F1 Today – Italian Prixview – 09/09/2021

F1 Today

Verstappen not sure Red Bull can fight Mercedes

Max Verstappen is not sure that Red Bull’s performance gains on Mercedes will be “enough to fight them” at the Italian Grand Prix. The Dutchman moved three points ahead of his championship rival Lewis Hamilton following his home win, while the team is twelve points behind Mercedes in the constructors.

Since the start of the hybrid era, Mercedes have won all but the last two races at Monza, because of their dominant power unit and straight-line performance in the V6 hybrid era. While Red Bull has struggled at Monza, one of the questions has been whether the step forwards in straight-line performance can help them this weekend.

Verstappen said that Red Bull would certainly be more competitive at Monza this year than in previous seasons, but he was uncertain it would offer enough to take the fight to Mercedes. He told reporters, “For sure, compared to previous years [it is more competitive], but I’m not sure if it’s going to be enough to fight them.”

“Nevertheless, this weekend again, with sprint qualifying and stuff, it’s going to be very different. I just hope we did our homework before getting here and we can be very competitive. It’s a bit difficult to say where we will stand. I definitely don’t expect it to be like Zandvoort.”

At some point in the remaining eight races, Verstappen will need to take a ten place grid penalty, for exceeding his engine allocation having lost one unit with damage. That could potentially impacting the title fight against Hamilton.

In the past Red Bull has typically taken penalties at Monza because of its long straights that allow for plenty of overtaking and recoveries through the field.

But Verstappen said there were no plans currently to take a penalty this weekend due to the close title fight and the addition of sprint qualifying, offering three bonus points for the Saturday winner.


Red Bull believes Mercedes are the team to beat

Red Bull believes that title rivals Mercedes will have the advantage for the next two races starting with this weekends Italian Grand Prix. Although the Austrian team took victory last weekend in Zandvoort team principal Christian Horner believes that the high-speed nature of Monza and Sochi will not suit it car.

Although Red Bull has been quite aggressive with its upgrade push this season, Horner has suggested that its focus is now switching more to its 2022 efforts. That is why he suggests the team will not be bringing anything major for Monza and Sochi, beyond the regular low-downforce wings that are a must.

He told Motorsport.com, “There’s a huge amount of effort going into 2022. Obviously, there will be Monza wings, that all cars will have. But we’re getting to the end of the cycle with this car now. But if there’s marginal gains in any particular area, you’ve got to go for it.”

Following last weekend’s race, Horner said he believed there was a tenth between Red Bull and Mercedes.


Sainz gets his first taste of the Tifosi

Carlos Sainz will get his first proper tease of being a Ferrari driver at Monza this weekend. For this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix circuit capacity will be half but as ever the Tifosi will still bring their full passion for Ferrari.

This weekend will be a reminder of the passion that flows in Italy when Scuderia Ferrari is in action. It’s been along with wait for Sainz, given that he was announced in May 2020.

He told Motorsport.com “I am a Ferrari driver, but I haven’t had the experience of being a Ferrari driver. I’m just driving for Ferrari, but I haven’t had the experience of enjoying the tifosi. I do sometimes at Maranello, when they get close to me, when I go to the factory.”

“But I must be one of the only Ferrari drivers in history that have taken more than a year to feel like a Ferrari driver! Budapest gave me that first opportunity, all the fan base there, and the love you get from everyone back at the hotel.” Sainz says that looking at his Instagram it’s already crazy.

His teammate Charles Leclerc, who got his taste two years ago and took victory for the team in that race, suggested that Monza could be mixed and he doesn’t know what to expect.

The Monacan has generally had the edge, but often not by much. Sainz currently lies seventh in the world championship on 89.5 points, just two and half behind his teammate, who admittedly didn’t get a chance to race in Monaco or Hungary.

Sainz says “I was reading that in terms of points it was obviously my best start. But still, as I said before the summer break I felt like I’ve done better first halves of seasons in terms of pure performance as a driver. I think my third season in Toro Rosso was properly maximising the car you have and scoring the best possible result that that car can do every weekend.”

Leclerc remains the benchmark for Ferrari and Sainz accepts it’s hard going up against his teammate, but feels that he has been around a tenth off or ahead this season. He says he thought he was always going to be on the pace despite the complexity. Sainz admitted there were things which still needed fine-tuning.

One issue Sainz highlighted earlier this year was braking, often an aspect that drivers need to time to fully optimise when they move to a different team. It’s something that Ricciardo has struggled with at McLaren this year. Sainz believed a few races ago that he was getting on top of it, but Spa was a reminder that there’s still work to be done.

Adding, “It’s there, and probably the wet exposed it. I had a few races without really thinking about the braking. And feeling quite at home, as you saw also in the results before the summer break, I was confident and all that.”


Race Directors Notes & Circuit Changes

The FIA has announced they will be enforcing track limits at Rettitilo (Turn One & Two), Variante dellla Roggia (Turns Four & Five) and Parabolica for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

For the first chicane (T1-T2) any driver who misses the braking zone can go straight on through the blocks on the escape road before re-joining the track at the exit of the second corner. Also if they miss T2 they can re-join using the grass if they miss the escape road.

At the second chicane (T4-T5) any driver who misses the black and yellow bumps before the apex of T5 must stay to the right of the yellow line and the bollard, he may then re-join the track at the far end of the asphalt run-off area after the exit of T5 and rejoin on exit.

For that corner, a driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track.

In general, each time the driver goes behind the apex of Turn Five, and/or crossing the white line on the outside of Turn Eleven during the sprint qualifying session or the race, he will be shown a black and white flag, any further cutting will then be reported to the stewards.

As ever these requirements will not automatically apply to any driver who is judged to have been forced off the track, each such case will be judged individually.


Vettel “not worried” about future

Sebastian Vettel says he is “not worried” about his future with Aston Martin and talks are ongoing with the team about his contract for next season. The four-time champion joined the British team after being dropped by Ferrari ahead of a delayed start to last season.

Vettel has led the team’s efforts so far this year, scoring a second-place finish in Azerbaijan and picking up close to double the points of teammate Lance Stroll. Although the German is on what has been described as a “2021 and beyond” contract, the team is yet to formally confirm its line-up.

Last week at Zandvoort, CEO and team principal Otmar Szafnauer said at Zandvoort last weekend that it was “nothing complicated” with Vettel, but “just timing in the contract as to when we have to have the negotiation signed and then move on”.

Following a busy week of driver announcements that has seen Valtteri Bottas, George Russell and Alexander Albon all have seats confirmed for 2022, Vettel said he had “no news” to share. Vettel told reporters at Monza, “I’m talking to the team obviously, and I think we’ll have an answer very soon. But at this point, no news.”

Asked why there was no news. Vettel said he had “never really talked much about contracts”, and that he “can’t give you much more insight” as to why talks were ongoing.

Adding “As I said, we are talking to each other. I really enjoy working with the team. I think the atmosphere is great, and I do believe the future of this team is very, very bright. So yeah. I’m not worried. And I feel that we will have an answer soon.”

Vettel spoke also about the promotion of Russell had got the nod to move up to Mercedes for next year, partnering Lewis Hamilton, and that Albon would be returning to the grid after a season away.

Vettel said “It’s been an exciting week. It’s nice to see that George gets the opportunity to move up, nice to see that Alex comes back. I think with the talent he has, he deserves a spot in Formula 1.”


Rivalry between Schumacher & Mazepin “exaggerated”

Haas team principal Gunther Steiner feels that the rivalry between Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher is not personal and “exaggerated” by the team’s current performance ahead of talks at Monza.

Following incidents, last weekend at Zandvoort Steiner announce he would talk to both drivers. Mazepin said that Schumacher ruined his qualifying by breaking team protocol and passing him on their out lap, but Schumacher claimed he had been given permission to make the overtake.

While in the race, Schumacher felt “very angry” about Mazepin’s late defensive move on the main straight at the end of the first lap. The German said there was “room for improvement” in their relationship, while Mazepin himself said there were “no problems” with Schumacher.

Speaking ahead of the meeting today at Monza, Steiner said he is committed to resolving the matter to prevent any future issues from emerging. He told Motorsport.com, “What happened last week, we had a meeting on Sunday, we will have another meeting today.”

“We’ll work on it and get that problem sorted as well, as we did with a lot of other things. I just want to make sure that the two guys get a good understanding of how they should race, and that they can learn to avoid the situations that don’t help anybody, the least it helps them.”

Steiner says the team doesn’t care if they are friends or not, they need to perform as a team, saying that some kind of agreement needs to be made. He also added “We just need to make it work. They are young, and they need to understand that, and then they can move on together in the same team.”

Haas are currently bottom of the constructors after failing to score any points this year, but is treating 2021 as a transition season, opting against car development so it can place full focus on next year’s regulations.


Michael Schumacher is ‘different, but here’

Corinna Schumacher the wife of seven-time champion Michael says than he  is “different, but he’s here” as he continues his rehabilitation after a severe brain injury. The seven-time champion suffered serious head injuries in a skiing accident in December 2013, and was placed into a medically induced coma. He was brought home in September 2014.

In a rare interview with Netflix for a documentary marking the thirtieth anniversary of his debut, she said, “He still shows me how strong he is every day. We’re trying to carry on as a family.”

The Schumacher family have kept his medical condition private as they say those would be his wishes. His wife added: “‘Private is private’, as he always said. It’s very important to me that he can continue to enjoy his private life as much as possible. Michael always protected us, and now we are protecting Michael.”

For the first time she gave limited details about there life at home, saying they are living at home together and doing therapy. She added “We do everything we can to make Michael better and to make sure he’s comfortable. And to simply make him feel our family, our bond.”

The documentary featuring archive material and interviews with his children Haas driver Mick and daughter Gina-Maria was release today. It also has interviews with Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn and Bernie Ecclestone.

Corinna also reflects on how her husband was rarely injured in a career spanning more than 300 grands prix. Saying, “We’d always made it through his races safely. Which is why I was certain he had a few guardian angels that were keeping an eye out for him.

“I don’t know if it’s just a kind of protective wall that you put up yourself or if it’s because you’re in a way naive but it simply never occurred to me that anything could ever happen to Michael. I never blamed God for why this happened now. [The accident] was just really bad luck, all the bad luck anyone could ever have in their life.”


F1 needs to avoid triple-headers “completely”

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl has urged Formula One not to increase the number of races on the calendar next year and to scrap triple-headers to ease the strain on teams. The draft 2022 calendar is due for release in the coming weeks with twenty-three races contracted for next year.

This weekends race marks the end of the second triple header of the season, unless travel restrictions intervene currently the final triple header is planned across three continents in November.

A number of key F1 figures have warned against the staging of triple-headers due to the strain it places on their team personnel, with a return to the practice only emerging through necessity last year after the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Seidl warned against not only holding triple-headers next year, but also against an expansion of the calendar. The German told Motorsport.com “The most important thing from my point of view is obviously that we don’t further increase the number of races per year, because I think what we have in place now is already too much of a burden that we put on our people.

“Then another important topic is also the number of triple-headers. From my point of view, we should avoid them completely, again to reduce the burden on our people. The calendar should try to get through with avoiding any triple-headers, to be honest.”

Haas team principal Gunther Steiner revealed ahead of this weekend’s race at Monza that he had spoken to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali about the calendar structuring in the future, and felt confident triple-headers would not be the norm next year.

Adding, “I spoke with him about this a few times, and he also agrees it would be better maybe to have more double-headers instead of triple-headers and single races. I haven’t seen the calendar, and it’s not only what we want to do, it’s also when the hosts of the races want the races to be.”


The weekend ahead

This weekend the final race in this triple-header takes us to Monza, a high speed and high downforce circuit where the feeling is from Red Bull is that Mercedes should be ahead. On paper you need to cautiously agree, Mercedes were quick at these types of circuit and have won the majority of the races in the hybrid era here.

This is a high speed circuit which tends to mean unique setups, low downforce and grip are going to be hard we only have one practice session before qualifying for the sprint race. Monza is a fast high-speed circuit which makes it ideal for this format and we need to expect very different run plans in FP1 and FP2.

The question you need to imagine teams will need to decide early on to go for qualifying or races, the latter I think is going to be the preferred option. Ferrari will I think struggle slightly more than we saw at Silverstone, but not as much as we saw at this race last year was the worst race in terms of feeling.

We have a really tight midfield battle, Alpha Tauri were really strong in the crazy race we had last year. Monza is a hard circuit on the cars, we see high top speed which means brakes take a battering and failures are common. Obviously, this increases the probability of safety cars and red flags in qualifying.

The off track story will be Mercedes following the decision to replace Valtteri Bottas with George Russell, expect more reaction and analysis. This will see the dominoes continue to fall in the drivers market.


You can join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix via Twitter @FormulaOneVault starting with FP1 Friday from 14:15 / 13:15 BST and Qualifying 17:45 / 16:45. Sprint Qualifying 15:15 / 14:15 on Saturday and race coverage 14:30 / -13:30 lights out 15:00 / 14:00

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