Formula One returns to Monza for the Italian GP and after Max Verstappen's dominant win at his home race in Zandvoort, will he be able to extend his championship lead or will the low-downforce circuit suit his title rival instead?
The 13th Round of the Formula One 2021 Season takes the championship to Monza for the second race of the year in Italy. Having been constructed in 1922, this fine Italian circuit was the world's third purpose-built race track and is the oldest European circuit still in use. The high-speed lap features long straights, chicanes and legendary corners which makes the Autodromo Nazionale Monza one of the most regonisable and famous circuits worldwide.
STEPPED IN HISTORY: Monza has held the title of the Italian GP a staggering 90 times in the past and has seen debut wins for current drivers Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly
With drivers on the throttle for 80% of the lap, excellent straight-line speed as well as high-performing brakes are a must. In Qualifying, drivers will be looking for the benefit of slipstream and it's normal for teams to send out both of their drivers roughly at the same time to benefit the driver behind.
Formula One's most successful and most recognisable team, Ferrari, call Monza their home with their factory just down the road in the nearby town. The Scuderia last won their home race with Charles Leclerc resisting a challenge from Lewis Hamilton to win in front of the team supporter's, the Tifosi, back in 2019. The Italian team are on form having re-took third in the championship from McLaren with a double points finish in Zandvoort.
“After a great show from the Dutch fans [last] weekend, we can’t wait to be racing in front of our own tifosi and we hope we can give them something to smile about.” Mattia Binotto, Ferrari Team Principal
Sunday's race will be run over 53 laps but this weekend won't be anything like the past few races as the sport sees the return of Sprint Qualifying.
The return of Sprint Qualifying
Fof the second time this season, Sprint Qualifying will make another appearance as the sport trials the new weekend format. On Friday, the first Practice session will run as normal with drivers out and about on the track for an hour. Shortly after, qualifying will take place with the same three sessions being used to determine who'll start where.
On Saturday, the second Practice session will take place for another hour session before the 100km sprint. The sprint will run over the course of a number of laps, in Great Britian, it was 17 laps which was a third of the actual race distance.
SLIPSTREAM FEST: Drivers will aim to get a good run out of Monza's famous Parabolica so they can challenge their rival down the pit-straight heading into the first chicane
Drivers who finished inside the top three will be awarded points. The winner will recieve three points, second will get two and third will get a singular point. There'll be no podium celebrations but there will be a special presentation for them. The finishing order of the Sprint Qualifying will set the grid for Sunday's race and the main event of the race weekend.
Only a few seats remain as drivers announce their 2022 plans
It's been a bumper-packed week with a whole host of drivers and teams announcing their plans for the upcoming 2022 Formula One Season. With little news being released over the summer break, it's exploded over the past couple of days.
Valterri Bottas kicked the week off by announcing that he would be racing with Alfa Romeo next year instead of Mercedes who had been deciding whether to retain Bottas or give George Russell the chance to prove his worth at a top team. More about Russell soon. So Bottas is heading to Alfa Romeo to replace the retiring Kimi Raikkonen but his team-mate hasn't been confirmed as of yet.
Next it was AlphaTauri's turn as they announced that their driver line-up, consisting of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, would remain unchanged. With Gasly performing extremely well and still within his Red Bull contract, there wasn't any reason for him to move whereas Tsunoda's future was more at risk. The young Japanese driver has struggled to maximise the performance of the AT02 so far in his rookie season but had shown signs of progress.
Next it was the drive announcement the whole F1 paddock had been waiting for, because they expected it to happen. Not long after AlphaTauri revealed their news, Mercedes announced that Russell would take Bottas's place and would partner Lewis Hamilton for the forth coming season.
The last bit of news to be released so far was that Alexander Albon would be making his F1 return by taking Russell's spot at Williams while the team also confirmed that Nicholas Latifi would also be retained for a third season.
Kubica returns to fill Raikkonen's shoes
Polish driver and 2008 Canadian GP Winner Robert Kubica will continue to drive alongside Antonio Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo as regular driver and 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen is unable to make the GP weekend having tested positive for COVID-19.
BACK AGAIN: Kubica will be starting his 99th race this weekend with Alfa Romeo sporting a special liverly ahead of their home race
As Alfa Romeo's Test and Reserve driver, Kubica was on hand last Saturday morning when Raikkonen returned a positive test. Despite not competing in any of the practice sessions on Friday, Kubica jumped in the car and qualified a creditable 18th and finished the race in 15th - finishing just behind Giovinazzi after a puncture ruined his chance of points.
Kubica, who last raced in F1 previous to the Dutch GP in 2019 for Williams, found racing round Zandvoort "mentally tough" but is looking forward to going to a circuit he knows well. He said: "I am looking forward to racing in Monza, an incredible track in which I claimed my first podium, in 2006."
"Unlike Zandvoort, it is a track I know well and this will help, particularly since the Sprint Qualifying weekend format means we will be one practice session short. I am happy with what I did in Holland and I can’t wait to help the team out one more time in Monza.” Robert Kubica