Ferrari's best chance for first Italian F1 GP victory since 2010?
Sebastian Vettel returns to the circuit that announced him as one of the hottest talents of the generation.
Sebastian Vettel returns to the circuit that announced him as one of the hottest talents of the generation. He had barely turned 21 when he took victory at the wet 2008 Italian Grand Prix, in the process becoming the youngest Formula One winner at the time and giving the Red Bull family their first taste of F1 success.
Since then, his current team Ferrari have taken victory at Monza only once - with Fernando Alonso all the way back in 2010 - but the Scuderia are well-placed for their first proper attempt of home success in the hybrid era. If the tifosi want to really get giddy about Ferrari's prospects, their last one-two came in 2004, with Rubens Barrichello beating Michael Schumacher.
Being the power circuit to end all power circuits, it's no surprise that Mercedes have had it all their own way from 2014 onward, taking all four wins, three of which in the form of a one-two finish.
This year, the performance between Mercedes and Ferrari is a lot closer, with many believing that the latter now holds the advantage in power unit department.
The ever-lasting battle for power unit superiority has seen lap records at other venues fall by the wayside, and a dry Italian Grand Prix this weekend could host the fastest ever race.
Michael Schumacher's fifteen-year-old record of setting the highest-ever average speed in a race (153.842mph or 247.585kph, also set at Monza) is under threat, and a race-winning time of anything less than 1:14:19.838 will break this particular speed record.
With the 2018 season developing into a contest between solely Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, the role of the second drivers at Ferrari and Mercedes will increase in significance.
Both Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas have had their spells of poor fortune over the season, and either driver will need a series of bizarre circumstances in order to bring themselves back into any form of championship contention. We may start to see the introduction of (less subtle) team orders in order to aid their respective team leader's title bid.
From a Ferrari point of view, with many anticipating that they will have the legs on Mercedes at Monza, it's paramount that they help Raikkonen towards a clean weekend, in order to increase the chances of him finishing ahead of Hamilton, particularly with Red Bull being very unlikely to be in the mix this weekend.
Grid penalties for Ricciardo
Despite Renault having concerns about the reliability of their 'C Spec' engine, Daniel Ricciardo will receive power unit upgrades for Monza.
The Australian is currently out of sequence with power unit upgrades and, with Red Bull chasing individual results as opposed to being involved in any battle in the constructors' championship, they are the main candidates for trying the upgrades.
Looking ahead to the Italian Grand Prix, Ricciardo confirmed that power unit-related grid penalties are very likely this weekend.
"I’ve done some of my best overtaking moves there and I plan on doing plenty more this week as it looks likely that I will be taking some engine penalties," said Ricciardo.
"It’s obviously not ideal but Monza is a power track and one that we haven’t been hugely strong at in recent years, it does mean plenty of action and fun for me in the race though.
"Last year I finished fourth from 16th on the grid, so it won’t be boring if I have to do the same again this year."
Renault's engine technical director Remi Taffin confirmed that there are question marks over the upgrade's reliability, but believed the increase in power to be worth around 0.3 seconds per lap.
"The C Spec is an evolution of the current B Spec engine," Taffin explained. "It's significantly more powerful.
"Conversely, it's possibly not as reliable as the current generation, hence the different choices made by each team.
"Depending on fuel used, the power gain is in the order of 0.3s per lap in qualifying on a circuit like Monza, which is a substantial step forward."
FIA extend DRS zones
In a bid to increase the number of overtaking opportunities in 2018, the FIA have either extended or added zones in which the Drag Reduction System can be activated.
For example, in Australia and Canada, a third DRS zone was added in a bid to bring cars closer together for the better overtaking opportunities.
Following a similar theme, the FIA have confirmed that five of the remaining races will have their DRS zones extended, including Monza, which will have a longer second DRS zone.
In Russia, the main DRS zone which runs down the start-finish straight and around Turn 1 will be extended, whilst in Austin the DRS on the backstraight between Turns 11 and 12 will be lengthened.
The DRS zone in Brazil after Turn 14 will be lengthened by 100 metres, while both DRS zones in Abu Dhabi will be extended.
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport ImagesWho do you think will take the victory at Monza? Leave your comment in the section below.
Vettel suffers embarrassing shunt in Milan F1 demo
Vettel: Demo crash down to using Raikkonen's wheel