Formula 1 title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will be sprinting at the ‘Temple of Speed’ this weekend ahead of what could be another wheel-to-wheel duel at Italy’s super-fast Monza circuit.
Still the home race for Ferrari despite three other grands prix being held in Italy since last September’s visit, Monza will host the sport’s second Saturday Sprint after the concept debuted at Silverstone in July.
Qualifying is held on Friday for a short Saturday race that defines Sunday’s grid and awards bonus points ahead of the 14th round of the championship.
Slipstreaming will come into play at a low-downforce power-sensitive circuit with cars at full throttle for most of the lap.
The title contenders could be level on points by Sunday, but with Red Bull’s Verstappen ahead 7-4 on race wins, if Hamilton takes pole for Mercedes and his Dutch rival fails to qualify in the top three.
Hamilton took pole last year, setting Formula One’s fastest ever lap on an all-Mercedes front row, with Verstappen only fifth fastest.
The 23-year-old has yet to start on the front row at Monza but is on a roll, three points clear in the championship after winning his home Dutch race at Zandvoort last weekend and ready to complete a triple-header of triumphs.
“It hasn’t been our best track of the calendar the last few years but of course I know that this year we are competitive in general everywhere,” said Verstappen, who has won five of the last seven races including Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix.
“We just need to nail the details and then I’m sure we can be competitive.”
Hamilton has not won a race on pure pace since Spain in May, his home victory at Silverstone coming after he and Verstappen clashed at the start, with the Red Bull driver crashing out.
Verstappen had won the sprint element of that, gaining the three bonus points.
“We learned lessons on the new format at Silverstone and look forward to bringing that knowledge with us into this weekend,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, whose team have won five of the last seven races at Monza but not the two most recent ones.
Last year’s race was an anomaly, won by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly after Hamilton was penalised for entering the pitlane while it was closed. Verstappen retired with a power unit problem after 30 laps.
Gasly said: “After the French Grand Prix this is very much a second home race for me now, because I live just 15km from the track.”
“The weekend will be something new for me, returning to a race circuit where I was the last person to win the Grand Prix. I´m very keen to be there and there should be plenty of tifosi (fans), unlike last year. I hope we can get another great result again this time,” added the Frenchman.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was the winner from pole at Monza in 2019 while the Monegasque’s current team mate Carlos Sainz was second last year for McLaren.
The race at the park circuit outside Milan will have a 50% capacity crowd, after being run behind closed doors last time.
“This year might be a bit more difficult compared to 2019 but it will be good to feel the support,” said Leclerc. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)
Formula 1 statistics for the 2021 Italian Grand Prix at Monza
- Lap distance: 5.793 km. Total distance: 306.72 km (53 laps)
- 2020 pole position: Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes One minute 18.887 seconds.
- 2020 winner: Pierre Gasly (France) AlphaTauri
- Race lap record: Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Ferrari one minute 21.046 (2004)
- Start time: 1300 GMT/1500 local
Italian Grand Prix
- Round 14 of the 2021 F1 World Championship will be the fifth in Italy in the space of just over a year, with the Mugello and Imola circuits hosting rounds on a pandemic-hit 2020 calendar and Imola again this year.
- Hamilton has won at Monza five times, a record he shares with former Ferrari great Michael Schumacher.
- The Briton has started on pole seven times at Monza, including five of the past seven.
- Mercedes have won five of the past seven, but not the two most recent ones.
- The Italian and British Grands Prix are the only ones to have been on the calendar in every year since the world championship started in 1950.
- The Italian race has been staged at Monza every year except 1980 when it was at Imola.
- Hamilton’s 2020 pole lap was at an average speed of 264.362 kph, the fastest in Formula One history.
- The race has been won from pole position 11 times in the last 16 years.
- Ferrari have won 19 times at Monza since the championship started, more than anyone else.
- Hamilton has a record 99 career victories, of which 78 have been with Mercedes, from 279 starts. He has been on the podium 175 times.
- Championship leader Max Verstappen has won seven races so far in 2021, to Hamilton’s four and one each for Red Bull’s Mexican Sergio Perez and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.
- Ferrari have won 238 races since 1950, McLaren 182, Mercedes 119, Williams 114 and Red Bull 72. Former champions McLaren and Williams have not won since 2012.
- Hamilton has a record 101 career poles and has won 59 times from pole. He has had three poles so far in 2021.
- Verstappen has been on pole seven times this year, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fastest in Azerbaijan and Monaco qualifying. Bottas was on pole in Portugal.
- Red Bull’s Verstappen is three points ahead of Hamilton. Mercedes lead Red Bull by 12.
- Hamilton can become the first F1 driver to win 100 grands prix.
- Verstappen now holds the record previously belonging to Britain’s Stirling Moss of most race wins (17) without winning the championship.
- The 23-year-old last weekend became the first Dutch driver to win his home grand prix. He has also now led 1,000 race laps, the 19th driver to achieve that feat.
- George Russell has started 50 races for Williams. He has out-qualified his teammate in every one of them.