After Vettel's dominant win at Spa, F1 heads to Italy for the final race of the European leg of 2013 Formula 1 season. Coming into the race, the German has a 46 point advantage over Fernando Alonso, who in turn is 12 points clear off Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen slipped to fourth in the championship following Finn's first retirement at Spa due to a brake issue.
Autodromo di Monza, the venue for this year's Italian Grand Prix has been on the calendar since the very first F1 championship in 1950. The 5.8km circuit, which has only 11 corners is currently the fastest circuit on the calendar with top speed of over 340km/hr. Further, most of the straights are followed by slow chicanes making the circuit a unique one on the calendar. Teams bring a special low-downforce package for Spa which is further fine tuned for Monza.
2012 - In brief
Last year, Lewis Hamilton dominated the race from pole position in a race which could have seen a McLaren 1-2, had Jenson Button not suffered a mechanical failure. Instead, Sergio Perez put on a spectacular performance on a reverse one stop strategy to take his third podium of the season. The result further increased Mexican's chances of joining McLaren in 2014.
As far as this year's race is concerned, we are likely to see a similar form guide to what we saw in Canada and Belgium - Red Bull fastest by a margin, Ferrari - second, Mercedes - third and Lotus nowhere close to the front runners. It is an important race for all four title contenders, even though Vettel is likely to runaway with a fourth consecutive title. We look at the chances of top four teams on the current grid and chances of their lead drivers.
Red Bull - Red Bull has always underperformed at low downforce tracks like Monza. Their car is fundamentally designed for high downforce circuits, which crowd most of the calendar. But the RB9 seems to be an all rounder and is likely to be the fastest car at this week's Italian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel has won here twice and it was at this very circuit where he scored his first career win. He would like to further extend his lead over Alonso and the pack with his sixth win of the season. His teammate, meanwhile, has never finished higher than sixth at Monza but has made his intention clear of scoring a podium.
Ferrari - Ferrari has always been strong at their home race and have won more races here than any other team in the history of Formula 1(18 to McLaren's 10). Looking at their pace in Canada and Spa, they are likely to be the second fastest car in the race. But that won't be enough for Alonso, who has already lost a chunk of points to Vettel after Ferrari lost out to Red Bull in the in-season development race. He will need to do something special, like he did in 2011 for example with a spectacular start from fourth on the grid if he's to keep his hopes of a third elusive title alive.
Mercedes - Mercedes are likely to perform better than they did a fortnight ago in Belgium but whether they will be up there with Ferraris and the Red Bulls(in race trim) - that remains a question. The problem with Mercedes in Belgium was that it was slow on corners, and thus didn't have the momentum down the straights. However, with very few fast corners in Monza, that problem is not likely to arise this weekend. Further, Mercedes can use their higher straight line speed to their benefit.
Lotus - Lotus, like Red Bull are quick at high-downforce circuits but average at low downforce ones. And with Monza, being a low downforce circuit, nothing spectacular is expected from the cars in gold and black livery. Nevertheless, they can still finish in the top 5.
Pirelli is bringing medium and hard tyres for this race to curb the high longitudinal degradation at Monza. The tyre choice, along with the new 80km/hr speed limit means that all teams will try to complete the race on a one-stop strategy. Some teams may try to do a reverse strategy - starting on the hard tyres and then doing a final stint on faster medium tyres when others are on older and slower hard/prime tyres.