2018 Italian GP – Preview

Sebastian Vettel capped off a dominant weekend for Ferrari with his third Belgian Grand Prix victory, which was the 52nd of his career, surpassing fellow four-time world champion Alain Prost into outright third for most wins in Formula One, and is just behind his current championship rival Lewis Hamilton (67 wins) and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher (91 wins) in the record books, and now heads to Monza with all the momentum in the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship as he continues to battle with Hamilton in the quest to join Juan Manuel Fangio with five world championships.

However, Hamilton (231 points) still leads the championship over Vettel (214 points), but the lead of the Mercedes driver has been cut to 17 points, with the Italian Grand Prix shaping up as a must win for Hamilton and Mercedes as he looks to win at Monza for the fifth time, and equal Schumacher’s record for most victories at the Italian Grand Prix. Of course last year, Hamilton surpassed his record of most pole positions in Formula One in what was one of the all-time great laps in the wet, almost 1.2 seconds quicker than Max Verstappen, who along with his teammate grid Daniel Ricciardo had grid penalties for power-unit and gearbox changes last year.

Meanwhile, Vettel will be looking to end the domination of Mercedes at arguably the most power-dominated circuit in Formula One, and take Ferrari back to the top step of the podium at Monza for the first time since Fernando Alonso won for the Prancing Horse in 2010, and take his third Italian Grand Prix in the process after winning in 2011 and 2013.

Behind the two drivers who are often regarded as the best of the current era, we have close battle between four drivers for third in the world championship between Vettel’s teammate and 2007 world champion Kimi Räikkönen (146 points), Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (144 points), and the two Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer drivers in Verstappen (120 points), who has overtaken his teammate Ricciardo (118 points) into fifth in the championship.

However, you would expect both of the Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer drivers to struggle at the low downforce, power-dominated circuit, which doesn’t suit their rebadged power-unit.

The back end of the top 10 in the championship is completed by Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg (52 points), Haas-Ferrari’s Kevin Magnussen (49 points), McLaren-Renault’s Fernando Alonso (44 points), and Force India-Mercedes driver in Sergio Pérez (40 points).

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (375 points) extended their lead to 15 points over Ferrari (360 points) despite not winning the Belgian Grand Prix, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (238 points) in a comfortable third.

Behind them, Renault (82 points) lead the battle for fourth, ahead of Haas-Ferrari (76 points), with McLaren-Renault (52 points) in a lonely sixth, with Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (30 points) and Sauber-Ferrari (19 points) following, with Force India-Mercedes (18 points), who were stripped of their former points tally due to technically being a new entrant after their change of management, climbing up to ninth, and are ahead of Williams-Mercedes (four points), who will be hoping the Italian Grand Prix will be their chance to score some more points in what has been an annus horribilis in 2018.

So, who will win the Italian Grand Prix?

As strange as it might sound, given Mercedes dominance at Monza over the last four years, it is a circuit and a race that should actual suit Ferrari better, and that is a danger sign for Mercedes given their poor speed since 2014 (relative of course) at the Singapore Grand Prix, and while a number of circuits after the next two should suit Mercedes, you sense this is Ferrari’s chance to take a stranglehold of the world championship, and for Sebastian Vettel to move one step closer to a fifth world championship.

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