The Formula 1 Gran Premio Heineken D-Italia 2018 at the historic Monza circuit sees more turmoil for Daniel Ricciardo, a potential tipping point for Ferrari, and a new car for Fernando Alonso.
Ricciardo’s announcement a couple of weeks ago continues to swirl through the F1 rumour paddock. Fernando Alonso this week claimed that he, not the Perth born Red Bull driver, was the primary choice for a seat at Renault. Alonso states that Renault approached him to drive in 2019, and also says that red Bull had spoken to him, a claim Red Bull has since strenuously denied.
Red Bull supremo, Christian Horner, does however say that the new owners of F1, Liberty Media, discussed with Red Bull the possibility of the Spaniard driving for the energy drinks back team in 2019.
Ricciardo himself has stayed away from further discussion about this prior to this weekend’s Italian F1 GP. He has to deal with a double edged sword. Red Bull are expected to run a “Spec-C” Renault engine this weekend, one that promises significant performance upgrades. However should Ricciardo stay with this for the weekend he will incur a place penalty on the grid for Sunday’s race. It’s a tough call for the team as they sit just ten points ahead of fourth placed Haas in the constructors’ championship.
Ferrari will race this weekend in front of a home crowd, a crowd that will be expected to roar every time a red car passes a crowded vantage point. Ferrari’s performance this year has given hope to the team, especially in the light of recent history seeing Mercedes take the flag in every race since 2014. Continued incremental refinements to both the chassis and the engine package have seen those incremental gains build upon the previous. This now has Ferrari in a position to deliver a more complete performance this weekend in front of their home circuit crowd.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton wryly admits that the team may struggle this weekend, noting Vettel’s pass on him at Belgium as “he drove past me like I wasn’t even there”.
After Nico Hulkenburg ploughed into the back of Alonso’s car last weekend, sending him frighteningly close to the head of Charles Leclerc, the team has had to provide Alonso with a chassis that may not have the latest specification spare parts. What this means for both driver and team is in danger of not being competitive should a component fail. Whether the car needs an engine change is also currently unknown prior to the practice sessions.
Alonso himself didn’t escape unscathed after the crash, saying that he has been suffering some wrist and back pain since.
Monza itself is a relatively flat track, with an elevation change of just thirteen metres. The boomerang shaped track is relatively compact and surprisingly long at 5.7 kilometres. With just three tight corners it’s a high speed, free flowing, track, with DRS expected to play a big part in Sunday’s race.
Practice starts at 11am local time on Friday, with Q1 at 15:00 on Saturday. Race start is on Sunday at 15:10 local.