Michael Schumacher has admitted that he needs to put aside his fondness for Ferrari
and its legendary tifosi
as he continues to pursue a first race win for new team Mercedes.
The German ended his first F1 career as a member of the Scuderia, and his five wins in front of the adoring hoards remain the most ever by one driver at Monza. Since returning from a three-year 'retirement' in 2010, however, he has but one podium finish - achieved this season in Valencia - and is hoping that seventh place in a Belgian Grand Prix that didn't go to plan for Mercedes can be the result that propels him to better in the royal park.
Remarkably, Schumacher has finished three of the last four races in seventh spot - interrupted by a DNF in Hungary - but enjoyed a better run in last year's Italian Grand Prix, where he mixed it with both McLarens before finishing fifth.
"When I think of Monza, I immediately see everything through a red veil," the 43-year old concedes, "It is the beating racing heart of Italy, everything there lives and
breathes Ferrari, and I must inevitably think of the good times I spent there. What makes me particularly happy is that after all these years, the tifosi
still welcome me so warmly, and I would like to thank them for that.
"Naturally, now I'm racing in Mercedes silver, I hope I can offer them a nice fight and be a worthy rival. They can be just as sure as our own fans that everybody in the team is looking to have a successful finale to the European season, and is therefore fully motivated to put on a good show in Monza."
Mercedes may need to get its double DRS system working perfectly in qualifying to give Schumacher a shot at adding to his Monza victory tally, as six of the last ten races at F1's fastest venue have been won from pole - and seven of this season's twelve races likewise. In last year's Italian Grand Prix, DRS overtakes outnumbered normal passes by 18 to 15
"Monza is a circuit that demands very diverse strengths from the technical package - high straight-line speeds through low levels of drag and downforce, with the cars exceeding 300kph on four separate occasions, and a good mechanical base for braking stability into the chicanes and corners, and good traction exiting them," Mercedes' Norbert Haug confirmed.
"It is also well known as an engine circuit thanks to its high-speed layout, with over 80 per cent of the lap distance spent at full throttle. The races in Belgium and Italy are separated by just a week, but the circuit-specific modifications made for Monza are only run once a year and could possibly mean that the competitive order won't be quite the same as that we saw in Spa."