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Italy preview - can anyone beat the bulls? 05 Sep 2013

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9 leads Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Race Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday, 7 July 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Toro Rosso celebrates victory with Franz Tost (AUT) Scuderia Toro Rosso Team Principal and Dietrich Mateschitz (AUT) CEO and Founder of Red Bull.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 14 September 2008 Fans invade the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 9 September 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Race Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 25 August 2013 Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren celebrates with the champagne on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 9 September 2012 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E21 leads Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Race Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 25 August 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 7 September 2012 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India VJM06 locks up.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 James Calado (GBR) Force India.
Formula One Young Drivers Test, Silverstone, England, Day One, Wednesday, 17 July 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 leads at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 9 September 2012 The field heads out of the Ascari chicane on the opening lap.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 9 September 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 9 September 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 9 September 2012 Fans invade the track at the end of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 9 September 2012 Lotus F1 mechanic with Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8 and Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03 battle.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 9 September 2012

If there’s one phrase to sum up Red Bull’s state heading into the 12th round of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Formula 1 Gran Premio d’Italia 2013 at Monza, it’s ‘ready to take on all-comers'.

Prior to the recent race in Belgium, Red Bull’s rivals had clung to the belief that the world championship-winning team from Milton Keynes have tended to struggle on circuits where their aerodynamic advantage is minimised by the need for a low-downforce, low-drag configuration.

But the manner in which Sebastian Vettel dominated at Spa-Francorchamps suggests that Adrian Newey’s RB9 will indeed be fearsomely competitive everywhere. Few come to Monza expecting it not to be the pacesetter, though surprisingly the team have only managed one podium finish at the circuit (Vettel’s win in 2011) since their debut season in 2005.

Still buzzing from Spa, which took him another key step closer to a fourth consecutive world title, Vettel says: “Monza brings back great memories for me, mainly from my first win there in 2008 with Toro Rosso. I can’t describe the feeling of standing on the top of the podium for the first time, and Monza was one of the best places to experience it because of the thousands of passionate fans that stand beneath. It gives you goose bumps.”

This is, of course, Ferrari’s home race. And everyone within the Scuderia will have their ears ringing with president Luca di Montezemolo’s urgings after Hungary to up their game. There were signs of improvement at Spa, but it was clearly not enough, even if it did take the scarlet cars back ahead of the Silver Arrows as Mercedes stumbled.

Ferrari are placing great reliance on the return of former employee James Allison as chassis technical director, and he started work at Maranello last week. And while Fernando Alonso needs to keep his title hopes alive with strong performances, Felipe Massa also needs to get good results as he bids to keep his seat in 2014.

“I think we turned a corner at Spa,” said the Brazilian. “Everything we brought along that was new to the car seemed to work as we had expected, which is encouraging, so I am expecting we will be more competitive in the second half of the season.”

Meanwhile, at Mercedes hopes are pinned on a revised low-downforce package and set-up, after the W04’s disappointing behaviour in Belgium.

“Monza is a truly amazing circuit and it's a great feeling to drive at our top speeds of the year there,” Lewis Hamilton says. “The layout and atmosphere of Monza are very special and it really feels like you are going back to Formula One's roots when you race there.

“The car has a completely different aerodynamic package to anywhere else on the calendar with really low downforce to make the most of the four long straights. My win in Italy last year was the first of my career at this circuit and it was a great feeling. We had a strong weekend in Belgium with a good team result and that's what we need to keep doing in the second half of the season.”

Lotus are expected to debut a longer wheelbase E21 here, with hopes that besides conferring a handling improvement on the revised Pirelli tyres it will also offer aerodynamic advantages. They need a boost to shore up Kimi Raikkonen’s dwindling championship hopes - the enigmatic Finn slipped two places in the standings to fourth after his first retirement in 28 races in Belgium.

McLaren, who celebrated their 50th birthday this past week, will bring a further revised MP4-28 to Monza, with Jenson Button and Sergio Perez intent on building on the former’s strong performance at Spa and unlocking more of the car’s potential.

“I’ve always loved Monza,” Button says. “I really enjoy circuits that have a bit of history to them, and Monza has that in abundance - it’s one of the greatest tracks on the calendar.

“The place is unique: ever since we lost the ‘old’ Hockenheim, this has been the only place on the calendar where you run a really super-low downforce configuration. And you can feel it - the car accelerates up to speed incredibly quickly, feels skittish and loose when you’re running flat-out, and can be tricky and unpredictable under braking. But that’s what makes the place a special kind of challenge, and I really enjoy that.

“When you have the car hooked up beneath you, you get into a special kind of rhythm around Monza: you’re going so fast that the whole lap just flows together. There’s nowhere quite like it.

“It’s really appropriate that McLaren will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in the paddock over the Monza weekend. Both names are synonymous with motorsport history - you couldn’t imagine Formula One without them - so I’ll be hoping for a strong result to show the strength and depth that we have as a team.”

Force India lost their fifth place overall to McLaren at Spa and will be going all-out to retrieve it. It remains to be seen whether they can regain the advantage they had before the change in tyre construction, but Monza was the scene of Adrian Sutil’s best F1 weekend - in 2009 he qualified second before finishing fourth.

Besides Sutil and Paul di Resta, Force India will continue their history of giving young racers a chance by running newly-signed third driver and GP2 winner James Calado on Friday morning following his highly impressive run in the recent young driver test.

“We worked with him during the Silverstone test and he impressed everyone with his speed and consistency,” team boss Vijay Mallya says. “We’ve always tried to support young drivers and this is a great opportunity for James to gain some valuable experience of driving during Formula One race events.”

Monza is the quickest track on the calendar, with an average speed in excess of 240 km/h (150 mph). Opened in 1922, it has hosted the Italian Grand Prix ever since 1950, apart from 1980 when the race was held at Imola.

The 5.793-kilometre (3.6 mile) layout comprises four 330 km/h (205 mph) straights, which present teams with the conundrum of running as little downforce (and thus drag) as possible while still maintaining sufficient stability under the very heavy braking required for the numerous chicanes for which the drivers have to decelerate from maximum speed to less than 80 km/h (50 mph) in a couple of seconds.

Despite those long straights and the two DRS zones (the first on the pit straight with the detection point before Turn 11, the second between Turns 7 and 8 with detection before Turn 7), it is not always easy to overtake. Believe it or not, Monza places even more importance on pole position than does Monaco. Since the turn of the century, the victor has started on pole on 10 occasions, whereas in Monte Carlo the figure is eight. That’s food for thought, especially given the fact that in races at Monza between 1950 and 1999 the pole-sitter was victorious the same number of times - 10…

Aside from some minor changes to kerbing, the track remains the same as in 2012 and that means that the engines spend 77 percent of the lap on full noise, and that cars will exceed 320 km/h (200 mph) before Turns 1, 4, 8 and 11.

As in Belgium, Pirelli are bringing their two hardest rubber compounds, the orange-marked hards and the white-marked mediums, and the best strategy is expected to be to make either one or two stops only.

“Monza is obviously our home race, only around half an hour away from our headquarters in Milan,” says Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery. “It’s very easy to see why the place has been called ‘the temple of speed’: it’s actually the quickest circuit that we go to all year, and the long straights and fast corners put plenty of energy through the tyres. This means that overheating and blistering can be a problem if not controlled.

“So correct tyre management can have a very important effect on the race and the strategy, and this is something that the teams will assess during free practice on Friday. Not only the performance of the tyres is tested here but also the durability, as there are plenty of high-speed impacts with the kerbs, which represent another important aspect of this race. Monza is one of the most popular races of the year, with lots of tifosi, and we are very much looking forward to it.”

The weather is expected to be largely settled all weekend, with sun and ambient temperature highs of between 27 and 29 degrees Celsius. There are chances of light showers in the afternoon on Friday and Sunday, however.

Sunday’s race, which begins at 1400 hours local time (two hours ahead of GMT), will be run over 53 laps or 306.720 kilometres (190.596 miles).

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