While the Formula 1 supporting GP2 series race at Monza is no longer the final round of the championship (that honour goes to the new Algarve track the following week) it could still see a new champion crowned.
ART Grand Prix driver Nico Hulkenburg starts the weekend with a 27 point advantage over his nearest rival Vitaly Petrov, and with a maximum of 19 points available over a weekend the Russia Barwa Addax driver must make up ground on his young rival.
On Petrov's side, however, is experience, with Hulkenburg being one of the many GP2 rookies who have yet to race at Monza (although this hasn't stopped him at the other tracks he's visited for the first time this season), and with Monza a driving experience like few others experience could be key.
Facing Hulkenburg and his fellow rookies will be many of the same concerns that will face the Grand Prix drivers they aim to join. “Monza is an interesting track, fast and… totally different to the other tracks on the calendar” warns third year GP2 driver Karun Chandhok.
Just like their F1 counterparts the GP2 cars will be in the lowest downforce spec of the season.
Just like their F1 counterparts the GP2 drivers will have to contend with the heavy braking for the tracks two tight chicanes.
And just like their F1 counterparts the GP2 drivers will have to avoid the accidents these chicanes breed.
Recent GP2 races at Valencia and Spa have featured Safety Car periods after first corner incidents, Hulkenburg being among the victims of La Source in the last round. And Monza's layout suggests that we may, again, see the safety car forced to intervene, and perhaps another incident affecting the title rivals.
The Racing Engineering team's drivers will face penalties incurred from their roles in separate Spa accidents with Dani Clos and Lucas Di Grassi (who won the Monza feature race last year) both set to be docked ten grid places, although Clos remains hopefuls of a successful weekend citing Monza as one of the better tracks in terms of overtaking chances, largely down to the chicanes.
Despite these penalties Monza will also see the GP2 field back up to somewhere closer to a full grid after only 23 cars took the green flag for Spa's feature race. The Coloni team have been released from their legal bind that saw their cars and equipment impounded in Belgium, and the second DPR car will also return in the hands of Johnny Cecotto Jr., after Franck Perera failed to qualify in Spa.
However, at the Durango team there are different tales. Remarkably, only a fortnight after his heavy feature race accident at Eau Rouge Stefano Coletti will return to the cockpit, but the man from Monaco will be the only on-track representative of the team with Nelson Panciatici absent with 'budget problems'.
The final concern for the teams and drivers will be the weather. While forecast for Friday suggest series qualifying should be conducted under dry, but overcast conditions, teams have been warned that “downpours” are possible on both Saturday and Sunday, potentially giving drivers on more thing to think about when braking for that first chicane.
Qualifying for the ninth round of the GP2 series takes place from 4:00-4:30pm (local time) Friday, with the feature race at 4pm (local time) on Saturday and the sprint race 10:30am on Sunday.