Red Bull should fare better than expected

Max Verstappen reclaimed the lead of the drivers’ championship following his flawless drive in front of his home crowd at Zandvoort.

Just three points separate Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the top of the standings meaning the title race is finely poised going into the flyaways in the final part of the season.

Since the turn of the V6 hybrid era, Monza has been notoriously difficult for Red Bull, having not finished on the podium since 2013 when Sebastian Vettel won the race ahead of Fernando Alonso

If Red Bull had a bogey circuit then it was most certainly Monza. 

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In the past, it could blame Renault’s under-performing engine for its poor performance. 

Despite the form guide suggesting it should be a comfortable weekend for Mercedes, it most certainly won’t be.

Due to Red Bull’s high rake concept, it has more inherent downforce than Mercedes.

Teams tend to run skinny rear wings at Monza so they’re not slow down the straights but Red Bull’s high rake concept combined with a strong Honda engine could push the tide in their favour. 

No doubt, Mercedes will be strong but it won’t be a slam dunk victory.

Will Ferrari delight the Tifosi?

Ferrari enjoyed a strong Dutch Grand Prix weekend as it pulled clear of rivals McLaren in the race for third in the constructors’.

Charles Leclerc took a memorable win back in 2019, but how likely is a repeat?

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On paper, the long Monza straights aren’t expected to suit Ferrari’s SF21 as it still has a power deficit to the Mercedes-powered cars, while its strengths come at low speed.

However, this is F1 in 2021 and sometimes it doesn’t go as you expect.

Ferrari secured pole at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix despite the circuit layout - on paper at least - not expected to suit Ferrari. 

F1’s most successful team usually has something extra special in the bag for its home race so let’s not write them off just yet.

More Giovinazzi magic?

Antonio Giovinazzi is currently the only Italian on the grid and he caught the headlines last time out Zandvoort with his spectacular qualifying performance, securing seventh on the grid, just a tenth shy of fourth-place Pierre Gasly.

Earlier in the week, Alfa Romeo announced that Valtteri Bottas will be replacing the retiring Kimi Raikkonen from 2022, while Giovinazzi’s seat is up for grabs with Nyck de Vries among others in the frame.

Giovinazzi has enjoyed a modest step forward in performance in 2021 after two underwhelming first seasons. 

Should Giovinazzi maintain this level of speed into the next races, then he’d be a fine driver to have alongside Bottas to take Alfa Romeo into the new era of F1. 

He just needs a bit of luck on his side for once.

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Another chance for F1’s sprint format

Formula 1 will trial its sprint race format again this weekend following a mixed debut at Silverstone.

The good news is that the Italian fans will have three days of meaningful action - qualifying on Friday; the sprint on Saturday; the main grand prix on Sunday. 

Speaking after the Dutch GP, race director Michael Masi says not a lot has changed since when it was first trialled at Silverstone.

“No changes,” he said. “So we all had a very good discussion following the first event in Silverstone, the FIA, F1 and the teams, and we all agreed that we would do the identical thing in Monza. from a regulatory perspective. 

“Yes, there will be some extra activities that F1 has going on separate but from a race perspective, we will do everything the same, and then sit down following Monza and see if we need to make further tweaks for the third events, wherever that will be.”

Slipstreaming antics 

Getting a good slipstream in qualifying will be crucial in securing a good grid position for Saturday’s sprint. 

We saw the farcical scenes in 2019 when the majority of the field didn’t make the chequered flag in time due to the backing up and jostling for position. 

With Hamilton and Verstappen embroiled in a titanic fight for the title, expect Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez to run ahead of their teammates in Q3 to give them the best chance of taking top spot. 

Let’s hope everyone plays fair.

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