Last week, the Belgian Grand Prix preview on this site went to great lengths to extol the virtues of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, using words like majestic and magical to describe that great track.
This week, it is time to look ahead to the Italian Grand Prix, which takes place on Sunday at another special circuit: Monza.
Monza is also a track that deserves great recognition, but not necessarily for the same reasons as Spa. The Belgian track is a beautiful yet challenging monolith, whilst Monza’s claim to fame is arguably more for its historical allure.
The Italian Grand Prix is only one of two races to have been on the F1 calendar ever since the first world championship season in 1950. Whilst the other, the British Grand Prix, has often switched from Silverstone to other venues since that inaugural championship, Monza has hosted a race in all but one of the 61 seasons that has followed.
If one is in the mood for an F1 drinking game or something similar while watching television coverage of the grand prix this weekend, one thing to watch out for will be when the presenter or a pundit talks about ‘the historic’ banking that runs by the side of the circuit. Extra points could be had for when a driver, in an interview, is asked whether they would have liked to have driven on the old track, or about how difficult/unsafe it would have been.
But which is better? Spa or Monza? That’s a completely subjective question of course. However, there is one thing that Spa could offer in 2012 and Monza cannot, and that is Romain Grosjean in his Lotus.
Grosjean, of course, is banned for one race after causing the huge opening corner accident at Spa on Sunday when he collided with Lewis Hamilton down the pit straight. Many would argue that the punishment was slightly harsh a bit harsh, but the Frenchman accepts his ban, and admits that it was his mistake.
“When your life is all about racing, not being allowed to attend an event is probably one of the worst experiences you can go through. That said, I do respect the verdict of the Stewards,” said Grosjean on Sunday.
“I honestly thought I was ahead of [Hamilton] and there was enough room for both cars; I didn’t deliberately try to squeeze him or anything like that,” he added. “This first corner situation obviously isn’t what anyone would want to happen and thankfully no-one was hurt in the incident.
“I wish to apologise to the drivers who were involved and to their fans. I can only say that today is part of a process that will make me a better driver.”
With Grosjean out, Lotus will have to find another driver to partner Kimi Raikkonen in Italy on Sunday. That driver will be Jerome D’Ambrosio, the team’s reserve driver, it was announced today.
In addition to seeing a Belgian make a cameo appearance, there will be plenty more going on at Monza this weekend. The first-corner accident in Spa also meant that Fernando Alonso failed to pick up any points for the first time in 24 races. If the Spaniard is misfortunate enough to score zero points in Italy, and Sebastian Vettel takes the win (as he did last year) then Alonso will lose his lead in the championship battle.
A more likely scenario is that Alonso retains his lead, but his title rivals can still begin to smell a weakness. Ferrari never looked as though they had a car capable of winning at Spa, and their prospects of victory are unlikely to improve at Monza.
Vettel’s battle to second place in Belgium proved that he and Red Bull can no longer be written off, but it is McLaren who will probably attract the most expectation in Monza. They have now won the last two races in a pretty dominant fashion and, with Jenson Button looking to build on his Spa success and Hamilton looking to recover from his retirement in that clash with Grosjean, it is hard to bet against a third consecutive win for the team from Woking this weekend.
Further down the grid, Nico Hulkenberg will look to build on his fourth place in Belgium, Sauber will look to bounce back from getting both cars into the top four in qualifying and then failing to score a single point and, of course, stewards will be keeping an eye on F1 bad boy Pastor Maldonado, who has that ten-place grid penalty for his Spa shenanigans. This race will be a hard-fought battle up and down the field.
After the F1 famine of the summer, we are now being treated to a feast in September. Back-to-back grand prix at two of the most famous and most loved circuits on the calendar is a fine treat from Bernie Ecclestone, so tune in this weekend for the last race in Europe of 2012.
- Qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix begins at 13:00 BST on Saturday, with the race starting at 13:00 BST on Sunday.
- Live coverage in the UK is available on Sky Sports F1 HD and BBC Radio 5 Live.
- There will be reports and reactions to event at Monza throughout the weekend here on thecheckeredflag.co.uk