A look back to Spa

Italian Grand Prix Preview: Monza

Wow, worth the wait wasn’t it? The Formula One season came back to our screens this past weekend and certainly didn’t fail to disappoint. Qualifying ended with a mixed up grid and some very interesting tweets from a certain Lewis Hamilton. Jenson absolutely stormed qualifying securing pole position with ease and this really didn’t sit well with Lewis. The McLaren pair had different setups and Jenson was using a new rear wing which had caused problems for Lewis during free practice. Soon after qualifying came the first of Lewis’ controversial tweets, starting with “WTF” and saying that Jenson was using the new wing and was 0.4 seconds a lap quicker just on the straight. Sometime later Lewis tweeted again, this time with a picture of the telemetry comparing his and Jenson’s lap. This sort of thing in the wrong hands can give various insights into the McLaren car and setup so putting it into the public domain certainly didn’t win Lewis much admiration from the team and pretty much all Lewis’ tweets were deleted soon after being posted. I really hope this isn’t the end of tweeting from Hamilton because he has been busy the last few weeks giving the public an alternative view to his personal life and behind the scenes on a race weekend.

After all this excitement, it was poised to be a great race although you felt that without a slow start, Button would be winning the race at a canter. After around ten seconds into the race, Jenson was ecstatic that he started from the front because a huge accident occurred behind him. Grosjean came across and clipped Hamilton which sent them both back over the track pretty much climbing across Alonso and Perez to end the race for all four of them. It looked worrying for Alonso at first as his head was so close to taking a huge impact and he wouldn’t have seen it coming but fortunately all the drivers escaped without injury. The accident was completely Grosjean’s fault and I have no idea what he was doing, he seemed to be trying to push Hamilton off the track when there was little point and having to travel the width of the track to do so. The stewards also took a very dim view of his actions, imposing a one race ban and fine stating that his actions had ended the race of two championship contenders. Not only did it end Alonso’s race but his run of twenty-three consecutive points scoring races. This is the fourth time in the first twelve races that Grosjean has been involved in a race-ending incident within the first three laps and perhaps turning down Jackie Stewart’s offer of some help is looking like a mistake.

Belgian grand prix crash spa

The race following the initial safety car went to plan for Button, opening up a gap, having a blistering 2.6 second pit stop and re-joining the track without relinquishing his lead. This allowed him to just maintain the gap and conserve tyres, ensuring his one stop strategy wasn’t a problem and went on to comfortably win the race. All the action happened behind Jenson with a special mention going out to Vettel who started 10th on the grid after being knocked out in Q2 (Webber had a grid drop) and was twelfth after a pit stop under the safety car, yet managed to fight his way up to second, andbon the podium through great strategy and overtaking. Raikkonen will be disappointed that he couldn’t improve on his grid position of third and give Button something to think about but Hulkenberg and Massa who started eleventh and fourteenth respectively will be ecstatic with making up the top five.

The race results

  • 1st Jenson Button
  • 2nd Sebastian Vettel
  • 3rd Kimi Raikkonen
  • 4th Nico Hulkenberg
  • 5th Felipe Massa
  • Fastest lap Bruno Senna

Looking back to my predictions and I picked three of the top five with one correct position. This isn’t so bad considering you can’t really predict three front runners going out on the first lap! It was really hard to pick and I think most people were surprised that Jenson had such blistering pace in qualifying to set up that win.

This weekend

If all the action at Spa wasn’t enough, Formula One is back again this weekend with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. The Italian Grand Prix is the last European race of the season and is again a track rich in history and special to many of the drivers on the grid. This is of course the home race for Ferrari so expect a sea of red in the grandstands and an expectation to see their team getting back onto the podium. It is also the home race for Pirelli, the sole tyre manufacturer for Formula One.

Italian Grand Prix Track Monza

Monza boasts both the highest top and average speeds of all the tracks on the calendar and coupled with tight corners this means the cars are both hard on the throttle and hard on the breaks. Cars are generally setup with low levels of downforce to maximise those high speed sections. This is the type of setup which faired so well for Jenson in Spa with Lewis struggling in comparison on the higher downforce setup.

I think McLaren will be supreme this weekend and secure both top steps on the podium but which driver will come out with their third win of the season? If Lewis’ actions at Spa weren’t enough to grab the media spotlight, speculation from Eddie Jordan that Lewis will be joining Mercedes next season have made everyone watch his every move. Will he handle the pressure or will it tip him over the edge if Jenson can qualify ahead of him again? With regards to Jenson, it is pretty well known that when he has the car set up perfectly for him he is pretty unstoppable so it will be really interesting to see what happens when Jenson on a perfect setup goes head to head with Hamilton using that same setup.

Race predictions

  • 1st Lewis Hamilton
  • 2nd Jenson Button
  • 3rd Sebastian Vettel
  • 4th Kimi Raikkonen
  • 5th Fernando Alonso
  • Fastest lap Lewis Hamilton

I am backing Lewis to grab the win, getting the questions back to his racing brilliance and title challenge. He has certainly shown a more calm and mature side to him this season taking Spa out of the equation and this will hopefully come through again at Monza. Button won’t be far behind however and it could be a really interesting qualifying session. If McLaren do manage another win it will mean wins in all of the last three races and some great momentum to chase down Alonso in the drivers table and Red Bull in the constructors. I see Vettel being strong again following his Spa performance and Kimi is always in the mix at the moment. Fernando should be able to start another points run but I think there will be a lot of disappointed fans around because I can’t see him challenging for the podium this weekend.

italian grand prix 2011 front row

Watch out for Jerome D’Ambrosio who will be occupying Grosjean’s seat vacated because of his ban. A good points finish will do Jerome’s chances of a seat next season no harm at all and I think he will be competitive if he can keep out of the first lap mayhem.

Maldonado has also this week said that he may need to change his driving style after receiving two penalties in Spa resulting in a ten place grid penalty. He jumped the start and shortly afterwards caused yet another collision to make it seven penalties in twelve races which is a ridiculous amount.

It is going to be a cracking race I am sure, enjoy!!

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