Dutchman Max Verstappen, by far the leader of the Formula 1 World Championship, is coming to Monza this weekend as a big favourite. He is hoping to dominate the local Ferraris of Monegasque Charles Leclerc and Spaniard Carlos Sainz.
Winner of ten of the 15 Grands Prix already held, Verstappen smashes the 2022 F1 version. If he is mathematically still within reach, the games ahead of the new game at the Monza Autodrome seem made for the Italian GP.
With seven races to go and before he leaves Europe for Asia, Verstappen (Red Bull) and Leclerc (Ferrari), his closest pursuer, are separated by 109 points. Sergio Pérez’s other Red Bull is also 109 points behind the leader… An advantage that, given the dynamics of the forces, does not seem to be catching up.
Verstappen has just won four races in a row and chained demonstrations. At the same time, Leclerc only signed one podium last week, a 3rd place finish in the Netherlands.
The hopes for the start of the season, that of the tough competition between Red Bull and Ferrari, are distant memories. As memories fade of the 2021 battle between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) that ended at the end of the last GP.
At this rate, Verstappen can be titled in Asia, Singapore (October 2) or Japan (October 9) or in the United States (October 23) if he meets resistance.
Temple of Speed
Because Red Bull has given its reigning world champion an almost unbeatable monoposto when it comes into the hands of a cold-blooded driver whose vocabulary does not include the word blame. Like a kid who is never satisfied, Verstappen is “eager” to compete at the legendary Monza circuit, where he has never won, which is becoming rare for the 24-year-old athlete who has won 30 Grands Prix.
“If you look at the season so far, we’ve been fast in a straight line and I think it will be the same this weekend (…), we can be competitive,” announced the Batavian, aware that he will have the advantage over the Temple of the speed of 5.793 km. “There’s a lot of history here, it’s an incredible track with a crazy atmosphere,” continued Verstappen, who is undeterred by the 315,000 spectators expected this weekend (125,000 on Sunday), including much of the Scuderia Tifosi .
In front of its fans, who have been denied the Constructors’ title since 2008 and the Drivers’ title since 2007 (Kimi Raikkonen), Ferrari must avoid the mechanical problems and strategic mistakes that have gradually erased its dreams of crowning glory this season. Leclerc, still perfectable before the challenge of a world title he measures for the first time at 24, will also have to be careful not to fade into the background – as in France – if he wants to relive the “Allegria” of his Victory here in 2019.
A success would be all the better given that Ferrari is celebrating a double anniversary this weekend: the 75th anniversary of the famous car manufacturer and the 100th anniversary of the Monza circuit. For the occasion, the Scuderia is sporting a special livery, speckled yellow on top of the usual red. The yellow of the famous Prancing Horse coat of arms, together with blue, is the color of the city of Modena, where Enzo Ferrari began his great adventure before moving to Maranello.
Watch out for Mercedes
To avoid any inconvenience, Ferrari must also watch out for Mercedes, which is in much better shape than it is. The Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have finished on the podium five times in the last four races. Against a podium for Leclerc and one for Sainz.
Mercedes, awaiting their first win of the season, is keeping their fingers crossed for a new surprise scenario at Monza, as is fourth force present, Alpine, formed by Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.
In 2020, Frenchman Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) won the only Grand Prix of his young career there (ill, he will be absent from the circuit for the first GP-related events this Thursday, his team announced). In 2021, Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) threw up the odds, taking advantage of the confounding accident between Verstappen and Hamilton in which the first’s single-seater literally landed on top of the second’s, saved by the halo of his Mercedes.
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