Ferrari has Mercedes in its crosshairs on home ground

2015 Italian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Ferrari has put itself in a strong position to take the fight to Mercedes in the Italian Grand Prix following what Kimi Raikkonen described as their best qualifying session of the year.

But having slashed Mercedes’ Friday performance advantage to just a few tenths, the question now is whether Ferrari can sustain that gain over a race distance – and even use it to claim a home victory.

With Raikkonen lining up alongside Lewis Hamilton at the start and Sebastian Vettel behind the Mercedes driver, the two SF-15Ts are poised to exploit any hesitation in Hamilton’s getaway.

Sunday’s race is the second since the tighter rules governing race starts were introduced. While Hamilton managed a clean getaway at the last race, we did see a lot more variability behind him, and both Ferraris were among those who gained places. The run to the first corner at Monza is one of the longest of the year at 638 metres, but it is also narrower than most.

If Ferrari is able to get one or more of its cars ahead, can it stay there? With limited strategic options at Monza – a one-stopper is usually the way to go – Mercedes may find things tricky. Raikkonen has strong straight-line speed as well, as seen in qualifying.

However in a race situation the ready availability of top engine performance could be decisive: Hamilton may be able to access more of his engine’ ultimate performance for longer. In Hungary we heard him asking for – and receiving – extra time to use their top power setting to overtake a rival.

Of course it’s by no means a given that Hamilton won’t make it to the first corner first, although he did lose his pole advantage immediately at the Red Bull Ring, Silverstone and Hungaroring.

Ferrari in turn will have pressure from Nico Rosberg, starting fourth, which sets the scene nicely for a face-off between silver and red tomorrow.

The Mercedes customer teams take up most of the places immediately behind them, and further back the grid has taken on an unusual form due to another raft of penalties, mostly for power unit changes.

As it stand Manor will occupy the seventh row, followed by the two McLarens and four Renault-engined cars, in what almost amounts to a ‘B-race’ for those who showed up at Monza with sub-standard power units. The Red Bulls and Toro Rossos should be able to catch up to the tail of the midfield, but the speed trap figures show they may not find it that easy to get past the McLarens.

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’24.2511’23.383 (-0.868)1’23.397 (+0.014)
2Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’24.6621’23.757 (-0.905)1’23.631 (-0.126)
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’24.9891’23.577 (-1.412)1’23.685 (+0.108)
4Felipe MassaWilliams1’25.1841’23.983 (-1.201)1’23.940 (-0.043)
5Valtteri BottasWilliams1’24.9791’24.313 (-0.666)1’24.127 (-0.186)
6Sergio PerezForce India1’24.8011’24.379 (-0.422)1’24.626 (+0.247)
7Romain GrosjeanLotus1’25.1441’24.448 (-0.696)1’25.054 (+0.606)
8Nico HulkenbergForce India1’24.9371’24.510 (-0.427)1’25.317 (+0.807)
9Marcus EricssonSauber1’25.1221’24.457 (-0.665)1’26.214 (+1.757)
10Nico RosbergMercedes1’24.6091’23.864 (-0.745)1’23.703 (-0.161)
11Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’25.4291’24.525 (-0.904)
12Felipe NasrSauber1’25.1211’24.898 (-0.223)
13Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’25.4101’25.618 (+0.208)
14Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’25.7421’25.796 (+0.054)
15Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’25.633
16Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’26.058
17Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’26.154
18Will StevensManor1’27.731
19Roberto MerhiManor1’27.912
20Max VerstappenToro Rosso

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton26.973 (2)28.467 (1)27.816 (1)
Kimi Raikkonen27.014 (3)28.564 (3)28.009 (4)
Sebastian Vettel27.067 (5)28.474 (2)27.966 (2)
Felipe Massa26.922 (1)28.768 (6)28.191 (5)
Valtteri Bottas27.115 (7)28.710 (5)28.241 (7)
Sergio Perez27.101 (6)28.989 (12)28.289 (10)
Romain Grosjean27.268 (11)28.851 (7)28.226 (6)
Nico Hulkenberg27.236 (10)28.904 (8)28.370 (11)
Marcus Ericsson27.211 (9)28.985 (11)28.261 (8)
Nico Rosberg27.063 (4)28.674 (4)27.966 (2)
Pastor Maldonado27.116 (8)28.925 (9)28.287 (9)
Felipe Nasr27.405 (12)28.973 (10)28.396 (12)
Carlos Sainz Jnr27.633 (13)29.163 (14)28.573 (13)
Daniil Kvyat27.799 (15)29.187 (15)28.714 (15)
Daniel Ricciardo27.774 (14)29.146 (13)28.713 (14)
Jenson Button27.850 (17)29.336 (16)28.872 (17)
Fernando Alonso27.807 (16)29.489 (17)28.801 (16)
Will Stevens28.332 (18)29.836 (18)29.563 (19)
Roberto Merhi28.404 (19)29.949 (19)29.559 (18)
Max Verstappen

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes354.6 (220.3)
2Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes353.2 (219.5)-1.4
3Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes352.3 (218.9)-2.3
4Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari352.1 (218.8)-2.5
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari352.0 (218.7)-2.6
6Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes351.7 (218.5)-2.9
7Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes351.3 (218.3)-3.3
8Pastor MaldonadoLotusMercedes350.6 (217.9)-4.0
9Romain GrosjeanLotusMercedes349.7 (217.3)-4.9
10Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari348.7 (216.7)-5.9
11Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes348.4 (216.5)-6.2
12Felipe NasrSauberFerrari346.2 (215.1)-8.4
13Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda343.0 (213.1)-11.6
14Daniil KvyatRed BullRenault340.9 (211.8)-13.7
15Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda338.1 (210.1)-16.5
16Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoRenault337.2 (209.5)-17.4
17Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault336.3 (209.0)-18.3
18Will StevensManorFerrari331.7 (206.1)-22.9
19Roberto MerhiManorFerrari329.7 (204.9)-24.9
20Max VerstappenToro RossoRenault249.4 (155.0)-105.2

Over to you

Can one of the Ferrari drivers stop Hamilton from taking his seventh victory of the season? And how will Nico Rosberg figure in the fight at the front after his disappointing qualifying session?

Share your views on the Italian Grand Prix in the comments.

2015 Italian Grand Prix

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Author information

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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24 comments on “Ferrari has Mercedes in its crosshairs on home ground”

  1. I think Mercedes will not win tomorrow. Just a hunch, but they need to perfect tomorrow to win and I’m betting they won’t be. One wrong turn and either Ferrari or Williams can win. I’m pretty sure it will be Ferrari. One thing wrong for Merc, like a poor start, a spin, a tangle with a competitor, a pit mistake, a strategy error, a penalty, just one wrong thing. Ferrari is too close and Williams is right behind. My prediction, Kimi, Vettel and Massa on the podium.

    1. meant to add, or equipment failure…

    2. @bullmello

      Ferrari is too close and Williams is right behind.

      They aren’t. We’ve become so used to Merc being 0,5+s per lap faster that “mere” 0.23s seems close, but that’s still a very significant margin.

      1. Not such a large margin at a track like Monza. In a qualifying session, sure a quarter of a second is huge, and multiplied by 50 or 60 laps sound even bigger still over the course of a race. However in a race situation, teams don’t pull away with that kind of pace at circuits like Monza. The long straights provide ample opportunity to pull back towards the car in front with slipstream. We shall see tomorrow.

    3. All those hypotheticals you mentioned will cause any team a win in most circumstances. Are you saying this so that if the improbable happens, you can be first to say you called it? What if Kimi spins? thats more of a probability than any of the two mercs. Mercedes don’t need to perfect anything to win, they just need a clean, problem free, race.

      1. @gufdamm – Don’t care about calling it first or bragging rights, it is just a hunch and some observations.

        Mercedes have previously shown they have the best strategy, usually, when they are clearly ahead of the rest of the field with both cars. When races have been closer the team has made some critical errors at times. You are correct in that errors could happen to other teams or drivers too. But, with two opponents splitting the Mercs, the speed advantage not as pronounced as in other races this season, recent good starts by Ferrari and a few poor starts by Hamilton, it just looks to me that all the pressure is on Merc to get everything just right. It seems to me their margin for error is less than in many other races in this season.

        Overall, as always, I’m hoping for a good competitive race, not a runaway.

        1. With the pace Mercedes have been exhibiting so far this season, an undercut is always a hand they can play over ferrari and williams. So if lewis were to fall back, he can bide his time, and i’m sure nico will have the same strategy. Tbh, the only pressure I can see lewis feeling is from his team mate. Lewis can take an L to ferrari. Lewis’ concern is the driver’s championship and beating nico, who is in p4.

          I do however wanna see a fight from the others. This merc inter team battle is played.

    4. Vettel Raikkonen Bottas

      1. That sounds good too.

  2. Regardless of whether Mercedes have the fastest car or not, by closing the gap, Ferrari have piled pressure onto mercedes, that they have not had much experience of in their period of dominance. This is when teams start making mistakes, and Ferrari are not just there to pick up the pieces, and take the opportunity when Mercedes falter, no doubt they will push the Mercs to the limit.

  3. Just noticed Rosberg in 10th, he did have a bad day, but not that bad…

    1. @keithcollantine @veggen picked up Rosberg is listed 10th in your table. Unless he had some penalty applied that you are predicting but haven’t written about :)

    2. He has an old engine. Hamilton has a new one, more powerful.

    3. @veggen The table is ranked on Q1 times.

      1. @veggen Bah, scratch that, it’s not. Brain fail.

  4. Watched the video qualy laps comparison between KR and LH. Kimi had a perfect lap not a single mistake anywhere, not one wasted movement of the steering wheel. LH on the other hand had 2 small mistakes which cost him at least a tenth, tenth and a half

    I don’t know what will happen at the start but regardless, with Merc’s pace advantage being much more than 2/10 ths it’ll be very difficult for Ferrari to win

  5. Not to burst everyones bubble, but while on paper it looks close, the gap between fastest time in FP2 and Qualy was quite small. All year I have been predicting qualy time based on a ratio of 1:0.9799972573936097 between FP2:Qualy. So fastest time in FP2 was 1:24.279 and that means Lewis’ fastest time possible is a 1:22.593, the actual qualy result of 1:23.379 worked out to be a ratio of 0.989534759548642 which hasn’t been that low all year. Maybe compensate a couple of tenths for greener track on Sat . Further to that, Lewis didn’t improve on his time from Q2 to Q3.

    Having said all that, I am hoping that Ferrari can get the jump off the line and get ahead of Lewis. Although, I think perhaps that part of this new engine package that Merc has brought, probably has improved low end grip/slip to make it easier to launch, maybe?

    1. That’s a lot of decimal places! I can only guess that the track was a bit slower in Q3 (temperature change?) than Q2, and that perhaps there wasn’t much time left to gain with such a simple layout.

  6. Its Lewis Hamilton v/s the Ferrari ‘s.I think the world champion will handle them and ease to victory.Lewis had some bad starts recently but a power track like monza overtaking is not much difficult Even if he lose lead in the start Hamilton ‘s speed and race craft will do the business for him.

  7. I’d love to see a Raikkonen victory at Monza just to spite all those doubters. This looks like his best shot so far.

  8. If Rosberg doesn’t love a handful of places, he’ll beat the Ferraris.

    1. **lose… I’m sure Nico loves gaining places lol

  9. Mr win or lose
    6th September 2015, 9:50

    The normal strategy in Monza has always been a 1-stop strategy, but what difference will the softer tyres make? Will a 2-stop strategy become a viable option too?

  10. Ferrari all the way just have a feeling Hamilton will have some sort of engine problems he wasn’t impressed in the quali interview and rosberg using a tired engine down on power. Got 25/1 on ferrari 1 2 worth a bet.

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