The triple-header comes to a close at the historic Monza.
Formula One returns to Monza, the venue of one of the most spectacular races in modern times that took place last year.
As we head into the weekend, apart from the on-track happenings, plenty of driver-market-shuffling has happened in between Zandvoort and Monza. As the teams have secured the upcoming season’s driver line-ups, the focus now truly is on finishing the season on a high before getting ready for the new season with new regulations.
Starting a lap, drivers head into Parabolica slow but exit the corner at high speed, crossing the start line for one of the longest and fastest straights on the calendar. Drivers go upto 340 km/h before braking for the first chicane which is Variante del Rettifilo.
Heading out of Turn 2, drivers generally go flat out and take the bend of Turn 3 before slamming the throttles once again as they head towards Variante della Roggia, Turn Four. After entering at around 100 km/h, drivers have to be careful as the outside corner can easily see the aggressive kerbs damage the floor of their cars.
Going on the inside of Turn 5 is the smartest option to avoid the bumps heading into Lesmos and the following sharp right hander has to be taken with relative care. Heading towards Ascari, the long straight is another overtaking spot.
Heading out towards Turn 10, drivers must move outside to clear the left-right-left section before approaching the iconic Parabolica. Drivers generally approach Parabolica at over 300 km/h and are sharp on the brakes as they shift from the outside line to the inside one.
THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Sprint is back
Sprint qualifying, which made its debut this season at the British Grand Prix will return for the Italian Grand Prix as well.
Sprint’s introduction has shaken up the entire weekend with all three days having dramatic events. At one of the fastest tracks on the calendar, Sprint qualifying is going to be crucial to decide the favourites to Sunday’s race.
Another team who will fancy their chances for pole will be the home team. Twelve months earlier, Ferrari saw both their cars eliminated in Q1 and neither reach the chequered flag; a year later, however, Ferrari have made a miraculous comeback. The Scuderia have found that pace and have been constant points finishers this season, hanging around the podium places. The battle in Sprint is going to be an intense and tight one.
The return of Sprint means regular qualifying takes place on Friday after a Free Practice session and on Saturday, and Sprint will take place based on the qualifying results held the previous day. Sprint will then decide Sunday’s final starting grid.
The driver market
In between Zandvoort and Monza, in the matter of a few days, there have been four announcements related to the driver market which have shaken and then more or less secured the grid.
It all started on Monday, the day after the Dutch Grand Prix, when the inevitable was finally announced, that Valtteri Bottas will leave Mercedes, shifting to Alfa Romeo, to replace Kimi Räikkönen, who will retire at the end of the season. The following day his, replacement at Mercedes was announced as George Russell. Along with Russell’s announcement, it was also announced that AlphaTauri will retain their current driver line-up for the next season, and on Wednesday, it was announced Alex Albon will return to Formula One as George Russell’s replacement.
Within a couple of days, the entire grid (more or less) has been confirmed for next season, with McLaren, Ferrari, Alpine and Red Bull already having announced their line-ups and Aston Martin most likely to stick with their current pairing; the only missing pieces of the puzzle are the second Alfa Romeo seat and the Haas seats.
Haas will most likely continue with Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. So, as most teams and drivers now have their future secured, the second half of the season is most likely to see a more competitive approach from them, knowing that they don’t have to worry about taking a risk and that affecting their future. The teams also will now turn their entire focus to 2022, with most of them already having started work on next year’s cars.
The Polish Alfa Romeo reserve and test driver made his first Formula One start last weekend since Abu Dhabi 2019, filling in for the COVID-positive Kimi Räikkönen. The Finn has been ruled out of this weekend’s Grand Prix too and Kubica will get another chance to showcase his exceptional talent.
Kubica had a flawless weekend last time around and finished an impressive 15th without any incidents. Normally it wouldn’t seem like a great thing, but for someone to fill in at such short notice, on a completely new track, and given the fact that the machinery is far from ideal, Kubica fared reasonably well.
The 36-year-old’s promising Formula One career was cut short following an almost career-ending injury in 2011 that severely damaged his right hand, but he made a stunning return to Formula One in 2019, though with a non-competitive Williams there wasn’t much he could do. Things aren’t much better at Alfa Romeo, but Kubica will get a chance to fight with the Williams and lower midfield teams, and the Pole will use all his experience to make sure the Swiss team leave Monza happy.
- Ferrari, who had a disastrous 2020 Italian Grand Prix, have made quite the turnaround in a year’s time. The Scuderia have already taken two poles this season, and Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will hope to use the home advantage to make full use of Sprint Qualifying and could even take a surprise podium which would see the Tifosi go wild.
- As one of the fastest tracks with one of the longest straights, straight-line speed is essential. One team who have found brilliant straight-line speed are McLaren, and the Woking-based team will look to score a good haul of points to re-take the third place in the Constructors’ Championship. Also, lookout for Daniel Ricciardo. who is itching to get a first podium with his new team.
- Alpine, Aston Martin and AlphaTauri have been engaged in a closely fought lower midfield battle, but for AlphaTauri, the lion’s share of the points have come from Pierre Gasly. Coming off the back of a brilliant P4, Gasly returns to the venue of his maiden Formula One victory. The Frenchman has been one of the best of the season and with a strong Honda engine under him, he will be one of the frontrunners to have a solid weekend once again.
Number of Laps – 53
Circuit Length – 5.793 km
Race Distance – 306.7 km
Lap Record – 1:22.746s (Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2020)