Sebastian Vettel can further reduce Lewis Hamilton’s lead at the top of the Formula One Drivers’ Championship by taking a second consecutive victory at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix (Race: 9.10am ET Sunday).
Vettel breezed past Hamilton’s Mercedes on the opening lap in Belgium last weekend and dominated from there to take a comfortable victory for Ferrari. In doing so, he moved to within 17 points of Hamilton with eight races remaining.
It was a concerning weekend for Mercedes, who had expected to be strong at a circuit that had traditionally been a stronghold. The manner of Vettel’s victory suggested Ferrari now have the edge in the championship battle. Indeed, Mercedes even admitted afterwards that it has now become clear that their title rivals hold the advantage in terms of raw power.
That makes Ferrari the favorites to secure victory at their home Grand Prix this weekend. Monza is a pure power circuit, with three long straights linked by three chicanes, a couple of medium-speed corners and the lap-ending Parabolica curve.
It is necessary to go back to 2010 to find the last time Ferrari triumphed in front of the Tifosi, but Vettel, who took his first F1 victory there in a highly impressive drive for Toro Rosso in rainy conditions in 2008, has a very good chance of ending that barren run by topping the podium on Sunday.
Max Verstappen rounded out the top three for Red Bull in Belgium, ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who recovered from 17th on the grid and a first-lap skirmish to finish fourth for Mercedes. The races of the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and the other Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo were ruined by involvement in opening lap incidents.
Ferrari and Mercedes are clearly a cut above the rest of the teams this season, even though Red Bull are close enough on certain circuits to take advantage when opportunities arise to snatch victory, as their three triumphs attest. The remainder of the field is some way off the ultimate pace, but that hasn’t resulted in the top three dominating the top six finishing positions. Far from it, in fact.
The Canadian Grand Prix has been the only F1 race this season that has ended with the six drivers of the top three teams filling the top half dozen positions. In 12 of the 13 races to date, at least one other team has secured a top-six finish. In Belgium, it was the turn of the newly named Racing Point Force India team, who came fifth and sixth, with Sergio Perez ahead of his teammate Esteban Ocon.
In the build up to the race, Force India were saved from bankruptcy by a consortium that included the father of Williams driver Lance Stroll. This process resulted in the formation of a new entity, Racing Point UK Limited, unlinked, in terms of the rulebook, to the previous entry. The original Force India team were therefore excluded from the championship, with a new team, Racing Point Force India, beginning to score points from Belgium onwards.
There is every chance that a top six place will again be available to them this weekend. Red Bull’s Ricciardo will take a grid penalty due to a necessary engine change and with power of such prime importance at Monza, he is unlikely to find it as easy as he might at other circuits to fight his way through the field from a lower starting slot.
Force India have a car that always shows good pace at Monza. Ocon came home sixth at last year’s race and our prediction is that he can be fancied to secure another such finish on Sunday.
The final points places in Belgium were filled by the Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso and the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.
Ericsson has struggled to match the outright pace of his highly rated rookie teammate Charles Leclerc but has driven some solid races this season on his way to four points finishes (to Leclerc’s five), including three in the last six races. Ferrari power should propel Sauber to a position ahead of most of the midfield’s Renault-engined runners this weekend, and Ericsson will therefore have a good chance of again finishing in the points.
Our Preview’s F1 Italian Grand Prix Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
So here are the Italian GP predictions, recommendations and betting picks for this F1 preview: