PREVIEW: 2017 Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix – Welcome to Ferrari Country


Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Nowhere else on the calendar will you find a track with as much devotion to a single team than the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. Silverstone might be famous for fans of racing, but fans at Monza care only about one thing: Scuderia Ferrari.

Just a two-hour drive from Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters, Monza is very much the stable for their prancing horse. It’s also the home to Ferrari’s fans – the all-engulfing sea of red known, simply, as the Tifosi.

You won’t find a set of fans more committed, more enamoured, or more willing to risk injury or death to get a glimpse of a red car than Ferrari’s.

So fanatical are the Tifosi that their name is literally derived from typhus. They feel so passionately, so fervently about their team that to “normal” people, it’s like they’re suffering the disease.

This dedication to Ferrari transcends nationality and even teams. Felipe Massa – a Brazilian – landed his Williams on the podium of the Italian Grand Prix in both 2014 and 2015. Despite no longer racing for Ferrari, his history with the team earned him the biggest cheer of the three from the crowd. With the Tifosi it’s once a Ferrari driver, always a Ferrari driver.

This is, in part, what makes The Temple of Speed such a spectacle every year.

Ferrari’s run of form this year makes this weekend’s race even more exciting. It might have been seven years since Ferrari’s last win at Monza but, with a competitive car, could this be the year they retake the top step?

The track

Originally held on the high-speed oval track, the Monza circuit has changed and adapted over the years. It’s now held on a 3.6 mile-long, 11-corner track starting with a tricky chicane and ending with the fearsome Parabolica.

These changes and adaptations have allowed it to rack up the greatest number of grand prix at 66 – holding one every year since Formula 1’s inception bar 1980 when increasing speeds meant safety improvements needed to be made.

These improvements haven’t slowed down the cars though. Juan Pablo Montoya holds the record for the fastest ever lap in Formula 1 around the track, setting an absolutely blistering average speed of 162.950mph (262.242kph). With this year’s cars already breaking records, could we see this one broken too this year?

Only the brave will win

Monza is a track that rewards skill bravery and punishes any shred of doubt. Anyone with the confidence in both their car and themselves will excel here, as we saw with Daniel Ricciardo’s amazing overtake on Valtteri Bottas last year at the chicane.

This year’s cars are proving to be a real handful, with the high-downforce, high-speed combination suiting some drivers more than others. The first chicane will be a prime overtaking point for those with the tenacity to go for gaps others won’t – especially as the track has precious few other braking zones as long and difficult as this.

So how’s the championship?

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel returns from the Belgian Grand Prix with his lead cut in half at just seven points. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen sits in fifth, with the gap to Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo stretching slightly since Spa.

Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team added five precious points to their lead over Ferrari last time out, and are now forty-four points ahead. Car number forty-four, Lewis Hamilton, is second in the Driver’s Championship, whilst team-mate Bottas is losing ground in third.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is in fourth place in the Driver’s Championship, with a slim four point lead over Raikkonen. Max Verstappen’s run of bad luck and sixth retirement of the season puts him just two places lower than Ricciardo in the championship, but crucially on almost half the points.

Sahara Force India F1 Team has had enough of their drivers fighting after two more collisions during last weekends Belgian Grand Prix. They’re in fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, with drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in seventh and eighth respectively.

In fifth position is the Williams Martini Racing team, whose drivers Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll are in eleventh and thirteenth. They’ve had a hit and miss year, but excelled at Baku – another track with long straights. Will they find form once more?

Just five points behind Williams are Scuderia Toro Rosso. With the chicane providing so many first-lap crashes, will the team be able to prevent a Daniil Kvyat torpedo and take some useful points for either the Russian or his Spanish team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr?

Haas F1 Team are seventh in the championship, having scored some points in Belgium thanks to Romain Grosjean. He’s twelfth in the driver’s championship – splitting the two Williams drivers – whilst team-mate Kevin Magnussen’s three points finishes this year leave him in fourteenth.

Nico Hulkenberg took his third sixth-place finish of the year last weekend, continuing to be the sole point-provider for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team. He’s tenth, whilst a luckless Jolyon Palmer is down in nineteenth.

McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team are having a terrible time, returning from the summer break to engine issues galore. Still, they’re in ninth place, thanks to points from both Fernando Alonso (fifteenth) and Stoffel Vandoorne (eighteenth).

Sauber F1 Team are doing their best in tenth place. Their five championship points have all come from Pascal Wehrlein, who’s currently above Toro Rosso’s Kvyat in the championship, whilst Marcus Ericsson is the last of the drivers to have competed in all of this year’s races.

Should you watch it?

Monza’s fast corners, long straights and immense braking zones will surely provide fans with the overtaking action we’ve all been longing to see. More than that, it will be the one race more than any that Ferrari will be unwaveringly determined to win. It’s Ferrari country, but can Mercedes cause an upset? Only time will tell.