2012 Italian Grand Prix preview – Italy expects

September 6, 2012 5:00 pm

Ferrari has a wealth of motor racing history. Silverstone, Monaco, Spa and Hockenheim have all fallen before the hooves of the prancing horse; yet one circuit, and now one man, is the lifeblood of this illustrious team.

Ascari, Fangio, Hawthorn. Formula One’s adolescent years were in some ways its greatest – shirtsleeve clad gentleman wrestled their machines to glory…or death.

Scheckter, Villeneuve, Lauda. On to the 70’s, and the spectre of death still stalked the grid. Ronnie Peterson a tragic reminder of how dangerous the sport could be, how fine the margin was between triumph and disaster. Just four years later Villeneuve, the favourite son, was also gone and with him the hopes of another Ferrari world champion.

Berger, Alboreto, Arnoux. The 1980’s saw a myriad drivers come and go, a new era of chaos for the Scuderia. 1988 claimed the life of the legendary Enzo, the patriarch of the Ferrari brand. Yet even then, the hand of fate seemed to smile on the prancing horse. In a season dominated by Mclaren, Ferrari claimed a poignant one-two finish on home soil just days after the passing of ‘il commendatore’.

Prost, Mansell and Alesi – all unable to drag the ever-declining Ferrari back to glory. Prost left in disgrace at the end of 1991 with a race left to run. 1993 was a new low, and glory seemed a pleasure now denied to Ferrari.

Then the dawn of the 1996 season; a young German double World Champion was onboard, as was a bespectacled bear of a man as technical guru. All was co-ordinated by the diminutive Frenchman Jean Todt, whose size belied his stature. Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Jean Todt. Ferrari claimed three victories in 1996. Five in 1997. Six in 1998. Form was coming.

Then 1999. Schumacher buried his Ferrari in a Silverstone tyre wall. Ulsterman Eddie Irvine lead the fight against the supreme Mclaren. 2nd again. So close, yet…

2000 was the breakthrough. Schumacher swept to nine victories and Ferrari had their first World Champion for over two decades. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. The seasons fell like dominoes to the relentless scarlet superteam.

Then a young Spaniard had the gall to defeat F1’s unbeatable team. Fernando Alonso snatched glory from Schumacher in 2005 and 2006. Schumacher turned his back on the sport. Ferrari knew who they wanted to fill the void.

Kimi Raikkonen rode the dying wave of Ferrari supremacy to the 2007 title, yet none have followed since. Alonso joined the prancing horse in 2010 and came within touching distance of the title. One race in Abu Dhabi ended his hopes.

Could 2012 be the year Alonso returns the Scuderia to the top of the Formula One pile?

Since the maiden Grand Prix in 1950, the Tifosi have flocked to the Royal Park in their thousands, year after year, in good times and in bad times, to see their heroes blast round the forest circuit and its historic banking.


The ‘Tifosi’ are back…

With barely a pause for breath, Formula One is back again and this weekend Fernando Alonso could take a pivotal step toward claiming his maiden world title for Ferrari, should he deliver the home victory so badly wanted by the fanatical Tifosi.

His disastrous first-lap exit from the Belgian GP may have dented the Spaniard’s championship lead, but he remains as focused as ever in pursuit of that elusive third Formula One crown.

Only problem is, there are five other men who want to get their hands on it too.

Red Bull have lead the constructors championship ever since Mclaren fell apart in the early season confusion, but neither driver holds the advantage in the drivers fight. Sebastian Vettel enjoyed a superb run from 11th on the grid to 2nd at Spa, beaten only by the immaculate Jenson Button. Twice a winner at Monza, Vettel has got what it takes and must begin to win races again if he wants a third straight world title; Bahrain back in April remains his only victory so far this year.

Vettel weathered the storm to claim his maiden victory in 2008

Webber could be forgiven for feeling a little down in the mouth. The Aussie has already won two races this season but aside from those, he has yet to make a visit to the podium having been mired in the lower points positions everywhere else. He crumbled under the late season pressure in 2010 and it cost him dearly, so the Australian must make an impact now if he is to erase those bitter memories.

Lotus came away from Spa deflated after Kimi Raikkonen failed  to deliver the win so many expected, although 3rd can’t be considered a disaster by any measure. The Finn is firmly ensconced at 4th in the title race, only one point behind Webber and could potentially become the first world champion to claim the title having failed to win during the season; a clear indication of the consistency that has come to characterise the 2012 Formula One season. On the other hand, Romain Grosjean certainly won’t be winning this weekend having received a one race ban for his involvement in the first corner fracas in Spa. Having started the season in impressive form, the Frenchman is now harming his image in the eyes of many in the sport.

Mercedes have fallen further and further back since the early races of the year and surprisingly, the team has leant on Michael Schumacher for results in the recent races, rather than their Chinese GP winner Nico Rosberg who has frequently looked underwhelming, even failing to make it out of Q1 in Belgium.  ‘Monza is a very special race track, and certainly one of my favourite venues to visit on the calendar.’ said team principal Ross Brawn when speaking to the official F1 website. ‘The atmosphere created by the Italian fans is always fantastic and it’s a great place to bring the European season to a conclusion. The circuit is a unique challenge with its high-speed straights and the requirement for a low-downforce package designed specifically for the weekend. We would like to finish the European season with a strong result and the team will be working hard to achieve that at the weekend.’ That strong result will be needed if they are to maintain 4th in the constructors championship ahead of Lotus, and you would have to expect the Mercedes to outgun the Renault-powered Lotus down Monza’s long straights.

In 2011 Lewis Hamilton spent 30 laps behind Michael Schumacher. Jenson Button overtook both of them in just 1 lap…


Mclaren are also Mercedes powered, but unlike Mercedes AMG are riding the crest of a wave after convincing victories in the last two races. Button was unstoppable in Belgium, and this brought hope that the British team has finally overcome the tyre and setup issues that have plagued much of the first half of the season. Hamilton does not have a happy history at Monza, having crashed here in both 2009 and 2010 before being humiliated by Michael Schumacher and team-mate Button last year, the latter going on to claim 2nd place. Button had finished 2nd in Italy in 2009 and in 2010 when a flawed Mclaren strategy cost him victory. Even further back, the Englishman was 3rd in 2004 so is looking for a repeat of his Spa performance to finally mount the top step of the Italian podium.

The Tifosi however will be hoping a certain Spaniard wearing red will be standing up there come Sunday afternoon.

Anthony French

Full live television coverage of all sessions is available on both BBC One and SkyF1HD, with radio coverage via BBC Radio5Live

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