Ferrari will be strong again at the Italian Grand Prix this weekend, according to Mercedes drivers and team boss Toto Wolff as they take their high-speed package to Monza this week.
Starting with free practice on Friday, the Scuderia will again be on hallowed home turf, a track steeped in history and one of the purest temples of speed, where traditionally the package with the most prancing horses is well rewarded.
Although the Scuderia’s advantage in the race at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday was not as great as in qualifying, the Italian team looks set to dominate the speed traps again at home.
“Monza is going to be a happy weekend for Ferrari,” said championship leader Lewis Hamilton after the Belgian Grand Prix.
At the high-speed venue Charles Leclerc’s pole-winning lap on Saturday was a whopping three-quarter of a second, a fact that did not escape the world champ, “I think just in qualifying we’re losing over a second a lap, and Monza is all straights.
“So there’s not much me and Valtteri can do in that respect and there’s not a lot of corners there to catch that up. In the next few days we’ve got to make some drastic improvements to our straight speed. I don’t know if that’s possible, but we’ll do our best,” added Hamilton.
Team boss Wolff thinks Ferrari’s engine and low drag advantage on the Spa straights was closer to 1.3 seconds per lap, according to Kronen Zeitung newspaper.
“That is beyond good and evil,” he said. “Ferrari’s power is no longer normal.” Not just that, Ferrari is tipped to introduce its latest engine upgrade this weekend.
Valtteri Bottas is slightly more hopeful, “Last year Ferrari was quick at Monza as well but we managed to make their life pretty difficult. That’s where we got booed on the podium. We’ll try to do the same again,.”
In the end, it was Sebastian Vettel’s crucial supporting role on Sunday that helped his faster teammate Charles Leclerc keep his lead and secure his first F1 win, “They did what they had to do to win.”
Vettel confirmed: “It was clear that I was missing some speed so today I was more in the helper role.”
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto hailed Vettel’s support, commenting: “We said before the season that points for the team come first. Charles was very fast all weekend but we had to protect ourselves against Ferrari. Sebastian proved to be a true team player today.”
Another hope for Mercedes at Monza is that Ferrari could once again have engine problems. In the Alfa Romeo at Spa, Antonio Giovinazzi’s engine failed in qualifying.
“On Monday the broken engine will arrive at Maranello,” said Binotto. “It would be good to know what went wrong before Monza.”
Big Question: Mercedes cry wolf or does Ferrari really have more horses?