The all-time record for Formula 1’s fastest ever lap could be broken this weekend. Here are five talking points for this weekend’s race.
F1’s fastest ever lap
Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2004 lap of 1’19.525 stands not only as the fastest lap of Monza, but the quickest lap ever seen in an official F1 session. His Williams-BMW FW26 V10 screamed around the track at an average speed of 262.242kph (162.9mph).
Rain on Saturday at this event 12 months ago meant we never got to see whether the 2017 cars were capable of beating it. But with another year of development, and championship leaders Mercedes and Ferrari pushing the envelope of engine performance even further, that goal could well be within reach this weekend.
It’s been eight years since Ferrari won their home race. But following Sebastian Vettel’s emphatic victory in Belgium last weekend the team has to be favourites for victory this weekend.
Vettel was keen to play down that possibility ahead of the race. “It was less dominant than you might think,” he said, of his victory in Spa, where he led title rival Lewis Hamilton home by 11 seconds.
“It’s good to see that we are able to improve our car. We had some bits and a new engine. So we’ll see. Monza in many ways is a bit similar to Spa, but then again obviously if you look at the track and the actual corners, not just the straights, it’s quite a bit different.”
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Force India fall-out
It’s widely regarded a matter of when not if Lance Stroll will usurp Esteban Ocon at Force India. The Williams driver, whose father recently led a consortium of investors in taking over the team, said he’s “on standby” in anticipation of a move following the last race, and visited Force India’s factory on Tuesday.
For now at least Ocon still has his seat. But will Force India decide to get Stroll acclimatised ahead of a full F1 season in 2019?
But the team may be preoccupied with more pressing matters, such as whether they’re going to get all the prize money they expected to.
Furthermore, following their ‘reset’ in the championship standings, they may prefer to keep the established drivers on the cars until they’re recovered some lost ground. Their excellent result at Spa indicates they may look beyond Toro Rosso and even consider sixth-placed McLaren a potential championship target.
Haas for fourth?
In a similar vein, the fight to be ‘best of the rest’ could see a change of hands this weekend. Consistent Renault have held fourth place for much of the season, but the Haas drivers (Romain Grosjean especially) have finally begun cranking out the results the VF-17 is capable of.
Haas has out-scored Renault 49 to 20 over the last five races, and with Monza likely to suit the Ferrari customer team, Renault’s six-point margin now looks awfully vulnerable.
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Has the time come for the front running teams to throw their full weight behind their leading drivers in the championship? Mercedes said they will give it consideration after Sunday’s race, notwithstanding the fact that, wherever he finishes, Valtteri Bottas will still be mathematically in championship contention on Sunday evening.
“At the moment my situation is the same as last weekend, same as summer break,” said Bottas today. “If I have the pace I am free to win. We’ll stay like that at least for now and see later on.”
According to Ferrari, they adopt a similar approach when it comes to Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, although the latter would feel justified in questioning whether all of the team’s strategy calls truly reflect that.
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Quotes: Dieter Rencken
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