For most Formula 1 fans, Italy brings to mind just one name: Ferrari. In Monza this weekend the Tifosi will be out in force to cheer on the one championship contender they want to triumph, Spaniard Fernando Alonso.
Alonso's title chances took a hit in Belgium at the end of August. During the end of the race in Spa, a spin in the wet dumped him unceremoniously out of a points-paying position. Lewis Hamilton took maximum points, and was followed home by Mark Webber. Hamilton now sits 41 points ahead of Alonso in the points table and the prospects of a third title for the Spaniard look bleak.
Any hopes of still claiming the title may slip further from Alonso's grasp tomorrow (Wednesday). The World Motor Sport Council sits in judgement over Ferrari's team-order debacle in Germany. Many predict that the team will get no more than a slap on the wrist, or another monetary fine. However, the WMSC have the power to deduct points, from the team and the driver, and could even throw Alonso out of the championship race. Such draconian measures are unlikely of course, but if the WMSC wish to deter other teams from similar shenanigans, Alonso's title chances could take a hit.
Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel will be looking to get their title hopes back on track in Italy after they also endured a difficult weekend in Spa. They will be aware that if they slip much further behind their respective teammates in the standings, they could soon become also-rans in the title race, forced to help Hamilton and Webber respectively to win the title.
Button was relatively comfortable in second place in Spa until Sebastian Vettel accidentally slammed into the side of the McLaren. Both drivers failed to score any points, and Vettel left Spa with much criticism ringing in his ears. He will be seeking a calm, mature victory at the track where he claimed his first ever Formula 1 victory. In 2008, the German took pole position and the win in wet conditions in a Toro Rosso, even before sister team Red Bull had claimed their maiden win.
McLaren expect to perform well at Monza this weekend. The long straights will clearly suit the car with the most effective f-duct, and the Woking-based outfit will be aiming for the largest possible points haul before F1 moves on to Singapore, which is likely to better suit Red Bull's RB6.
Other teams to watch this weekend include Renault and Force India, who both showed impressive pace at Spa. Robert Kubica would have finished second in Belgium if he hadn't taken his mind off the job in his final pit stop, and Adrian Sutil, who qualified on the front row here in 2009, will be relishing this visit to Monza after picking up a solid fifth place in Belgium.
Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello have eight wins at this circuit between them, and five of those victories came in a Ferrari (3 for Schumacher and 2 for Barrichello). Schumacher has little hope of adding to his collection of five Italian GP winner's trophies this weekend, but it will be interesting to see the reaction of the Tifosi as the seven-time world champion, and Ferrari legend, returns in silver Mercedes livery. Barrichello was first to the checkered flag last year in the eighth and final victory of Brawn GP's short but ultimately very successful lifetime.
For news of the WMSC's decision over the team orders incident at Ferrari, and for reports, reaction and analysis of the Italian Grand Prix, check thecheckeredflag.co.uk frequently over the coming week.