2019 Italian Grand Prix – Preview

It was an emotional weekend last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, the first-ever win in Formula One for Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, but it was a weekend marred by tragedy, and the death of Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in an accident on the second lap of the Formula Two Feature Race just beyond Turn Four, an accident which also resulted in serious injuries to Juan Manuel Correa.

I would like to send my deepest condolences to Anthoine’s family and friends at this difficult time, and wish Juan Manuel Correa all the very best in his recovery and rehabilitation after such a shocking accident, and I hope the Formula Two grid can come together, and race in honour of Anthoine Hubert this weekend at Monza.

This is also where Round 14 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship will be taking place, with the 2019 Italian Grand Prix set to be a battle between Mercedes and Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton (268 points) leads the championship by 65 points over his Mercedes’ teammate Valtteri Bottas (203 points) after finishing a close second behind Leclerc in Belgium, and is really in complete control of the 2019 world championship over Bottas, who has been re-signed by Mercedes after great debate over whether he deserved to keep his spot in the team alongside Hamilton, while their test driver Esteban Ocon will be off to Renault in 2020 to be teammates with Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

Max Verstappen (181 points) is still third in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda despite crashing out of the Belgian Grand Prix at relatively low speed at Raidillon after suffering damage to his car after colliding with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen at Turn One on the opening lap of the race. To add insult to injury, Verstappen is set to take a grid penalty at Monza for using excessive power unit components.

Sebastian Vettel (169 points) is fourth, but just 12 points behind Verstappen after finishing a disappointing fourth last weekend behind third-placed Bottas, while his Ferrari teammate Leclerc (157 points) is closing in on the four-time world champion after his first race victory in Formula One, a victory tinged in sadness, with Leclerc dedicating his first win in Formula One to his long-time friend Anthoine Hubert.

Behind the Top Five in the standings, Pierre Gasly (65 points) is still sixth in the world championship after finishing ninth on his return to Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, remaining ahead of McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (58 points), who retired from the race after a power-unit failure on Lap Two.

Gasly’s new teammate at Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda Daniil Kvyat (33 points), Räikkönen (31 points), and the man who replaced Gasly at Red Bull Racing-Honda Alexander Albon (26 points) complete the Top 10 in the championship, with Albon finishing fifth from 17th on the grid in his first race with the senior Red Bull team.

In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (471 points) have had their sizeable lead cut by four points to 145 points over Ferrari (326 points), while Red Bull Racing-Honda (254 points) have lost ground to Ferrari, now trailing the Prancing Horse by 72 points.

Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (82 points) remain in a comfortable fourth, while Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (51 points) are in a battle for fifth with Renault (43 points) and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (40 points), while Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (32 points) and Haas-Ferrari (26 points) aren’t too far behind with Williams-Mercedes (one point) in last.

So, who will win the 2019 Italian Grand Prix?

Firstly, Formula One and the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI) have agreed to a new deal that will see Formula One and the Italian Grand Prix remain at Monza until the end of 2024, which is great news for the sport.

Secondly, it is going to be a battle between Ferrari and Mercedes, and given the form Ferrari showed at the Belgian Grand Prix, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either Sebastian Vettel or Charles Leclerc win this weekend, and are really odds-on favourites to claim pole position and the front row for the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, but you cannot rule out Mercedes, given their almost-always brilliant race pace.

2019 Italian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez took control of the French Grand Prix, and claimed his third race victory of the season, and his second in as many races to equal his current teammate Jorge Lorenzo in fourth on the all-time list for most premier class wins. However, with three Ducati bikes behind him at Le Mans, the threat to the defending world champion is ever real as the grid heads to the Mugello Circuit in Italy for Round Six of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (95 points) leads the championship by eight points over Mission Winnow Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso (87 points), with Dovizioso looking primed for success at Mugello after winning there back in 2017, especially after finishing inside the Top Four after each of the opening five races of 2019, but still faces a tall order given the form Márquez has been in so far this year, despite the strengths of the Ducati being well-suited to Mugello.

Álex Rins (75 points) is third in the world championship for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, 20 points behind Márquez after a shocking French Grand Prix, qualifying only in 19th, and finishing the race only in 10th, his worst result of the season, and his his worst result since last year’s Czech Republic Grand Prix, where he finished in 11th. Rins will need to better in Italy if he wants to stay in the championship fight.

Valentino Rossi (72 points) is three points behind Rins in fourth after finishing fifth at Le Mans, but he knows that Mugello is a great opportunity to score some big points, and with the exception of his first year in the premier class back in 2000, every time he has started and finished the Italian Grand Prix, he has finished inside the Top Six, winning at Mugello seven times (2002-2008) in the premier class. You feel though he really needs to win this weekend if he is to keep his hopes of winning an eighth premier class world championship alive.

Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (57 points) is fifth in the championship, and will be aiming for a podium, if not his first race victory of his career this weekend after finishing third at the French Grand Prix, while Jack Miller (42 points) will be looking continue his good form this weekend for Alma Pramac Racing as he aims to claim what would be the second win of his MotoGP career.

Behind the Top Six in the world championship, Cal Crutchlow (34 points) is seventh for LCR Honda after finishing ninth at Le Mans, followed by Franco Morbidelli (34 points) for Petronas Yamaha SRT, who finished in seventh, just behind Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Pol Espargaró (31 points), who finished the French Grand Prix in sixth in what was the team’s best-ever dry weather performance, while Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (30 points) is in 10th in the championship as his inconsistent season so far continues.

Looking beyond the Top 10, we find Lorenzo (16 points) in 14th position in the standings, and without a Top 10 race finish in 2019, and it is now beyond bewildering as to why he is where he is right now! You have to wonder whether physically he is right, or whether the bike is being set-up right for him, or more specifically whether the set-up of the bike, which may be alright for someone like Márquez, isn’t the right set-up for Lorenzo, because when everything is right, Lorenzo is certainly not this far behind Márquez on a consistent basis. However, we all know he has a great record at Mugello, finishing inside the Top Two in nine of his last 10 races at Mugello, so if he is nowhere near this level this weekend, it will officially be a crisis, and a potentially hopeless situation for Lorenzo to lift himself from.

So, who will win the 2019 Italian Grand Prix?

This is a great opportunity for Ducati to claim a race victory, and although most people will favour either Andrea Dovizioso or Danilo Petrucci this weekend, I am going to predict a surprise race win for Jack Miller, despite his poor record at Mugello, just ahead of Marc Márquez, while Valentino Rossi will claim his 12th premier class podium at Mugello in third position in what will be an exciting race!

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.

2018 Italian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a third-straight victory for Marc Márquez, and a race where three of his main rivals (Johann Zarco, Andrea Iannone, and Andrea Dovizioso) all came tumbling down in Le Mans, the grid heads to Italy, and to a heartland of motorcycle racing in Italy, and to arguably the most enjoyable and exciting circuit on the MotoGP calendar, Mugello, for Round Six of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (95 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 36 points over Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Maverick Viñales (59 points) in a season which could have been a whole lot worse for the rivals of the current championship leader and four-time MotoGP World Champion.

In Qatar, Márquez, despite having the better bike through the corners, had to settle for second-place after being unable to pass the slippery Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso, while in Argentina, he almost won the race twice over before a third penalty sent Márquez all the way back in the field to finish 18th after crossing the line in fifth-place after the first two penalties.

After this, Márquez was dominant as he always has been at the Circuit of the Americas to take his sixth victory in as many races in Austin, before dominating at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez, before winning comfortably in the end at the French Grand Prix in Le Mans.

Meanwhile, it has been much harder for Maverick Viñales on his Yamaha, with only one podium, which was a second-place finish behind the current championship leader in Austin, and only one other top five finish in a season where Yamaha have really struggled to match their competitors for outright speed.

To be quite honest, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (58 points) and Viñales’ teammate Valentino Rossi (56 points), who sit in third and fourth in the world championship respectively, have been in better form than Viñales, but have had one non-scoring finish each compared to Viñales who has finished every race in the points so far.

Yamaha must find their top form quickly otherwise Márquez could run away with the championship.

However, the story of the season so far has been the two riders from Alma Pramac Racing in Danilo Petrucci (54 points) and Jack Miller (49 points), who are fifth and sixth in the championship respectively. Petrucci has been superb in riding this year’s Ducati, finishing all five races, four of them in the top 10, and three of them in the top five, claiming a podium last time out in France, while Miller, who has been riding last year’s Ducati, has arguably been even better with five top 10 finishes, with a best finish of fourth in Argentina, where he started from pole position, as well as fourth-place finish last time out in France.

Andrea Iannone (47 points) sits in seventh position in the world championship for Team Suzuki Ecstar after missing out on a possible third-successive podium finish after crashing out at Le Mans, but the speed from the factory Suzuki is certainly encouraging to challenge perhaps for a top three finish in the championship.

Cal Crutchlow (46 points) is eighth in the championship for LCR Honda, but has struggled since winning in Argentina, suffering crashes in the race in Austin and Jerez, as well as a massive crash in qualifying in France, which left him sore and sorry before the race, a race where he fought hard to finish in eighth, but he has got to learn to stay on the bike if he wants to be a strong championship contender in the future.

Andrea Dovizioso (46 points) is ninth in the championship for the Ducati Team after two-successive retirements in Jerez and Le Mans, the first time that has happened for Dovizioso since retiring from three-straight races in 2016, and with his championship hopes in tatters, must hit back at Mugello, a track predicted to be a strong one for Ducati, if he harbours any hope of catching Márquez in the championship.

While Dani Pedrosa (29 points), the teammate of Márquez, is 10th in the championship after a start to the season affected by injury, and he, along with Álex Rins (22 points), the teammate of Andrea Iannone, and Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (16 points), will believe they can get into the battle behind Márquez for second in the championship.

However, before I get to my predictions for the Italian Grand Prix, I want to say a few words about Lorenzo, and his inability to find success on the Ducati.

Lorenzo must realise and understand that how hard you inherently push the tyres doesn’t change whether you are on a Yamaha, or whether you are on a Ducati, and he must change his thought process on this immediately!

It is not Formula One, where the car characteristics usually dominate who is good and bad at managing their tyres, it is MotoGP, and the riders always have more of a say as to whether their tyres last in a race, and riders who have been historically harder on their tyres have usually used harder tyres!

Lorenzo must stop trying to find a direction on what tyres to use from Dovizioso, who has always been kinder to his tyres, and start going for tyre choices generally a step harder than what he has been! It is not rocket science, and if he does that, Lorenzo might suddenly find much greater success on a Ducati!

However, will he listen to people like me saying this, or will he keep on listening to his team, who are simply running out of ideas and following the opposition because they are?

Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure is that Marc Márquez, despite his lack of success at Mugello, with his only win there in the premier class coming back in 2014, the sixth win of his 10-race winning streak at the start of 2014, in a gripping battle with Jorge Lorenzo, and if Lorenzo and Ducati take heed of my advice, it might be another titanic struggle!

However, other than Márquez making a mistake, I can see only the straight-line speed and power of the Ducati stopping the Spaniard from a fourth win in a row, and right now, I can see Márquez potentially winning all of the remaining races in 2018, and as I said earlier, it could have been a whole lot worse for his rivals!

2017 Italian Grand Prix – Preview

The 13th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at Monza in Italy, and the battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton is set to explode, and likewise between Ferrari and Mercedes with only eight races remaining in the season.

Vettel (220 points) for Ferrari leads by a slender seven point margin over Mercedes driver Hamilton (213 points) as we head towards the most important stages of the season. Both drivers haven’t had to retire from a single race so far in 2017, and have finished inside the points in every single race, and in fact, the lowest finish both drivers have had in 2017 has been a seventh place finish (Vettel at Silverstone, Hamilton at Monaco).

Overall, Hamilton has the most race victories so far in 2017 with five, compared to Vettel’s four, but the Ferrari driver has had more podium finishes with nine, compared with seven for the Mercedes driver.

The teammates of both Hamilton and Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen look set to be cast into support act roles for the remainder of the season by both Mercedes and Ferrari respectively as both teams focus on the drivers’ world championship, and their lead drivers Hamilton and Vettel.

Bottas (179 points) is third in the championship, 41 points behind Vettel, and 34 points behind teammate Hamilton, and has had a wonderful season, his first season with the Mercedes team, with eight podiums, and two potentially crucial race victories in Russia and Austria when Hamilton was having a difficult weekend, preventing Vettel, who finished second in both of those races, from extending his championship lead to a greater margin.

However, Bottas will likely be deployed as a number two driver for the rest of the season, but has shown that he is very capable of stealing crucial points away from Ferrari, and in particular Vettel in the championship battle.

However, Räikkönen (128 points), who is fifth in the championship, 92 points behind teammate Vettel, and 85 points behind Hamilton, hasn’t been able to show in 2017 that he can get that crucial victory to help his teammate in the championship, and deny Hamilton of vital world championship points, but has had four podiums so far in 2017.

In saying that though, Räikkönen has been deployed by Ferrari as a number two driver throughout most of 2017, but at some point during the last eight races, he is going to be faced with a scenario where he has going to have to win a race when Vettel is in trouble, or having a difficult weekend to potentially deny Hamilton the championship. Whether he can or not remains to be seen in 2017.

However, someone who can spoil Vettel’s or Hamilton’s championship challenge is Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, who sits fourth in the world championship on 132 points, 88 points behind Vettel, and 81 points behind Hamilton.

Ricciardo has shown that he has that uncanny knack of getting himself into the right place at the right time to pick up a race victory in Azerbaijan, as well as a further five podiums (all third places) in a car not as quick as either the Mercedes or Ferrari, but his teammate Max Verstappen has had lots of reliability issues with his car.

Currently sixth in the world championship on 67 points, Verstappen has had six retirements in the opening 12 races, most of them mechanical, and needs some luck to go his way, as he has generally been quicker than Ricciardo. I think if his car is reliable, Verstappen can win a race in 2017 in the right conditions, and have an impact on the championship battle.

In seventh and eighth position in the world championship are the two Force India drivers, Sergio Pérez (56 points) and Esteban Ocon (47 points), and while this is not a battle for the world championship, it is battle to settle their futures that has erupted out on the track with collisions in Azerbaijan and Belgium in a feud that has threatened to overheated since Canada.

And while you would suspect, due to his Mercedes connection, that Ocon will remain with the team next year, Pérez has got to be very careful because he could end up without a seat in Formula One next year if this feud continues.

In terms of the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (392 points) lead by 44 points over Ferrari (348 points), with Red Bull (199 points) comfortably in third position, ahead of Force India (103 points), who are equally comfortable in fourth position in the constructors’ championship. After them is a tight battle for fifth in the championship, with Williams (45 points), Toro Rosso (40 points), Haas (35 points), and Renault (34 points) separated by just 11 points, with McLaren (11 points) and Sauber (five points) bringing up the rear of the field.

Fernando Alonso, who is currently 15th in the championship on 10 points, is getting increasingly frustrated about the reliability and performance of the Honda, and has been heavily criticised for perhaps retiring the car in Belgium when it had no problem, which was the eighth time in the 11 races he has competed in during 2017 that his car hasn’t seen the chequered flag, although two of the times he has been classified as a finish.

Unless something dramatic happens at McLaren as far as their relationship with Honda is concerned, Alonso looks set to leave the team, and I believe he could well be heading to Williams, and I doubt he will be worried how much he is paid considering the troubles of the last three years.

Looking ahead to who will win the Italian Grand Prix, I sense it is going to be a tight battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, and I think Vettel might get the victory ahead of Hamilton in front of the patriotic Italian crowd in a thriller.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (6pm and 10pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 11am and 2pm local time (7pm and 10pm AEST).

The 53 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (10pm AEST).