The Formula One World Championship will complete its second triple-header of this season’s calendar this weekend (10-12 September) with the celebration of the Italian F1 GP 2021 and fourteenth round of the season.
The Monza racetrack will be hosting the Italian leg of the championship, as it has done since 1950. A venue full of history and passion, Autodromo di Monza will see the experimental second classification race, after Silverstone, on Saturday. The ‘Temple of Speed’ will therefore be the site for a new chapter in the ruthless battle for the title between Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes).
After his latest victory in Holland, the Dutchman arrived in Italy as the new leader of the standings. Verstappen now treasures 224,5 points, three more than his British rival. Beyond the obvious sporting consequences, the fifth triumph of the ‘Black Tulip’ this season has been a hard moral blow for the crown defendant.
Both rivals and their teams, however, are very close in strength, which means tensions couldn’t get any higher between them. In theory, the extremely fast Italian track should play in favour of the W12, which has nearly 20hp more than the RB16B.
Mercedes & Hamilton, Kings of Monza
The romance between the Milan track and the German car has acctually lasted from 2014 to 2018. Red Bull, on the other hand, hasn’t had a victory in Monza since 2013. At an individual level, statistics are overwhelmingly in favour of the Briton.
Hamilton’s five victories (2012, 14, 15, 17 & 18) at ‘the magic track’ make him, together with Michael Schumacher, the venue’s greatest winner. Verstappen’s best result in Monza, on the other hand, has been a very discreet fifth place (2018).
It is precisely because of the great equality between Red Bull and Mercedes that their second drivers will play a key role in their teams’ outcome. Vallteri Bottas (Mercedes), who made the headlines this week for his signing with Alfa Romeo next season, claimed his seventh podium last Sunday. Now he is third in the standings with 123 points, nine more than Lando Norris (McLaren).
Things are not going quite so smoothly for his Red Bull ‘alter ego’, Checo Perez. For one reason or another, the Mexican driver his collecting terrible performances since the British GP, and has only managed to accrue four points in as many races.
The racer from Guadalajara is now all the way down in fifth place with 108 points, six less than Lando Norris. Worst of all, Perez’ inconsistency – and bad luck-means Red Bull is second in the constructor’s standings, with 12 points less than the Germans.
Excitement in the midfield
The fight for third place of the teams’ classification is red hot, with Ferrari and McLaren as the main contenders. To make things even more exciting, the Italians will be racing at home this weekend and will have the extra motivation of pleasing their ‘tifosi’. But it won’t be easy for them at a track where power is king, the Aquiles heel of the SF21.
Both of the Ferrari drivers, however, are fond of Monza. Charles Leclerc had his first F1 victory here in 2018 and Carlos Sainz claimed a fabulous second place in 2020. McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Riccardo, for their part, have taken four zeros and seven points between them over the last three races. They really must react if they want to stop their 11,5 disadvantage with La Scuderia from getting any larger.
Images of Italian F1 GP 2021: Ferrari.