RACE DEBRIEF

    It’s time for the field to head to the Temple of Speed at Monza. It's Ferrari's home turf – but is Max Verstappen assured of victory in the 2022 Italian Grand Prix? Let’s have a look, and see how gamers are voting on F1 Play

    Vying for pole

    Max Verstappen enters Italy having taken pole position (by hundredths) at Zandvoort. Crucially, the Dutchman also set the fastest time by six tenths of a second in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, before grid penalties kicked in and sent him down to P14 on the grid.

    As Monza is a low-downforce, high-speed circuit, the general consensus is that Red Bull are set to hit the ground running in Italy. So one might expect Verstappen to take pole position – and it’s hard to argue against that.

    TECH TUESDAY: Why was Red Bull’s pace advantage cut so dramatically at Zandvoort?

    Furthermore, his team mate Sergio Perez, plus the Mercedes drivers, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, the Aston Martins, and Williams, are on the verge of receiving engine-related grid penalties. Valtteri Bottas is worried too. Monza might be a wise place to take those penalties, given its propensity for on-track passing.

    So, if we assume Verstappen is favourite to take pole position and Perez second-favourite, Ferrari will surely be their next-best challengers – as they were in Belgium. Traffic on a flying lap or a lock-up through the Lesmos seem to be Verstappen’s biggest worries this weekend. As for rain, there’s currently a slim chance that qualifying will be wet or even damp at Monza.

    Qualifying wins in the last five years:

    • 2021 – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
    • 2020 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2019 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
    • 2018 – Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
    • 2017 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

    FAN VIEW: Just 24 hours after the trials of Friday practice, Max Verstappen roared to pole in Zandvoort. The marriage of the flying Dutchman and the Red Bull RB18 is proving very special in 2022, and the reigning world champion has more than 80% of F1 Play votes so far to be fastest over a single lap at Monza on Saturday.

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    Red Bull hold the cards entering Italy

    In the mix for Victory

    Monza has thrown up stunners in recent years, what with Pierre Gasly taking the win in 2020, and Daniel Ricciardo leading a McLaren one-two in 2021. Gasly’s victory was shocking in particular, given he became the first driver to win a Grand Prix at Monza from P10 on the grid.

    Of the 71 Grands Prix at Monza, 25 have been won from pole, 13 from P2 on the grid, and 12 from P3 – so 21 have been won from fourth or lower. But in the hybrid era, Gasly remains the only driver to win the race from fourth or lower. His win was therefore an anomaly.

    READ MORE: ‘We probably have to try quite hard to lose it’ says Horner as Red Bull eye both titles for first time since 2013

    With Verstappen holding the cards, it is difficult to look past the Red Bull driver when it comes to victory here, and the fact that there have only been three Safety Cars at Monza in the last 10 races, and two VSCs in that time, doesn’t bode well for anyone hoping to make a late gain. Sure, there have been 37 retirements this season already – a higher rate of DNFs than last season – but Verstappen seems to have the power to bat away any challengers during restarts.

    Ferrari once again have a slimmer chance of victory, but if they manage to put two cars behind Verstappen in qualifying – something that could happen if Perez takes a grid penalty here – the Scuderia could shorten their odds.

    Wins in the last five years:

    • 2021 – Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
    • 2020 – Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
    • 2019 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
    • 2018 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2017 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

    FAN VIEW: Again, this is a story of utter dominance in the voting for Verstappen – a veritable landslide. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is a very distant second as he looks to give some cheer to the tifosi in Monza, while Lewis Hamilton is third in the voting after that near miss in Zandvoort over the weekend.

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    Ricciardo pulled off a stunning victory here last season

    Podium outsiders

    If Ferrari are the next-best team behind Red Bull, then Mercedes are very much the outsiders here. Their pace on hard tyres at Zandvoort might trigger the Silver Arrows to go long on the white-walled compounds at Monza, but that doesn’t mean they’ll enjoy the same results as they did last weekend.

    Furthermore, Mercedes don’t fare so well on low-downforce tracks, and they’ll likely need some fortune to capitalise and reach the podium.

    READ MORE: ‘I’d rather take the risk to win’ says Wolff as he defends Mercedes’ Safety Car strategy in Zandvoort

    Other than Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso is another driver to fare well recently and is surely due a podium at some point.

    Again, with Red Bull having dominated at Spa, it’s hard to predict anyone else but Verstappen and Perez occupying the top-two spots. Carlos Sainz was quick there and might well be back on the podium this weekend. That is, unless the top two crash out, like they did last season. Surely that won’t happen again, will it?

    Podiums in the last five years:

    • Mercedes – 7
    • Ferrari – 3
    • McLaren – 3
    • AlphaTauri – 1
    • Racing Point – 1

    FAN VIEW: Inevitably the big guns of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari come close to locking out the voting for podium places in Italy, but there is one man who is given at least some chance of crashing that party. That would be Alpine’s Fernando Alonso after another fine drive in the Netherlands on Sunday.

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    Sainz joined the Red Bulls on the podium in Belgium

    Points potential

    Looking past Mercedes, who will at least be aiming for points if the podium eludes them this weekend, Alpine are the team to watch, as Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso have scored consistently this season. The latter is on a streak of 10 points scores, the longest of anyone bar Verstappen.

    Norris is another driver on a solid run in 2022, having scored in all but four weekends this season, though he didn’t fare well at Spa-Francorchamps with P12 to his team mate Ricciardo’s P15.

    READ MORE: ‘There is something wrong we need to address’ admits Binotto after tough Dutch GP for Ferrari

    Sebastian Vettel has been rapid in recent weeks and could be in the mix for the top 10, while Alex Albon is another driver to watch out for, with his Williams quick on the straights if a bit more recalcitrant in the corners.

    Finally, AlphaTauri scored in Belgium thanks to Pierre Gasly and have a chance of doing so again in Monza – though they’ll be struggling to keep up with the Alpines this weekend.

    Points in the last five years:

    • Mercedes – 152
    • Ferrari – 100
    • Red Bull – 47
    • McLaren – 76
    • Aston Martin/Racing Point/Force India - 52
    • Alpine/Renault – 43
    • AlphaTauri/Toro Rosso – 27
    • Haas – 16
    • Williams – 15
    • Alfa Romeo/Sauber – 2

    FAN VIEW: Alonso is seen as a lock-in to be in the points in Monza while his Alpine team mate Esteban Ocon is also a strong fancy so far in the voting to make the top 10. There is also plenty of support for Mick Schumacher of Haas, the Aston Martin pair of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll and Alex Albon of Williams.