RACE DEBRIEF

    Formula 1 returns to a Monza track where Ferrari have been on pole for the last two years, and where Charles Leclerc claimed an emphatic home victory last season. But with the Scuderia on the back foot in 2020, who will take their place at this year’s Italian Grand Prix?

    Vying for pole

    Pole has been a uniquely Ferrari affair for the past two seasons at Monza – but it looks as though the tifosi might be disappointed on that front this year, given the Scuderia’s struggles with both the power unit and the balance of their SF1000 currently, with neither Sebastian Vettel or Charles Leclerc having made it out of Q2 at Spa last weekend.

    Mercedes, on the other hand, maintained their 100% pole position record for 2020 in Belgium, and that record looks set to continue to Monza – although we wait to see how much the ban on qualifying modes will upset their dominance, if at all.

    READ MORE: Qualifying engine modes – What are the proposed changes and why do they matter?

    If Mercedes do take pole, though, Lewis Hamilton’s the driver with form around Monza, having not been outqualified by a team mate here since 2014 – while pole at the grand old Italian circuit in recent years has statistically been more important than at Monaco, with the victor having started from pole at 15 of the last 20 Italian Grands Prix, compared to 11 in 20 at Monaco.

    Pole positions in the last five years:

    • 2019 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
    • 2018 – Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
    • 2017 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2016 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2015 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

    FAN VIEW: Lewis Hamilton’s dominance at Barcelona and Spa means he is again the strong favourite here with F1 Play gamers, but things are at least a little more interesting with Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo all attracting support to be the fastest over a single lap at the Temple of Speed.

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    Leclerc and Vettel won't have high hopes coming into the weekend

    In the mix for victory

    Prior to last year’s win for Charles Leclerc and Ferrari, Monza had been Mercedes territory in the turbo-hybrid era, the Silver Arrows winning every race from 2014-18. And with the best power unit married to the best chassis in 2020, it looks like it will take a lot for Mercedes not to take victory at this year’s Grand Prix.

    READ MORE: Qualifying engine mode clampdown would help Mercedes in races, says Wolff

    They could be helped by Red Bull’s patchy form around the Italian track in recent years, with Red Bull not having featured on the podium here in the turbo-hybrid era – although Verstappen did take third in 2018, before being demoted to fifth for causing a collision.

    Cheeringly for Valtteri Bottas, though, despite Hamilton being a five-time Monza winner – a record he shares with Michael Schumacher – Bottas did finish ahead of the Brit last year, during the pair’s fruitless hunt-down of Leclerc.

    Wins in the last five years:

    • 2019 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
    • 2018 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2017 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2016 – Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
    • 2015 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

    FAN VIEW: No surprises here with Hamilton an overwhelming choice for F1 Play gamers. They confidently expect him, Bottas and Verstappen to follow up that podium in Spa with an exact replica in Monza. They have been selected almost to the exclusion of anybody else in the early voting ahead of Sunday’s race.

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    With Ferrari expected to be out of the frame for victory, it could be a clear run for Mercedes

    Podium outsiders

    Form-wise, you could argue that Red Bull are podium outsiders here this weekend, having not rostrummed at Monza since Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber took a 1-3 for the team in 2013. But given his near Mercedes-like pace at Spa and the way he’s driving this year, you probably wouldn’t bet against Max Verstappen being in the mix somewhere.

    Judging on the evidence from Spa, though, Red Bull will need to keep a watching brief over Renault this weekend. The R.S.20 appears to thrive with a low-downforce set-up, with Daniel Ricciardo driving the car to fourth in Belgium, and finishing less than 4s adrift of Verstappen.

    And given that Renault secured their best finish of 2019 at Monza with a P4 and P5 – just like they scored at Spa last time out – a decent qualifying could lead to some podium-threatening pace on race day.

    READ MORE: Ricciardo buzzing after ‘big’ final lap gives him extra point to go with fourth place

    We would usually add Racing Point into the mix here too – but the team’s race pace in Spa seemed to be no match to that of the Renaults and McLarens, as Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll ended up a distance ninth and 10th.

    Podiums in the last five years:

    • Mercedes – 9
    • Ferrari – 5
    • Williams – 1

    FAN VIEW: Daniel Ricciardo had a really strong weekend at Monza in 2019 - finishing fourth in the race after qualifying fifth. He comes to northern Italy this year on the back of a similarly superb showing at Spa and he is the one driver who F1 Play gamers believe could gatecrash the Mercedes/Red Bull podium party.

    Formula One World Championship
    Could Ricciardo really nab a podium this weekend?

    Points potential

    Despite a podium looking a longish shot this weekend, Sergio Perez at least boasts a fine record around Monza, having finished in the points here every year since 2014 – while in 2012, he even scored a podium here for Sauber.

    Indeed, if you look at the points scored by teams in the last five years, you see that Force India/Racing Point have taken just seven fewer than Red Bull in that time. So expect the Mexican to be fighting in the top 10 with the likes of drivers from Renault and McLaren come Sunday – while team mate Lance Stroll loves it around here too, with the remarkable record of having never started outside the top 10 at Monza.

    WATCH: Five moments from Italian GP history you might have forgotten

    Partly thanks to Stroll, in fact, this has traditionally been a happy hunting ground for Williams, with last year marking the first time since 2019 that they hadn’t scored points at Monza. Could the improved FW43 thrust them back into the top 10 this weekend?

    Given that no Ferrari-powered team finished in the top 10 last weekend in Spa, however, expect it to be tougher going for Ferrari, Haas and Alfa Romeo this weekend – a factor which may allow a team like AlphaTauri to score that squad’s first points at Monza since Ricciardo’s P7 for Toro Rosso in 2013.

    Points in the last five years:

    • Mercedes – 185
    • Ferrari – 135
    • Red Bull – 56
    • Williams – 50
    • Racing Point/Force India – 49
    • Renault/Lotus – 26
    • Alfa Romeo/Sauber – 4
    • McLaren – 1
    • Haas – 0
    • AlphaTauri/Toro Rosso – 0

    FAN VIEW: Not surprisingly the Renaults are expected to be in the points-scoring mix after Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon excelled at Spa. Outside of them the man who F1 Play gamers like is Sergio Perez. Racing Point had a slightly disappointing weekend in Belgium, but Perez had looked strong in Spain prior to that.