Italy Preview - Monza make or break for Ferrari? 09 Sep 2010
Monza, that wonderful cathedral of sport, could be the turning point of the world championship fight this weekend. Its long straights and the need for minimal downforce may militate against Red Bull, while Ferrari, fresh from no further penalties in their team orders hearing at the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris on Wednesday, will decide their strategy for the rest of the season based on their performance here on their home ground.
"Formula One is a great show," says Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel, who has recently lost significant ground to fellow title-contending team mate Mark Webber after making two serious mistakes. "If everything goes well, you are the greatest. If you make an error, and some people simply do not understand exactly the reasons why, then you very fast become the idiot. The most important thing, therefore, is that I know the truth myself.
"In Hungary I was asleep during the safety-car period and made an error. And in Spa, when I lost the car while overtaking Jenson Button, I make a mistake too. But I am open and honest enough to admit that. I'm not proud of it, but you cannot change anything other than try to make sure it doesn't happen again. In the end, the mistakes make you a better driver."
Having a clean weekend is essential for the young German if he is to sweep away accusations that the pressure of the title fight is beginning to tell.
Over at Ferrari, Felipe Massa says the pressure is also on the Prancing Horse with only six races remaining and a disappointing run last time out in Belgium. Fernando Alonso believes the team have cured the problems that afflicted them at Spa, but Massa says: It will be a great event, racing in front of our tifosi, but the reality is that it will be a very important race because after the less than satisfactory performance in Belgium, the championship is not looking so easy for us.
"We need to keep pushing for the last six races, trying to be back in the fight for wins or at least as many podiums as possible. For sure it won't be easy. Looking back to the Belgian Grand Prix, I started sixth and finished fourth, so at a certain level, I could say that I had a good race. However, in terms of the result and in terms of the championship and the points total for Ferrari, it was not enough.
Meanwhile, McLaren are determined to make hay while the sun shines on them, as they did at Spa. Both circuits suit the character of the MP4-25 perfectly, and this may be their best chance during the remainder of the season to score another dominant victory. Like all teams which have them, they are playing their cards close to their chest on the subject of whether to use the drag-reducing F-duct, but they are the most likely to because the system is integral and cannot be easily removed the way that Red Bulls, Ferraris and Renaults can.
McLaren also admit that the new, more stringent, tests on floor deflection have posed some interesting challenges, but that ultimately they have had the effect of a performance upgrade.
"We haven't had to make any modifications to front wings in terms of bodywork flexibility," says chief engineer Tim Goss. "As far as the 'bib' is concerned, the new off-set load test is challenging and we've had to make minor modifications just to make sure that we're well inside the deflection limits that the FIA are going to set on that. We've modified our bib, and we've taken the opportunity to roll it up into a minor performance upgrade."
Goss expects that many teams will have had to make modifications to meet the rule upgrade. "I think as far as the off-set bib test is concerned, I would expect most teams would probably have had to make changes to comply with that.
McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton is out to add Monza to his wish list of classic circuits on which he wants to win, but victory here is also crucial to team mate Jenson Button to keep himself in the title fight.
Obviously, my non-finish in Spa wasnt ideal for my championship aspirations, the reigning world champion says, so I head to Monza determined to put myself back in the hunt for the title.
Our pace over the whole weekend in Belgium was extremely encouraging - were developing the car at a very rapid rate, and were learning more about it all the time, so Im optimistic that well be able to maintain that form this weekend. We still have some work to do to make sure the package we bring to Italy is perfectly suited to the track, but Im confident that our engineers have made some good steps forward with their understanding of our car, so we should be in good shape.
I love racing at Monza - its a totally unique experience; running minimal downforce at incredible speeds along the straights, and then coping with the lack of grip, and an extremely skittish car, through the low-speed stuff. Given the competitiveness at the front of the field, this could be an intense, thrilling Grand Prix.
As Robert Kubica at Renault hopes to maintain the upswing in performance evident at Spa, Michael Schumacher says he expects Mercedes to struggle here.
"Spa was quite an entertaining race weekend which I like to look back on as we achieved a reasonable result considering the circumstances. The next race in Monza might well be entertaining in a very different way as I expect it to be a real challenge for our team. We have seen already several times this year that circuits with characteristics like those of Monza do not really play in our hands.
Force India will once again run third driver Paul di Resta during Fridays morning practice, with the young Scottish hopeful set to replace Adrian Sutil in the VJM03. Meanwhile, Toro Rosso could introduce an F-duct to their car, after a positive straight-line aero test for driver Sebastien Buemi at the Italian track of Vairano on Monday.
Bridgestone will bring their hard and soft compounds to the Italian Grand Prix. The 5.793-kilometre (3.599 mile) Monza circuit is largely unchanged, apart from the kerbs in the two chicanes which now have ramped concrete sections to minimise the chances of errant cars becoming airborne.
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To watch an onboard lap of Monza, click here.
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