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 -
I didn't hear any booing, partly because I had my earplugs in and partly because when Alonso was overtaken by Perez the area around me suddenly became filled with Mexicans. I didn't know there were that many Mexicans in Italy, where the came from I don't know, they just came flooding into the stand.

Many years ago I was at the World Track Cycling Championships in Zurich. There were a lot of Italians there (my first encounter with more than 1 at a time). In the semi-finals of the men's individual pursuit race an Italian did his best time ever, but lost. There was a lot of booing, I never found out which driver was being booed.

My Italian son-in-law has a very different approach to sport from me. All that matters is who wins, the how is very low on the list.
If I remember I'm sure Vettel was booed on the podium last season. From where I was there was no booing at all when Hamilton came past or when he won, the tifolsi were too busy cheering Alonso
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