|6. NICO ROSBERG – MERCEDES (220 PTS – CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER)|
|Last 5 Races: 1st, DNF, 1st, 4th, 2nd||Best in Italy: 5th (2010)|
After the events of Spa-Francorchamps, Nico Rosberg has now been cast in the role of pantomime villain heading into the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. The unpopularity among the public and increased friction with his teammate can’t be ideal but having left Belgium eighteen points up on Lewis Hamilton, there is no doubt that his championship chances have been seriously enhanced. With 29 points in his pocket over Hamilton, Nico is in a position where he can probably afford to follow his rival home and remain in a strong position but beating Lewis here could be a decisive blow in the title fight.
|44. LEWIS HAMILTON – MERCEDES (191 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 29 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 2nd, 1st, 3rd, 3rd, DNF||Best in Italy: Winner (2012)|
Lewis Hamilton will certainly have appreciated the private and public support shown towards him by senior figures at Mercedes following the spat at Spa with Nico Rosberg but none of that will compensate for the lost points. Forget the psychological warfare for a moment, the Belgian Grand Prix was a hugely damaging one for Hamilton’s hopes of a second world title and his margin for error is tiny now. If Lewis doesn’t start beating Nico quickly, not even the double points on offer in Abu Dhabi will save him and this is surely a must win Grand Prix for the Briton.
|3. DANIEL RICCIARDO – RED BULL RACING RENAULT (156 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 64 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 8th, 3rd, 6th, 1st, 1st||Best in Italy: 7th (2013)|
Daniel Ricciardo’s first two Grand Prix victories will be remembered as much for the dramatic nature of them than the brilliance of the driver but make no mistake about it, Spa was all about the Australian. The implosion at Mercedes opened the door for Ricciardo but there was still plenty of work to do and the way he controlled the race from the front before resisting a rapid Rosberg in the closing stages was nothing short of sensational. On paper, Monza shouldn’t be a circuit where Ricciardo and Red Bull are contenders but then again, we all said that heading into Spa.
|14. FERNANDO ALONSO – FERRARI (121 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 99 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 5th, 6th, 5th, 2nd, 7th||Best in Italy: Winner (2007, 2010)|
Fernando Alonso’s heroic effort in Hungary was as impressive a drive as you’re likely to see all season but the Spaniard couldn’t reach those same high standards in Belgium. The late battle with Kevin Magnussen, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel ultimately left to drag a damaged Ferrari home in seventh, seeing him lose touch with Daniel Ricciardo in the championship. No single driver or team will be under as much pressure this weekend with the passionate Tifosi pinning all realistic hopes of a result on Alonso but a podium is as good as they can hope for, and even that looks a big ask.
|77. VALTTERI BOTTAS – WILLIAMS MERCEDES (110 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 110 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 8th, 3rd||Best in Italy: 15th (2013)|
If Hungary was something of a blip, Belgium saw the best of Valtteri Bottas once again as the Finn scored his fourth podium in five races. Key overtaking manoeuvres at key moments proved the foundation for Valtteri’s result and with the Williams likely to shine on the long straights of Monza, he is surely the driver most likely to take the fight to Mercedes on outright pace. One thing he and the team will be wary of is Saturday’s weather forecast with the FW36 known to struggle when rain begins to fall.
| 1. SEBASTIAN VETTEL – RED BULL RACING RENAULT (98 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 122 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 5th, 4th, 7th, 5th||Best in Italy: Winner (2008, 2011, 2013)|
While his teammate continues to go from strength to strength, Sebastian Vettel continues to fade further and further into Daniel Ricciardo’s shadow. It’s easy to forget that Vettel ran ahead of the eventual winner in the early stages before running wide at Pouhon and the 52 second margin between the two Red Bulls at the chequered flag will surely have hurt the reigning champion. In a career of magic moments, arguably the finest of all came here six years ago when Vettel took the Toro Rosso to victory in horrendous conditions but whatever the weather produces this time, his chances of a fourth Monza success are remote.
|27. NICO HULKENBERG – FORCE INDIA MERCEDES (70 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 150 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 9th, 8th, 7th, DNF, 10th||Best in Italy: 5th (2013)|
After losing his 100% points-scoring record at the Hungaroring, Nico Hulkenberg returned to the top ten at Spa, only just mind you. The Force India driver was on his back foot from the moment he was knocked out in Q1 and it wasn’t until Kevin Magnussen received his post-race penalty that the German was promoted to tenth and a solitary point. Nico’s 2013 season exploded into life with a magnificent drive to fifth here at Monza and with Mercedes power on his side, he may be the man to spring another surprise this time.
|22. JENSON BUTTON – McLAREN MERCEDES (68 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 152 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 11th, 4th, 8th, 10th, 6th||Best in Italy: 2nd (2009, 2010, 2011)|
While speculation continues to mount concerning his Formula One future, Jenson Button continues to rack up the points. The 2009 world champion benefited from an improved McLaren MP4-29 to finish sixth and will be hoping the upturn in performance continues on another of Formula One’s low downforce circuits. More importantly as far as his 2015 prospects are concerned, Jenson will be keen to reassert his superiority over teammate Kevin Magnussen having trailed him until his post-race penalty in Belgium.
|19. FELIPE MASSA – WILLIAMS MERCEDES (40 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 180 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 4th, DNF, DNF, 5th, 13th||Best in Italy: 3rd (2010)|
Felipe Massa’s stop-start season continues with a morale-boosting fifth place in Hungary followed by another weekend to crush the Brazilian’s spirits in Belgium. Massa had qualified inside the top ten but when debris from the Mercedes bust-up became lodged in his floor, his Williams began to plummet down the order. With the situation not rectified until his second pit stop, Massa missed out on any points and will be hoping his fortunes fluctuate once again this weekend. A good result at Monza would certainly mean a great deal to the former Ferrari driver.
|7. KIMI RAIKKONEN – FERRARI (39 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 181 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 10th, DNF, 11th, 6th, 4th||Best in Italy: 2nd (2006)|
Twelve races into the 2014 Formula One season and finally we are starting to see the real Kimi Raikkonen show himself again. The Finn has endured a nightmare return to Ferrari but sixth in Hungary and fourth at Spa saw him double his points tally for the season. A note of caution must be sounded though, after all, Raikkonen has always been sensational at Spa even in his toughest of seasons so this weekend’s events will tell us for sure whether the 2007 champion has turned the corner or not. There will certainly be no hiding place with thousands of Ferrari fans watching his every move.
|20. KEVIN MAGNUSSEN – McLAREN MERCEDES (37 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 183 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 7th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 12th||Best in Italy: Debut|
The result may not suggest so but Kevin Magnussen enjoyed another impressive weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. In terribly tricky conditions, the rookie outqualified his experienced teammate Jenson Button and would have scored his best result since Melbourne had it not been for the post-race penalty. In fairness, no-one can argue that the punishment wasn’t justified and Kevin will be keen to stay out of trouble this time and capitalise on the undoubted speed he currently has in the McLaren MP4-29.
|11. SERGIO PEREZ – FORCE INDIA MERCEDES (33 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 187 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 6th, 11th, 10th, DNF, 8th||Best in Italy: 2nd (2012)|
Amidst all the drama and chaos taking place in Belgium, Sergio Perez’s race was largely uneventful but the Mexican was rewarded for staying out of trouble with four points for eighth place. A long final stint put him under pressure from the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat but Checo held on and with Force India still locked in a battle with McLaren over fifth in the constructors championship, those points could prove crucial. The pendulum has swung towards the Woking squad after the events of Spa though and Force India will know they must respond and Perez will need no motivation to get one over his former employers.
|25. JEAN-ERIC VERGNE – STR RENAULT (11 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 209 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 10th, 13th, 9th, 11th||Best in Italy: DNF (2012, 2013)|
With his seat going to a teenage rookie for next season, Jean-Eric Vergne is now racing for his Formula One future and the Belgian Grand Prix was hardly the greatest advertisement to prospective employers. The Frenchman was outqualified and outraced by his younger teammate Daniil Kvyat and to rub salt into the wound, he was pipped to the final point by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. Two previous visits to Monza have failed to produce a finish, let alone a point, and for Jean-Eric’s short and long term future, he could really do with those records changing.
|8. ROMAIN GROSJEAN – LOTUS RENAULT (8 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 212 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 14th, 12th, DNF, DNF, DNF||Best in Italy: 8th (2013)|
Despite the season being nearly two-thirds completed, there are no signs of Lotus getting on top of their reliability issues, much to the frustration of Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman suffered his sixth retirement in twelve starts at Spa with the Renault power unit giving up the ghost and the Enstone team are now eleven points adrift of Toro Rosso in the constructors standings. If Lotus could handpick a circuit to suit their E22, you wouldn’t think it would look anything like Monza and Romain won’t have high hopes for this weekend.
|26. DANIIL KVYAT – STR RENAULT (8 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 212 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 9th, DNF, 14th, 9th||Best in Italy: Debut|
After a mid-season dip, understandable for a Formula One rookie, Daniil Kvyat is returning to the form which saw him impress so many at the start of the season. The Russian did superbly to take the Toro Rosso to the brink of Q3 and was similarly impressive in his defence of ninth place late in the race against Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India. Kvyat was magnificent here in GP3 last season, taking victory from pole position with the fastest lap so Monza is clearly a circuit he is comfortable at. Points will be the aim once again.
|17. JULES BIANCHI – MARUSSIA FERRARI (2 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 218 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 15th, 14th, 15th, 15th, 18th||Best in Italy: 19th (2013)|
If Jules Bianchi keeps performing at the level he is currently, there will surely come a point where teams further up the Formula One ladder will find it impossible to ignore him. The Frenchman lifted Marussia into Q2 for the third time in four races and although a gearbox problem prevented him from seeing the chequered flag, he had more than made his point to team bosses up and down the pit-lane. The links with Ferrari remain so Jules will be desperate to impress on this of all weekends and another eye-catching display in front of the Tifosi could really give some key figures food for thought.
|99. ADRIAN SUTIL – SAUBER FERRARI (0 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 220 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 13th, 13th, DNF, 11th, 14th||Best in Italy: 4th (2009)|
With the European season fast approaching its conclusion, the prospect of Sauber going an entire season without scoring a point is now a very real one, a thought that will certainly have crossed Adrian Sutil’s mind. The German conceded that fourteenth was the maximum he could get out of the C33 after getting stuck behind Felipe Massa’s hobbled Williams and the car continues to look woefully short of the standard required to trouble the top ten. Adrian will take hope from the team’s impressive Monza showings of the last two years but this is a very different Formula One and unfortunately, a very different Sauber.
|9. MARCUS ERICSSON – CATERHAM RENAULT (0 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 220 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 18th, DNF, 18th, DNF, 17th||Best in Italy: Debut|
For a Formula One rookie desperate to prove his worth and enhance his reputation, Marcus Ericsson will not have enjoyed looking at the Spa qualifying results, seeing his debutant teammate Andre Lotterer outpace him in wet conditions. The Swede then lost an entertaining race-long battle with Marussia’s Max Chilton for sixteenth and will be highly motivated to show his worth at Monza, especially with the experienced Kamui Kobayashi returning to provide a benchmark in the sister Caterham.
|13. PASTOR MALDONADO – LOTUS RENAULT (0 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 190 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 12th, 17th, 12th, 13th, DNF||Best in Italy: 11th (2011, 2012)|
The misery goes on for poor Pastor Maldonado. Much like his teammate, the Venezuelan has suffered his fair share of reliability problems and in Belgium, his Lotus couldn’t even make it through two laps before succumbing to exhaust problems. Maldonado has now scored points just once in the last 32 Grands Prix and on current form, the Lotus doesn’t appear fast enough or reliable enough to see that awful run of results change, especially given the lack of straight-line speed from the Renault-powered machine.
|21. ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ – SAUBER FERRARI (0 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 220 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 19th, DNF, 14th, DNF, 15th||Best in Italy: 13th (2013)|
Another race goes by without points for Sauber and Esteban Gutierrez and little about driver and team suggests a change is on the cards any time soon. Esteban qualified a terrible twentieth in the wet conditions at Spa and his race was always going to compromised from there. The Mexican did climb to fifteenth in the end and later admitted that the pace of the C33 would take him no further. With Monza likely to ask similar questions of the car’s aerodynamic package this weekend, Gutierrez looks set for more misery.
|4. MAX CHILTON – MARUSSIA FERRARI (0 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 220 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 17th, 16th, 17th, 16th, 16th||Best in Italy: 20th (2013)|
Max Chilton had a more eventful weekend than most at Spa-Francorchamps although most of the drama surrounding the Briton came before he had even turned a wheel in anger. Max was initially moved aside for reserve driver Alexander Rossi before contractual disputes were resolved and with his place seemingly secure for the rest of the season, Chilton can now concentrate on getting the best out of his MR03 at Monza and closing the gap to his teammate Jules Bianchi.
|10. KAMUI KOBAYASHI – CATERHAM RENAULT (0 PTS – TRAILS ROSBERG BY 220 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 16th, 15th, 16th, DNF, n/a||Best in Italy: 9th (2012)|
Kamui Kobayashi can hardly know if he is coming or going at the moment having lost his seat to Andre Lotterer for the Belgian Grand Prix only to be reinstated for Monza, seemingly at the last minute when the German rejected the drive. With such uncertainty surrounding his position, preparation has hardly been ideal for the Japanese rider and he will need every bit of Grand Prix experience to concentrate on the job at hand this weekend. Whatever the uncertainty though, you would still be surprised if he isn’t still showing Marcus Ericsson the way.