The season resumed just a few days ago, but it is already time for the final European Tour of 2023 with a quick trip from the Netherlands to Italy. And here are some of the talking points that will likely be circulating this weekend when the circuit arrives in Monza.
Verstappen aims to set a new record
It’s hard to go into a race weekend without mentioning Max Verstappen and Red Bull, even if it’s very much about whether anyone can stop the formidable duo from taking another victory.
Tremaine: Verstappen’s record breaking should be celebrated – it proves F1 has never been truer
On this occasion, success at Monza would see Verstappen set a new all-time record for drivers, having equaled the record of nine consecutive race wins last time out at home. A victory in Italy would give Verstappen a ten-race winning streak and move him clear of Sebastian Vettel and Alberto Ascari (although Ascari’s career was also punctuated by the 1953 Indianapolis 500 which counted towards the Drivers’ Championship at the time).
Zandvoort did his best to hamper Verstappen due to the weather conditions and the late resumption of the race which provided plenty of opportunities for mistakes or pressure, but he dealt with everything he faced again.
In many ways it would be a bigger surprise if Verstappen did not set a new record, but there is a reason such feats are so difficult to come by, and the championship leaders will need to implement another clean weekend to give themselves the best chance. .
Lawson’s second chance
Daniel Ricciardo’s seemingly innocuous crash in second practice in Zandvoort had major consequences, as the Australian broke a bone in his hand and was ruled out for the rest of the race weekend.
Flying straight to Barcelona, Ricciardo underwent surgery on Sunday to give him the best chance of a speedy recovery, and team principal Christian Horner says the Singapore Grand Prix is an early target on the horizon.
That would be a great time frame if Ricciardo was back in such a punishing place three weeks after his crash, but whether or not it proves too early means Liam Lawson will be back in the car at Monza this weekend.
Behind the scenes: 48 hours in the life of AlphaTauri substar Liam Lawson in Zandvoort
The rookie reserve did an excellent job in place of Ricciardo at such late notice at Zandvoort, getting just one practice session – in wet conditions – to prepare for qualifying, then facing a start on slick tires with rain. Multiple rains, pit stops and even a red flag period provided a huge test which Lawson handled without drama and finished 13th on his debut.
Now, the New Zealander will have a full race weekend to build up his experience and must go into qualifying and racing more prepared than he did in the Netherlands, so he’s hoping to show Red Bull more of what he’s capable of.
Ferrari’s hopes in front of the tifosi
The volatile nature of the 2023 season continued in the Netherlands, as Ferrari followed up a solid podium finish in Belgium with Carlos Sainz fifth and Charles Leclerc retiring. Both drivers did well to get into the third section of the track where the car looked a bit sparse at times, but ground damage hampered Leclerc and Sainz had no answer to Pierre Gasly’s pace in the race.
If there is one place where Ferrari will want a big result, it is Monza, where the Tifosi will be there to support their team. It is a completely different challenge from the high downforce of the Zandvoort, with priority given to the low levels of downforce and drag of the Autodromo, where straight-line speed and braking stability are key.
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All teams are likely to bring specific aerodynamic configurations to Monza, and Ferrari will hope to prove particularly competitive to open up the possibility of what could be a very popular podium finish to say the least.
Another great opportunity for Williams
On Thursday during the Dutch Grand Prix, Alex Albon ranked Zandvoort in the bottom five of all circuits on the 2023 calendar when it comes to the competitiveness of the Williams team, based on design characteristics.
With both cars advancing to Division Three and Albon qualifying fourth, those words sound a little odd, but even after they’ve taken more points in the race – and been running aggressively throughout – both driver and team insist they didn’t expect it. fast.
Where they expect to be fast is Monza.
Read more: Albon regrets tire calls that cost him crucial points at the Dutch Grand Prix
The Williams team have been particularly strong on low-downforce circuits in recent years, and maintained that form with a sizable run of points in Canada earlier this year, leaving both Monza and Las Vegas as the places where they were targeting another lucrative weekend. Here last year the car looked very fast, with Nyck de Vries finishing ninth as a replacement for Albon, who had his sights set on dangerous points before he fell ill with appendicitis.
There is a caveat, however, as Williams expected to be strong in Belgium, but did not have the cornering speed required to be as competitive as he had hoped at Spa-Francorchamps. They were still fast in the straight, and it was the midsection that was damaged on that occasion, so Monza’s lack of high-speed cornering should help avoid a repeat.
Logan Sargeant has also shown signs of picking up his pace by reaching Division Three for the first time in the Netherlands, but he needs to shake off a crash in the race with a hydraulic problem, so the points shot offers the perfect opportunity to move on. quickly.
Alex Albon: “P8 is disappointing because P6 was there”
Test new tire bases
There is no Sprint event at Monza this weekend but there is a huge difference in the way the weekend plays out that deserves a refresher.
Seen for the first time in Hungary, the second Alternate Tire Allocation (ATA) trial will take place, with the aim of reducing the number of tires Pirelli brings to each race weekend. Instead of 13 sets as in the regular event, there will be just 11 sets per team, with three sets of hard games, four sets of intermediates and four sets of soft games.
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The reduction comes with stricter rules regarding use in qualifying, with drivers required to use hard compounds in Section One, medium compound in Section Two and soft compounds in Section Three.
This resulted in a grid mix up in Budapest – a race where Lewis Hamilton was on pole – with different cars managing to run their tires in different ways, so we could see another effect of the experiment on the final qualifying positions again.