Forza Ferrari: 10 Predictions for the Italian Grand Prix

Following a dramatic Belgian Grand Prix, the Formula 1 circus has little time to draw its breath as the grid heads straight to Monza, Ferrari’s home race and a slalom in which top speed and hard braking are kings.

Whilst Mercedes have looked strong in practice, the high temperatures might see Ferrari come into play on Sunday. Behind the top two teams, there are eight others that will need to sort themselves out and shuffle into some sort of order by the time the chequered flag is drawn in Sunday afternoon. Here are 10 predictions for the Italian Grand Prix:

10. Mercedes Front-Row Lockout

Mercedes look to have an edge over Ferrari in terms of single lap pace after Friday Practice, with Hamilton and Bottas both topping sessions. It’s likely that they will be able to keep contain Ferrari in Q3, barring any driver errors or failures on the cars.

9. McLaren in Q3

The shock of Friday practice was seeing Vandoorne and Alonso as the quickest car behind the big three. The Belgian was slightly quicker than the Spaniard in 8th. A staggering achievement if the pace carries through to Qualifying. Both McLaren-Honda’s making Q3 would be a great shock. What they can do during the Italian Grand Prix remains to be seen.

8. Sebastian Vettel to Win

Seems unlikely given the pace of the Mercedes, but bear in mind two related variables that could really shift where the pace resides in the race. If it’s a hot track on Sunday, which is likely, then the Ferrari’s will look after their tyres better than Mercedes, who have already struggled at a few venues this season when the surface has been hot. Given that Vettel was only a few tenths off of Mercedes pace in FP2, keeping the silver Arrows under pressure in the race could be vital to pulling off a Ferrari win in Monza.

If he forces them to push, it will increase their rate of wear significantly, possibly forcing them into an earlier stop. There could be a lot of tyre talk on Sunday, and it is certainly an area in which Ferrari hold an advantage. Bottas may be more conservative than Hamilton in this area, the Finn has proven consistently that he is more competitive on the harder compound in the second phase of the race.

7. Ricciardo to make the most overtakes

Even if Ricciardo manages to get within the top five places on Saturday, he is in for a 20-place grid drop due to engine penalties, as is his teammate Max Verstappen, who is on for a 15-place grid drop too. The other sufferers of what is becoming a race-by-race occurrence are Sainz, who is getting a 10-place drop, and Alonso, who is getting a 35-place drop and will start the race in Monza parking lot B.

It means that the back two rows of the Italian Grand Prix will consist of proven alumni in the study of overtaking, but we see Ricciardo getting top marks here and recovering to strong points. If any of these drivers score points, they can consider it a good day at the office.

6. Force India Driver Disobeys Team Orders

You know as well as me that the pink panthers are going to find themselves trailing one another at some point in the race, it has to happen. Both Ocon and Perez have shown a level of arrogance that is natural for those at the top of a sporting category.

But when it becomes self-aggrandising, particularly through sniping on social media and biting the hand that feeds you, the team has a problem, and the drivers look a bit idiotic bickering and it reduces both of their stocks quite a bit. They should know by now what’s good for them, but there’s a feeling that one of them will cross the line, and not in a good way either.

5. Kimi Podium

Raikkonen remains the only driver other than his teammate to be close enough to benefit from Mercedes struggling on its tyres. There’s a real danger here that Hamilton, in particular, will overcook it, and an extra stop could help Kimi get onto the podium at the Italian Grand Prix.

4. Haas to Retire

It’s a circuit that really tests the brakes, and Haas have had well-documented issues in this area. Grosjean should have the experience by now to nurse the car, albeit to a miserable finish outside the points. Magnussen can be a bit gung-ho, or “an arse*ole” according to Hulkenberg, and I can see him cooking his brakes quicker than a minute steak.

3. Stroll in the top ten

Williams need a strong weekend. They are running out of races to save what has been a mediocre season so far by their standards. Lance Stroll has also had a few quiet races since his podium in Baku.

Apart from a point scored in Austria, there hasn’t been much to talk about. Unlike Massa who scored at the British Grand Prix, and finished 8th in Spa, which was great to see given he had struggled quite recently with Vertigo. Then he had very little running on Friday after some tight chassis regulations prevented any FP2 running. But it would be nice to see his teammate Lance Stroll get back into the points. He got a lot of stick earlier in the season, and a decent finish here could keep the doubters at bay.

2. Bottas to Beat Hamilton

Hamilton fans will hate us, but there’s just a slight sense his aggressive style will force the W08 to eat its tyres. He said that the only reason he was able to beat Vettel in Spa was due to putting in eleven consistent qualifying laps at the end of the race, to build up a gap.

He won’t be afforded that luxury in the Italian Grand Prix if the temperature is high. The car is a known diva in terms of setup, and it makes you wonder what will happen to the balance of the car when the tyres degrade. Bottas will suffer too, but the Finn seems to be kinder on his tyres, and this will see him finish ahead of the Brit on Sunday.

1. Palmer and Hulk Collision

When a driver is desperate for a result, they can become incredible and experience the “tunnel vision” that Ayrton Senna used to talk about, or they can crash into their teammate. Unfortunately, Jolyon Palmer falls into the latter category.

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