Nico Rosberg’s Belgian victory may have closed the gap in the championship to single figures, but it is Ferrari and Felipe Massa’s imminent retirement that are dominating headlines ahead of today’s Italian Grand Prix.
Although Mercedes, with their ultrapowerful engine, have set the pace throughout the Monza weekend, and are expected to continue to do so today, it is Ferrari that the tifosi will turn out in their droves to watch.
The Scuderia are racing an upgraded engine, having used their final three tokens for this season, with both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen hoping for a top-three result. Although Ferrari have not won the Italian Grand Prix since Fernando Alonso’s 2010 success, they have featured on the podium in four of the past five editions.
The duo will most likely need drama for one or both of the Mercedes drivers to have a celebration on the podium. The last time Ferrari put both cars into the top-three was at that 2010 race, when Massa joined Alonso, to the delight of the tifosi.
This year, the Brazilian, who spent eight years with Ferrari but now races for Williams, will be saying goodbye to Monza – he’s announced that he will retire at the end of this season. It could be a difficult farewell for Massa as Williams have not shown podium pace.
Instead, it is Red Bull Racing and Force India who are likely to take the fight to the Scuderia drivers, which in itself poses an interesting prospect as last time out, in Belgium, both Räikkönen and Vettel were furious with Max Verstappen’s antics.
They accused the 18-year-old of courting a “massive accident” as he once again frustrated them with his on-track defending, and a block or two. Verstappen has vowed to “show my driving style like it was before” and that won’t go down well with the tifosi if he causes any trouble for their heroes.
But when all is said and done, it is Mercedes who are likely to walk away with the 1-2 this weekend. Hamilton is looking for his third straight Italian Grand Prix victory, his fourth in total, while Rosberg is chasing his first.
Even if Rosberg does beat his team-mate, the German will remain second in the Drivers’ Championship as the two are separated by nine points in Hamilton’s favour. Should Hamilton win, that will give him a buffer of 17 points heading into a spate of grands prix that he has dominated over the past two seasons. – TEAMtalk Media