Can Binotto afford another embarrassing Ferrari blunder?
Ferrari’s long run of high-profile errors continued at the Dutch Grand Prix as a pit stop blunder for Carlos Sainz cost him over 10 seconds in the pit lane.
A late call to pit the Spaniard caught the Ferrari mechanics by surprise as they had forgotten one of his tyres.
Mattia Binotto insisted after the race that there is no reason to make changes to the pit crew or strategy team, but given the number of mistakes we have seen operationally in the first 15 races of the season, the Ferrari boss is inevitably going to be put under pressure.
The Scuderia will race in front of their adoring home crowd – the Tifosi – at Monza this weekend.
Ferrari haven’t won since the Austrian Grand Prix, and it seems that F1’s new floor technical directive has impacted their race pace and tyre management.
They are expected to go all out this weekend with a rumoured Monza-specific rear wing and aggressive engine modes, but it is unlikely to be enough to topple Max Verstappen and Red Bull.
However, with Ferrari’s top brass likely to be in attendance at their home race, they cannot afford another embarrassing blunder.
Verstappen to end Red Bull’s Monza drought
Remarkably, Red Bull haven’t scored a podium at Monza in the V6 hybrid era.
Mercedes’ overwhelming performance advantage with their power unit combined with Ferrari’s improvements meant that Red Bull often struggled, or used the Italian GP as an opportunity to take engine penalties.
Verstappen would have finished third had it not been a penalty in 2018, likewise with Sergio Perez last year.
However, in 2022, a double-podium looks to be near-certain judging by their performance advantage at Spa.
Like Spa, Monza is a low downforce circuit where top speed and efficiency are so important
Red Bull’s RB18 has been lightning quick on the straights all season, particularly compared to the Ferrari and Mercedes.
No one will be able to stop Verstappen this weekend.
Likely pain for Mercedes
After showing great pace at Zandvoort, it’s unlikely Mercedes will be able to follow it up at Monza.
They have dominated the Italian GP since the start of the V6 hybrid era and haven’t been beaten in qualifying.
Unfortunately for Mercedes, they no longer have a significant power unit advantage nor do they have an efficient car with the W13 notoriously draggy.
This combination should make it a very difficult weekend for Mercedes on paper.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff joked about running their car with no rear wing to improve their straight-line speed performance.
“Yeah, definitely, we’re thinking about removing the rear wing overall to be less vulnerable on the straight,” Wolff said.” “We have a car with too much drag and downforce where we really don’t need it.
“So that’s something which we can change quickly. That’s for next year. We are learning the hard way at the moment and I believe that on some tracks especially in qualifying that will bite us. The racing looks better like you’ve seen also in Spa, there wasn’t such a big differential.” on the straights.
Watch out for Alonso
One team that will be fancying their chances of a shock result is Alpine as, like Red Bull, they tend to thrive at low downforce venues.
Alpine have emerged as the fourth-fastest team, moving well clear of McLaren in the race for fourth in the constructors’ championship.
F1 has seen shock winners at the 2020 and 2021 Italian Grands Prix with Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo winning respectively.
With some good fortune, Fernando Alonso and Alpine can surprise everyone this weekend.
What about Ricciardo?
Ricciardo returns to Monza one year on from his unlikely triumph and McLaren’s only F1 victory in the past 10 years.
Even though Ricciardo struggled in 2021, when the win was there on the table, he was the one there to take it.
His eight wins in F1 all have a similar theme to them. Capitalising on ill fortune and making the most of any opportunity available.
Ricciardo’s future for 2023 is unclear with the Australian likely to be forced to take a sabbatical with Alpine opting for Pierre Gasly, while Haas and Williams aren’t likely to be enticing enough.
Given his struggles over the last 18 months, it’s easy to forget how good Ricciardo was and what he achieved in the sport.