, and in Belgium Button won while Hamilton crashed, but we will never know how Hamilton would have got on in the race but he was certainly not the happiest after believing a wrong rear choice hampered him in qualifying as he was eight tenths behind his team mate who took his first pole position since the Monaco Grand Prix in 2009.

Alonso's DNF played into the hands of Red Bull and especially Vettel who nearly halved the deficit to Alonso despite not making Q3 he took advantage of the carnage at the start, allied with some strong overtaking, notably at the last chicane to finish second and reduce the gap to less than a race victory. Webber also benefited despite not finishing on the podium as he reduced the gap to 32 points and only 8 points behind his team-mate. A race win in Ferrari's home territory for either Webber or Vettel would really strike home at Maranello and reduce the gap to almost nothing and would be a major psychological boost, just as it would if a McLaren driver takes the flag on Sunday.

The big disappointment of Belgium was Lotus, many expected them to be fighting for the win and had said that they had the best package going into the weekend, but their only produce was a third for Raikkonen, some way off the leaders after spending much of the first half of the race fighting with Schumacher. Team mate Grosjean caused a huge crash at turn one and as a result is banned from this weekends race as punishment. Lotus will be extremely disappointed not to have turned a very strong car and good performances into a win with 2nd place being the highest they've finished so far this season and a few times both drivers have been on the podium but the top step has been elusive. They won't be too confident of changing that in Monza as the track doesn't suit their strengths and they could well be behind McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari in terms of raw pace. However, just like in 2003, Raikkonen's consistency and abilty to bring the car home in the points means he's 4th in the Championship and is a major part of the championship despite having yet to win a race.

Mercedes certainly have the quickest car in a straight line and that will make them very competitive, as shown in 2011, but they suffer from very poor rear tyre wear which affects their traction and with slow chicanes that will cost them on Sunday but they could act as the joker in the pack with a strong qualifying performance and it was this that compromised Hamilton's race in 2011 as he was stuck behind Schumacher for the early part.

For Galahad's write up on the circuit -

Hope the weather and the race is good for you when you head to this race :). Have a good time matey and the memories of Monza will never leave you :).

If Lotus get this double DRS working next Friday i think Raikkonen will challenge for the win. But i think Alonso and Button should be considered favourite's for this race.
A McLaren 1-2 and another non-finish for Alonso would make the championship very interesting. But on home turf you'd imagine that Ferrari will pull something out the bag.
You could well be right about Ferrari teabagyokel given the statistics, which make quite interesting reading. The red team have won by far the most Italian Grands Prix with 19, the last of which was in 2010.
Next are:
Mclaren (9) last win 2007
Alfa Romeo (8) last win 1950
Williams (6) last win 2001
Lotus (5) last win 1977
Mercedes (4) last win 1955

Of current F1 drivers, Mr Schumacher is well ahead with 5 wins and there are only two other winners; Alonso and Vettel with two each.
Please noooooo, I don't think I could take another round of that.

Sadly, McLaren have been known to try a high downforce set up at Monza, with predictable results...
And what are the odds that Mclaren put one driver on a higher downforce set up?

They did in 2010 with Button and it paid off, unfortunately we'll never know if the low downforce option would have worked in race trim as Hamilton hit Massa on lap one
Ferrari are currently unbolting the kitchen sink, the bathtub, the showerbox, the washing machine and every other appliance they can find to throw at Monza. ROFL
Button's straight line speed in 2010 was significantly inferior to Alonso's in but his extra downforce meant he was exiting the Parabolica and Lesmos much faster.
I thought the 2010 edition was very interesting in that the radically opposite downforce settings between the the two leading cars made it look like something of a chgess game. It actually looked as though Button was taking a second on Alonso on the Lesmos alone, and Fernando was making it up through the rest of the lap.
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