Ferrari and McLaren eye victory at weak track for Red Bull (Italian GP preview)

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Monza’s long straights offer Red Bull’s rivals a golden opportunity to take points off them – before they head to more RB6-friendly circuits like Singapore and Suzuka.

But will McLaren or Ferrari be the ones to capitalise? And how competitive will the ever-improving Renaults be this weekend?

Regardless of what happens at the World Motor Sport Council today, Ferrari badly need a result at home after the disappointment of Spa. They re-tested their Spa development package at Vairano and believe they’ve made progress with it.

Monza is all long straights and hard braking zones – 70% full throttle, 11% on the brakes. The F10 is, by the team’s own admission, good under braking, which was key to their strong performance at Montreal, another straights-and-chicanes sort of track.

The biggest headache for Ferrari could be tyres. The F10 hasn’t been happy on Bridgestone’s harder rubber all year – a problem that has troubled Felipe Massa more than Fernando Alonso.

And that’s exactly what they’re going to have to use this weekend. Bridgestone have changed the Monza allocation from the Medium and Soft tyres used in 2009 to Hard and Soft. Not good news for the Scuderia.

McLaren go into this weekend knowing their car might well be the quickest thing around the 5.79km track. The straight-line speed that has served them so well this year will be more useful here than anywhere else.

Both Renault and Force India showed good top speed at Spa. Adrian Sutil in particular was able to pick off several cars on the long blast down Kemmel.

That may mean another difficult weekend for Mercedes. But you can never take these performance characteristics for granted.

A lot will depend on how well the teams’ low-downforce aerodynamic packages work. We’ll see if Adrian Newey has anything special up his sleeve to keep the Red Bulls in contention on what might otherwise be a weak circuit for them.

Be on the look-out for a surprise performer at Monza – even a difficult car can get in contention for the points here. Jenson Button brought the disastrous 2007 Honda home eighth at Monza.

Toro Rosso have had a few difficult races recently but they tested an F-duct at Vairano on Monday. They may be planning to use it this weekend but, interestingly, some other teams have suggested their F-ducts might not work with their low-downforce packages.

Keep an eye on what teams run in practice on Friday and, of course, who’s hitting the highest straight-line speeds on the run to the Rettifilio chicane.

Remember also how much closer the new teams were to the midfield runners at Montreal. The battle between Lotus, HRT and Virgin may be over the lower reaches of the finishing order but there’s pride and prize money at stake.

Drivers to watch

Four driver to keep an eye on this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.

Jenson Button – Not counting Spain, where Lewis Hamilton’s car broke down, it’s been nine races since the last time both McLarens finished with Button ahead. Needs a big score and a win over his team mate to stay in the championship hunt.

Fernando Alonso – Regardless of what happens at the WMSC, this is his first appearance at Monza as a Ferrari driver. Expect a warmer reception than the jeering he got in 2006 when his Renault broke down.

Sebastian Vettel – Has arguably thrown away 28 points in the last two races. There’s nothing wrong with his pace compared to team mate Mark Webber, but can he cut the mistakes out?

Vitantonio Liuzzi – His comeback season has amounted to little so far. He went well at his home track last year and the VJM03 should be quick around Monza, so he needs to be in the hunt for points this weekend.

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    54 comments on “Ferrari and McLaren eye victory at weak track for Red Bull (Italian GP preview)”

    1. A very interesting GP again, with all sorts of possible twists. Will Alonso give the fans something to cheer about, will Vettel keep his stature under pressure, what can Kubica do with his Renault?

      Maybe even weather can throw in a coin, a damp Monza might make for interesting setup choices again. I am certainly looking forward to it!

    2. Monza should make for yet another great race in what easily classifies as a fantastic season…

      I hope Liuzzi does well, I don’t entirely think he really deserves to stay on next year, but at his home race in a car that is suited to the track he might just surprised…

      Unless Mclaren made serious design errors recently, I think this should be their race to lose… Hopefully to Sutil… or Sakon… but that might be too optimistic ^^

      1. P.S.
        Great article.

        I’m glued to F1 Fanatic because I want to find out the results of the Ferrari case, Any idea when things might start dropping through?

        1. Expect general WMSC stuff in the afternoon, Ferrari stuff early evening (British time).

          1. Cool, thanks ^^

    3. It could be a significant weekend for the championship.

      If Alonso wins, say ahead of Hamilton and some others, with Webber 5th, he’ll have 34 points to gain on Hamilton with 125 up for grabs and he’ll cut right into the deficit to Webber too (21 points). It’ll still be a fight, but a much more realistic one.

      If Hamilton wins in a similar situation, his championship lead will go up to 20 points – not dominant but exactly what he needs heading into some potentially weak tracks. Alonso, however, will slip back to a 48-point deficit, and it’s hard to see him coming back from that – even winning every race wouldn’t guarantee the championship.

      If Webber can pull off a surprise podium, he’s looking really good as well.

      But with McLaren apparently now happy where their EBD is going and the potential for Vettel to take more points off of Webber than he will off Hamilton in some of the upcoming races, cutting off the amount of points for Alonso to gain too, in general I’d say:

      Alonso win: Good for Alonso, better for Red Bull
      Hamilton win: Good for Hamilton, worrying for Red Bull, disaster for Ferrari
      Either, with a Webber podium: Good for Red Bull
      Either, with a Vettel podium: Problematic for Red Bull
      Both Red Bulls on podium: minor miracle, everyone else might as well give up!

      1. And to be fair to Button, I think he’s out of it now, even if he wins, which would be a good result for Red Bull. 28 points with 125 to go may not sound much, but he’ll have to consistently beat two of both Red Bulls and his team-mate in each race over 5 races. And he won’t have the car for that.

        1. Agreed Icthyes, I think Buttons hopes have disappeared. Hamilton must win to stay alive. Red Bull looks set to dominate once the circus heads for Asia.

          This may be Kubica or Sutil’s best chance for a win this year and I hope one of them does it.

          1. Hamilton has to win to stay alive? Remember Webber has to outscore him and Vettel isn’t yet out of the running. Plus McLaren are hopeful they will be more competitive at the remaining tracks than they were at Hungary once updates arrive for Singapore onwards. Barring DNFs for Hamitlon or Webber between now and Brazil, Interlagos is gearing up to be another cracker in November.

            1. and we still have to see what the stricter floor flex tests do to Red Bull. For Monza this probably won’t matter much yet, but the last few races it might make a big difference.

          2. A McLaren 1-2 with Button in front would still give Hamilton at least another few points or maby more over Webber.
            And it would bring Button in front of Vettel to worry Webber and secure the WCC lead for McLaren.

            1. I think that would be a good result for the WCC, and for the WDC in terms of him, Hamilton, and Webber, but it would also mean that Alonso has to give up his, or hope for unrealistic amounts of luck for the rest of the year.

              Before, you did make the point that maybe this is the one thing that would make it possible to see Alonso get back to driving well again: the loss of that pressure, and I did already not want him to win it much thanks to the team order thing, but it would still be a bit sad to not see a Ferrari able to fight for it right until the end a second year in a row.

      2. The only track left I think where Redbull will truly dominaite is Singapore. I think everywhere else there is enough for Mclaren to stay in touch possibly scrape the a victory or two. Especially with the improvments to their EBD.

        It really does seem like it could go to the wire, a DNF would truly through the cat/baby+bathwater out the 13th story window, greatest thing about it being still so close is the utter change a single grand prix could bring to the championship picture.

        1. McLaren may be happier with their EBD, but its naive to think that Red Bull will stand still in the development race. Everyone thought they had been caught after Turkey and Canada, so I’m not optimistic that they really have been again.

      3. what about button or massa win …..ICTHYES

        1. That would be great, a Massa win (to please the Fans) with Button second and then Kubica or Sutil.

          That would mix up the table again!
          A bit far fetched, but who knows.

        2. Button I’ve covered. A Massa win would really throw the cat amongst the pigeons, but one way or another I don’t see it happening. But anything other than a Hamilton win is good for Red Bull, and anything other than an Alonso win is bad for Alonso.

    4. I expressly recall Ferrari and McLaren being bullish about their chances at Spa, where they expected Red Bull to be weak. Look how that turned out for them.

      Hopefully, Ferrari get a ban tonight from the WMSC. If they’re forced to miss Monza, it should give them something to think about. Failing that, I hope they have an absolutely rotten race. Karma and all that.

      1. Not bad for McLaren, I mean no worse than it turned out for Redbull. Ferrari, well year, but it probably needn’t have been so.

        1. What I mean is that even if Red Bull didn’t win, they were still up there.

          1. But that was sort of clear from the start this year: Spa was one of the few tracks where Red Bull would have to compromise their downforce to get through the bits others were fast at (just like in Montreal they needed the speed). I don’t recall anyone seriously thinking Red Bull would be out of the points on pace there, not this year.

      2. Monza without Ferrari?? Why would you not want to see an exciting race this weekend? This weekend without Ferrari would just give the Mclarens the race on a platter.

        Hope to see Alonso taking the win, with Button and Vettel on the podium as well. That would definitely spice the championship battle again.

        1. Ferrari is no guarnatee of an exciting race. We managed one in Belgium without them.

          For the record, I don’t want to see a race without a team. But I also don’t want to see teams simply undermining the entire point of racing simply to give themselves a better result at the expense fo the race, either. And my distate of the latter beats out the former.

    5. Bags are almost packed. My wife and me have three day tickets for the stand 6a right before the first chicane.

      1. You lucky thing…..

      2. I was at turn one in 2007. I remember looking at the timing on the Kangaroo TV screen, seeing Hamilton was one second behind Raikkonen at the start line and thinking “he’ll never pass him from that far back”. Then I looked up at the chicane and, to my astonishment, there’s Hamilton diving through!

        1. @ skova265 have a nice tiime.

          Keith everybody was surprise to see that move.It was one of the best of the season & for the first time in until that day I saw the outside tyre (Kimi) of any car locking up going into a corner.

    6. HounslowBusGarage
      8th September 2010, 10:31

      Given that Ferrari aren’t banned from this weekend’s playtime, I expect them to be on pole and fighting with MaClaren all the way.
      Ferrari always seem to bring something special to Monza, apart from the 1985 Monza race clip on the Round-Up page!

      1. They’re not banned yet. They find out their fate tonight. There is every possibility that they still can and will be banned.

        1. They wont be banned for their home race. If they are banned, all the past results since 2002 should be overturned . sorry to post it in this thread but I could not stop myself from replying to MONKEY.

          1. The FIA can’t say “Okay, we’re not going to ban you because it will punish you”. That’s the entire point of banning them! A court can’t give a murdered a reduced sentence because it’s his kid’s birthday at the end of the week, can then? So why should Ferrari get that kind of treatment just because it’s the Italian Grand Prix. If we were talking about McLaren and there was a possibility that they could be banned ahead of the British Grand Prix, none of this crazy “The FIA can’t ban them from their home race” talk would come up. Ferrari’s biggest complaint about the proposed budget cap last year is that some teams would be playing by one set of rules and other teams would be playing by a different set. Why should they be allowed to play by a different rulebook a year later?

            And they can’t go overturning the results like that. Jean Todt is in a unique position here: the fans have been calling for stability and consistency in handing down penalties. This is his chance to do exactly that: to establish a base line against which all future penalties can be judged. Because of the regime change, everything that has gone before can be reasonably overlooked.

            1. But the judge might decide to let the sentence start only after the Birthday, i.e. let Ferrari sit out a different race (Singapore, perhaps?).

              The Tifosi would turn out in masses just to support Ferrari a bit extra at Monza and it will all cool down a bit until then.

            2. There’s something telling me they won’t actually be banned, like you fully assume. They’ll most likely lose points or get a bigger fine or something like that.

            3. But the judge might decide to let the sentence start only after the Birthday, i.e. let Ferrari sit out a different race (Singapore, perhaps?).

              They can’t take that line. It just erodes the WMSC’s credibility if they start playing nice like that for the sake of Ferrari. Banning Ferrari from racing in Italy will send a message to everyone: don’t do it. Who on earth would want to try cheating in front of an FIA that banned Ferrari from the Italian Grand Prix?

              They’ll most likely lose points or get a bigger fine or something like that.

              The problem is that Ferrari have threatened legal action if the FIA impose sanctions upon them. If the FIA strip Ferrari of its points from Germany and Ferrari goes to the courts, there’s a chance that the courts could reinstate them. And if Ferrari have a good run in the last six races, there’s a chance that the World Championship could be decided by the courts after the final race, and no-one wants to see that (but if it gets them declared champions, Ferrari will love it).

              But by banning them from racing in a future event, the FIA create a situation where Ferrari cannot claim the championship like that. It would be impossible for Ferrari to prove that they would have scored points in a race that they were forced to miss; all the FIA has to do is point to races like Belgium and Valencia and Ferrari no longer have a leg to stand on. The most Ferrari could do is sue them for some kind of compensation, but the important part is that the championship cannot be settled in the courtroom.

              Of course, if I were the FIA and Ferrari tried to launch legal action against me, I’d just suspend their 2011 entry until the matter was resolved.

            4. @Prisoner Monkeys

              I can’t see that they will be banned for this race as it is too close. I think if they are banned then it will be the next race. However I do not think they will be banned but just deducted points. I also think this would be the fairest result.

        2. I would love a 5 place grid penalty for both drivers – just enough to ruin their home GP and Alonso’s Championship hopes

          1. Thank God, u r not a steward.

    7. i Think i go for a Kubica, Hamilton Sutil Petrov Liuzzi finish. If ferrairri get banned that is. But maybe Massa takes out Alonso in the first corner…

    8. Can’t wait for Alonso’s usual multiple mistakes.

      1. and then the blamefest of who is responsible for these mistakes …

    9. I think this weekend is Button, Vettel, & Alonso’s last shot. If anyone have a bad race then he can say goodbye to 2010 WC. Hamilton & Mclaren are my favourite & Webber just need to play safe.

    10. Will this be the first race where McLaren and Red Bull, and a few others allow their No 1 driver to dominate during qualifying and the race, or will the championship be allowed to be open all the way to the end?

      1. DGR – McLaren and Red Bull will not issue team orders EVER. Not after the amount of digs they’ve had at Ferrari! However, clearly behind closed doors they’ll be working out how to do the same thing without being caught…

        Do you honestly think that Jenson will allow himself to be subjected to Team Orders? Suspect he will ignore them.

        Red Bull will NEVER issue team orders in Mark’s favour, regardless of the WDC. They are too in love with Seb – just look at Christian Horner’s comments about Seb’s crash in Spa: ‘Seb was just caught out by how early Jenson braked’…yep, surprising that he braked in EXACTLY the same place and with EXACTLY the same ferocity as the previous lap! ;)

    11. Wait a second … weren’t both those teams supposed to win the race at Silverstone too?

        1. Keith, I did not mean that to be any criticism of your preview. I think you are right on the money with your preview. Those teams should set the pace on the fast track, but those crafty redbulls keep coming up with surprises.

    12. If Hamilton wins and Webber cannot overcome the Ferraris and Button, it will then become Hamilton’s title to lose. I’m amused at all the nattering that RBR is going to be dominant at the rest of the tracks. Look at the data that matter: We have run more than a dozen races over all sorts of tracks and RBR is not ahead. This is not a fluke. Even if we assume the tracks are all RBR-flavored, we must assume no more driving and tactical fails from them, which is a major leap of faith.

      But even if they are perfect, where will they dominate? Brazil, Abu Dhabi have the long straights McLaren love. Korea looks to be half Monza, half Silverstone, i.e., Spa. Suzuka may be RBR’s last real redoubt, and that is assuming that the air mail from Woking will not give Hamilton what he needs to shadow Webber until his or the team’s inevitable mistakes.

      This is the race of the year for RedBull. They have to do what they previously have not: maximize their opportunities where they are at a disadvantage.

    13. felipe massa fan
      8th September 2010, 17:30

      i am a massa fan
      so i might be being abit buist
      but since ferrari are backing alonzo it has downd massas morale and they have thrown the championship away.

      alonzo is to inconsistant crashes,spins, drive thrus, engine blows

      Massa has finished every race in or out of the points and he may have had bad races with punctures etc but he finished the races and didnt GO AND BIN IT AT SPA LIKE ALONZO DID which means now that the team order points he demanded have gone out the window..
      why are red bull and mclaren ahead …. they let there drivers race

    14. Lewis has to make up for throwing away a 3rd place, and podium finish last year, in a futile pursuit of second place at Monza. The only way that Hamilton can redeem himself this year at Monza, is by standing on the top step on the podium, at the end of the race.

      1. I think Hamilton valued Button’s scalp more highly than some lousy 3rd place trophy, and doesnt regret a bit of it.

    15. And you know what – he just might

    16. Keith, didn’t Lewis’ car also break down in Hungary?
      Now that I look at it, Jenson hasn’t been able to beat Lewis in a straight fight. His only retirement this year has been a team error (Monaco), and his two wins coming mostly from cunning strategy.

      1. Yes and he wasn’t classified in that race – he was in Spain.

    17. Red Bull’s only hope is that they can make up some time at the chicanes and in the fast corners (they should be good through the Lesmos for instance). My dark horse for the weekend though is Sutil, it would be wonderful if he could pull off an unexpected first victory.

      The Italian GP is always a special race for me on a personal level. My family moved from England to Monza when I was 6 and for 20 months we lived across the road from the park. The race each year always brings back great memories (and reminders of how insane the Tifosi were!), so I’m hoping for a good one this weekend.

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