Romain Grosjean might head into this weekend's final round of competition with the 2011 drivers' title securely wrapped up, but there's still plenty of drivers who are scrapping hard for the runners-up spot, with five drivers covered by just 12pts.
Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi are neck-and neck, but Charles Pic, Luca Filippi and Sam Bird also stand a chance of snatching the second position if they have strong runs at Monza this weekend. Given that previous runners-up in the series have included Heikki Kovalainen, Nelson Piquet Jr., Lucas di Grassi, Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov and Sergio Perez - all of whom without exception went on to graduate to F1 - it's clear that second position is something well worth fighting over, too.
While Grosjean can't be overtaken in the drivers' title battle anymore, the DAMS team will be expecting him to stay every bit as focussed as he has been in order to lead their fight for the team championship, which is currently led by Barwa Addex.
"I really want to score more points for the team," he said. "We are second in the teams standings which is not that bad considering that there's only one driver who has scored points so far this season. We need to keep scoring points and it's true that I would like to score a double win this season ... It would be nice to finish on a win."
Ahead of the race weekend, Trident Racing have already announced
that 21-year-old Monaco-born Word Series by Renault driver Stéphane Richelmi will be substituting for their regular driver Stefano Coletti, after Coletti sustained back injuries in a crash with Carlin's Mikhail Aleshin in the rain-hit sprint race on Sunday at Spa two weeks ago.
Aleshin will also be absent from Monza, after Carlin announced that his seat will be taken back this week by Alvaro Parente, who returns to the cockpit of the #25 after making way for Aleshin for the last two rounds at Hungary and Spa.
"I'm feeling great heading into this weekend," said Parente, who was very much looking forward to being back in action. "It's a track that I really like and know quite well. I'm looking forward to working with the team again and finishing the season in Europe on a high."
Ahead of the action this weekend, Pirelli announced that they would be supplying teams with hard compound tyres for the 5.793-kilometre track at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, a circuit that can be punishing for the rubber.
"Hard compound tyres are less grippy compared to softer options, but they are best suited to high-speed tracks characterised by high-speed straights and dramatic corners such as Monza," explained Pirelli's racing manager Mario Isola, who said that the combination of factors made blistering the primary concern which was best addressed by using the harder compound. "This is because they take longer to get up to ideal operating temperature, resulting in higher levels of performance and durability."
For Super Nova's Adam Carroll, the hard tyres will be a new experience. "I prefer the medium compound to the soft tyres because it was very consistent and it enabled me to push hard during racing," he admitted. "[But] I'm looking forward to seeing how the hard compound will behave at Monza," he added, conceding: "it's a high-speed challenging track where it is important to have a resistant tyre to rely on."
Practice begins at Monza on Friday at 10.55am BST following the end of the F1 Free Practice 1 session, with qualifying in the afternoon from 2.55pm after F1 Free Practice 2. The feature race will start at 2.40pm on Saturday afternoon following F1 qualifying, with the sprint race on Sunday morning at 9.30am ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy.