After the raucous atmosphere of the Orange Army in Zandvoort, the Tifosi will have their turn to roar on their Italian heroes Ferrari during this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
The 5.7 kilometre temple of speed is one of the most historic tracks in Formula One, now hosting its 71st race in the world championship since 1950, and it could hardly have come at a better time for Mercedes.
The current champions have won five times at Monza since the beginning of the hybrid era, but have not won there in any of the last three – or indeed any of the last three races this season since Silverstone.
This therefore presents them with the opportunity to turn the tide on a season which has slightly begun to swing the way of Red Bull in the last couple of weeks, at a track where they would anticipate a strong performance. The 11 corners coupled with long straights would ordinarily be conducive to a slam dunk Mercedes win, but even here they will find the Austrian Bulls pushing them hard.
The Honda Power Unit has proved a perennial threat to the German team’s dominance in the last couple of years, and it has competed exceptionally so far in 2021, leaving Max Verstappen top of the Drivers’ Championship, while Mercedes lead them by a narrow 12 points.
Sir Lewis Hamilton said after Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix that Red Bull were on “another level” over the weekend, but at a circuit where overtaking is a lot more accessible and a track where Mercedes are quicker on paper, the competition will be immense.
Behind the battle out front, things are incredibly interesting. Ferrari carry positive momentum after the Netherlands, but they suffered a torrid time in here last year; a brake failure put pay to Sebastian Vettel’s race, while Charles Leclerc violently collided with the barrier at the final corner.
Alpine managed a satisfactory points haul too, scoring 10 points between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, while McLaren, who have generally been one of the better midfield campers this year, only managed a P10 courtesy of Lando Norris.
This leaves the mid-pack in a poised position going from a track at which overtaking is at a premium, to a circuit here at which wheel-to-wheel racing is a regularity.
To mix in with all of that, this weekend sees the second sprint race weekend of the season. A single practise session will precede qualifying, before a short race determines the grid for the Grand Prix. Three points are awarded to the winner of the sprint, with two for second, and one for third. There will be no point for the fastest lap, and the winner of the sprint will be awarded pole position, and not a race win. It may therefore provide a chance for some who are usually further back to climb up towards the podium places; Pierre Gasly’s inspired performance saw him win for the home Alpha Tauti team last year, with Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll joining him on the podium.
In a slight change to the track, the former Parabolica Turn 11 has been renamed after legend Michele Alboreto.
The championship now enters the final 10 rounds of the season, as Red Bull and Mercedes continue to battle toe-to-toe, and we resume that fight at the temple of speed.