Hi folks,

It's the Italian Grand Prix this weekend - and the event at Monza is always a very special one. The circuit is steeped in history and has hosted a round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship every year since the series was created, with the exception of 1980.

It is also the home track for Ferrari and given the performances put in by Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen in Turkey last time the tifosi will be hoping for another one-two.

The Ferraris are running very strongly at the moment and the track should suit the F2007, just like their longer wheel base car suited Istanbul Park.

Having said that though, as much as I feel it will be a Ferrari circuit, I think McLaren will be strong there too and given the form of Ron Dennis' team in testing last week it should be an interesting battle.

Certainly McLaren were probably left a bit in awe of how things went at Istanbul Park, especially in the race, and that may have spurred them on - although there is obviously only so much you can do in two weeks.

The Turkish GP itself however wasn't the best. Indeed it was probably one of the most processional races we have had so far this year, which was a bit disappointing.

There were some highlights though, which produced a few talking points. None more so than Lewis Hamilton having his lead eroded in the world championship after that puncture.

Massa's performance was also very notable - he did a great job. He is one of those guys when he gets everything together he can put in some really good qualifying times - and we have seen that a number of times. He is also one of those people, if he gets out in front, he tends to stay there.

Overall he has been very strong and very consistent this year - although there have been some hiccups, Hungary for example most recently.

Getting back to this coming weekend, Monza is now the only real low down-force track on the schedule and that means it is a unique challenge.

Driving with low downforce is always a bit eerie, especially when you first start out. You have to get use to it, calm down and just try and understand what the car is going to do in that configuration.

Under braking it is always a bit problematic too because you are running so little down-force and it is a difficult getting the car to stop as efficiently as you would like.

It may be that Ferrari is strong again then because they should be able to still run a bit of downforce and be competitive in terms of lap times.

Saying that though the Mercedes engine is definitely good and whether anyone else comes into play we will have to wait and see. BMW could well be there - but it will be all about consistency in the race and that means it will probably again be a two-horse race.

In terms of the two championships it is getting to a crucial stage in the year now and it is very tight in the race for the drivers' title.

Lewis Hamilton remains top and it is new territory for him - and the sport - to have a rookie leading the way, as he has been now for several races. Things have started to go the other way of late for him though and his lead is steadily, but slowly, being eroded.

Considering the blip in Turkey however with the tyre, he still managed to recover well and gain some points and overall it was a strong weekend for him. Definitely his qualifying performance was fantastic and I don't think he will be too concerned.

His whole attitude seems to be that there isn't too much for him to lose and in some ways I think he feels he shouldn't be there in the first place. So hats off to him!

Of course the big question is can he hang on?

It is difficult to say, especially as the Ferraris are now so competitive. He does seem to have the upper hand in many ways over his team-mate, Fernando Alonso though and now is when the pressure is going to really mount.

Pressure is one thing world champions have to cope with it - and that is how we will see if he has got the makings to become one. If he can continue to keep it together to the end of the season then he will be in a good position.

Two drivers that are also in a good position, but not quite up with Lewis, Fernando, Kimi and Felipe are BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica.

BMW are in a strong position, as they have been all year, to keep picking up healthy points and lead the rest of the pack - and that will be the case again at Monza on Sunday.

Yes, they are somewhat struggling to find those extra few tenths, whether it be in qualifying or race trim, to match the 'big boys', but they have still done a great job. Reliability has been sound and Nick and Robert - who have both been re-signed recently, which, was a good decision when you consider the drivers' market - are doing a fantastic job. There is nothing between the pair of them and they keep pulling each other along.

Another driver that has impressed me this year, like Nick and Kubica, is Renault's #2 Heikki Kovalainen and he really has come on in leaps and bounds - as he showed again in Turkey with another good points finish, his sixth in the last seven races.

At the start of the year he struggled a bit and psychologically I am sure it was affecting him. But he has put that all behind him and is becoming the stronger of the Renault pairing.

It is all very positive and I think he is 'the future' as opposed to Giancarlo Fisichella, who has been around quite a while now.

If Fisi continues to get beaten by his team-mate, then it is going to be tough for him to keep his place, although, in my view, having someone with experience is very useful. It will be a hard decision for the regie to have to look elsewhere, unless of course talk Alonso could return to Renault does materialise.

Nico Rosberg deserves a mention and seventh was another great performance from him. He has matured no end this season and he looks very much at one with the Williams now.

Considering Williams started the year with a new engine partner in Toyota and had to build up a relationship, they have gelled very well. There are times when you think they could do a little better, because I think they deserve it, but they are just lacking a bit of overall performance.

For sure though things are improving there and they seem to be improving steadily, which is great to see.

Of the rest there isn't much to say, although Jenson Button had a great race charging up from 22nd at the start to finish 13th. Hopefully Honda can take something away from that.

In race trim they seem to have a car, that to a degree, is user friendly and it seems to be fairly competitive. It is just qualifying that is still the problem and when they try and get that extra bit from the RA107, it just seems to go wrong. That is a big issue and it is the same one they have had all season long.

They must get on top of it by the end of the season ready to go into next year and come back. That is the worry for them now. I think if they carry on and don't learn then they could be a similar position in 2008 too.

Toyota are another one of those teams in a bit of a struggle and especially so with Ralf Schumacher.

Jarno Trulli would probably have had a more entertaining race in the sister TF107 had he not been clipped at the first corner by Giancarlo Fisichella.

Davidson also got caught up in that and it was a real shame as he did a tremendous job in qualifying and definitely made a mark just missing out on getting through to the top ten shoot-out.

It is always going to be an issue though when you start in the midfield. There is going to be some congestion and some action and if you get caught up in that, nine times out of ten, it will cost you quite dearly, as it did for Jarno and Ant.

At least though they though could finish, which is more than could be said for Red Bull's Mark Webber, who was the sole retiree in Turkey, with hydraulic issues.

It is an unfortunate scenario for him as he seems to be plagued with numerous mechanical problems and so forth. Reliability issues must be the bane of his life.

He is making progress though and I think the pairing of him and David Coulthard has worked very well over the season so far. There is no reason to feel it shouldn't be a stronger combination with a new improved package for next season either. As much as it must be disheartening then I am sure they will be some positives in the future.

So to my prediction, I am going to put Lewis on pole, as I believe he will pull out an extraordinary lap in qualifying.

In the race though, I think he will have to settle for the runners-up spot, sandwiched between Kimi and Felipe, with the 'ice-man' on the top step of the podium. After that I'll plump for Alonso, Kubica and Trulli.

Enjoy the race...

MB

 

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