Formula One is proving far from predictable as the series reconvenes this week at Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the 13th round of the championship; the Italian Grand Prix.Jenson Button
still enjoys a commanding lead at the head of the championship despite his mid-season slump
in form, while rivals Rubens Barrichello
, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber have struggled for podium consistency in recent events.
Constructed in 1922, the circuit has evolved from its original banked form to the road layout which has been in use since 1962. Even with the more recent addition of the chicanes, Monza has the highest average lap speed on the calendar and the teams will all be looking to reduce aerodynamic drag to a bare minimum. The track is demanding on both brakes and engines, the latter becoming an issue due the eight engines per driver rule in force this season.
Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems have become increasingly significant as the season has progressed with Lewis Hamilton taking the Hungarian victory in his KERS-equipped McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen
using the system to power to the front in the Belgian Grand Prix and record Ferrari's first win of the season. Renault has joined McLaren and Ferrari in running the system this weekend in their bid to challenge for a podium position.Giancarlo Fisichella
has replaced Luca Badoer at Ferrari while Tonio Liuzzi has stepped up to the vacant position at Force India from his role as test driver.
1 . J. Button - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"Monza is a fantastic track and I love the passion that the Italian fans bring to the race weekend. The circuit is very different to most of the circuits that we race on as the car will be set up with the lowest levels of drag and downforce possible to take advantage of the long straights. It always takes a few laps to get used to and as we haven't tested at Monza this season, the practice sessions will be very important. Ascari is probably my favourite part of the track but also Parabolica where the challenge is to brake as late as possible, particularly in qualifying when you're on a quick lap. It's a circuit that should be reasonably good for our car if we get the handling right over the kerbs so we're feeling positive and excited about the challenge."
2 . R. Barrichello - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"There's something very special about Monza and I have always loved racing there throughout my career. The setting in the park, the sound of the Tifosi, the speed of the circuit and the memories from my victories with Ferrari in 2002 and 2004 all make Monza one of the most exciting races of the year. It's the quickest circuit on the calendar and our car has the potential to be strong there. The power of our Mercedes-Benz engine will be really important in maximising speed on the long straights and our car is quite good under braking which you need to be aggressive and ride the kerbs effectively. It's been a season full of surprises so it's impossible to predict what the weekend will bring but I hope that we can have a good one."
3 . S. Vettel - Red Bull Renault RB5
"Monza is in any case a special appointment on the calendar as you can really feel the history of the place, especially as, just a short walk from the paddock, you can see impressive banked corners of the old oval track. The modern circuit is all about having a car that rides the kerbs well at the many chicanes. Even though they were put in to reduce the speed of the cars, this is still the fastest circuit on the calendar and the one where we run the lowest downforce. While this gives you top speed, it also makes the car more unstable through the turns, under braking and accelerating out of the corners, so it is a very interesting high speed challenge."
4 . M. Webber - Red Bull Renault RB5
"Monza is another good challenge. We have got to focus on ourselves and do the best job we can. We canít control Brawnís performances or Force India or whoeverís turned it up this week, itís up to us to get the most out of our package and make sure that we do the business in each session and are there for Q3 and in a good position. Thatís all we did in the past and thatís what we have to do in the future. Itís not the case of Ďwe have to try harderí. Weíre trying very, very hard, itís just that we havenít been as strong as we were in Silverstone, Nurburgring places like that."
5 . K. Raikkonen - Ferrari F60
"The track is the fastest of the season and the KERS should help us just like in Spa. You need to use the kerbs well and this wasn't the strong point of our cars over the last years. We'll see what will happen as of Friday. We didn't do the usual test on the track so it's difficult to say because the cars haven't used this aerodynamic set up so far.
"I'll have a new teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella
. I always got along very well with him. He's one of the most expert drivers and we will give our best to help Ferrari keep the third place in the Constructors' Championship. The performance levels changed from one race to the next this year. There are team like us who stopped developing the car and others making pressure, because there are still several goals to reach. It will be a difficult weekend, but I can promise the fans that we will give our best as usual."
6 . N. Rosberg - Williams Toyota FW31
ďI have quite few Italian friends and some of them are coming to the race. In terms of our prospects, of course the drag levels are similar to Spa and we had a tough time there, so there is a bit of a question mark, but I know they have been working hard at the factory - since the end of first practice in Belgium in fact. I think as a nation they were inspired by Enzo Ferrari. Every bar and restaurant has a TV showing the races and bizarrely I am better known in Italy than I am at home. It just is an enormous sport in Italy, everyone is very enthusiastic about racing.Ē
7 . L. Hamilton - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
ďSince we no longer test at Monza before the Santander Italian Grand Prix, it will take the drivers a bit of acclimatisation to get used to running in low downforce at this high-speed circuit. Itís a real challenge to get the set-up right because thereís never an ideal compromise between speed along the straight and through the corners. Itís never easy to keep the car on the track because it slides all the time: at most tracks, you feel like the downforce is sticking you to the track at high speeds Ė but not at Monza, itís like you are skating across the surface. But itís a fantastic circuit Ė our car has traditionally gone well there so I am looking forward to another competitive weekend.Ē
8 . J. Trulli - Toyota TF109
"It is always a great occasion for me to be racing in front of the Italian fans and I really love the atmosphere at Monza. Of course, this is a home race for me so I have a lot of supporters in the grandstands and I really enjoy competing in front of such passionate fans. It would mean a lot to me to achieve a strong result in this race and I will be doing everything I can to do that. It was very encouraging in Belgium to start on the front row and hopefully this is a sign that we are now able to get the full potential out of the car in qualifying. I was unlucky in the race but I enjoyed the chance to fight at the front and I hope to be able to do that again in Italy. Our car looked quite strong at Spa and there will be a few changes for this weekend too; I am sure the competition will be very tight but we have the chance to get back in the points. Monza would be the perfect place to return to form so I am ready for the challenge."
10 . H. Kovalainen - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
ďIíve scored points in the last four races and can see no reason why we shouldnít be contenders for more points at Monza next weekend. I love the place: Iíve won there in GP2, finished in the points in both my Formula 1 outings and I think our car will be reasonably well suited to the circuit. Like every team, weíll be running a special low-downforce aero package in Italy Ė but weíll also have the benefit of using KERS along the straights, which should give us a greater advantage over a single lap, especially in qualifying, where it will be extremely valuable.Ē
11 . T.
Glock - Toyota TF109
"Monza is all about speed but my memories of the track are of the rain last year because the whole weekend was wet. We got it right in qualifying and looked really strong for the race, but the conditions changed at the worst possible time so we missed the podium. The atmosphere is always incredible at Monza and it is a special experience to race there in front of such passionate fans. Every Formula 1 driver loves driving fast so Monza is obviously a fun place to race because it is all long straights broken up by chicanes, and the Lesmo corners are really exciting. Our car was competitive in Spa so it was a pity things didn't go well in the race, although it was a promising sign to see how well we qualified. Our target is again to be both in the top eight on Saturday because this gives us the best chance of getting the kind of result our car is capable of. I'm raring to go for this weekend and I'm determined to give the team a result to celebrate."
12 . F. Alonso - Renault R29
"Itís a special track and the fastest of the year so we run the car with a special low downforce package which means the car feels very strange and light because you miss a bit of grip in the corners. In the past we used to test at Monza before the race as you need a special set-up with the car, but obviously we canít do that now which means we have a lot of work to do on Friday to find a good balance. You need a car that has good straight-line speed, is stable under braking and can use the curbs in the chicanes.
"We have a competitive car but we havenít been able to show the true potential so far. We saw how quick the car was at the Nurburgring, Budapest and Valencia, but for various reasons we havenít scored the points that we should have. However, I always look forward, try to stay positive and will approach the rest of the season believing that we can finish the year strongly. At least we know that we have a car that is fast enough to get close to the podium, which will be my aim this weekend in Monza."
13 . N. Heidfeld - BMW Sauber F1.09
"The speed we had at Spa Francorchamps with lower downforce gives us hope that we could do even better at Monza with even less downforce. However, the cars equipped with KERS will probably have a considerable advantage over the long straights of this high-speed circuit. I really like the atmosphere at the Italian Grand Prix. As well as all the Italians at the track, a lot of fans will also come over from Switzerland to support us."
14 . G. Fisichella - Ferrari F60
"The dream has come true and now the challenge is not really easy. Iím starting from the beginning, with a new car, a new team and a new steering wheel. I found a very open atmosphere here at Maranello. I know that in Monza I can count on two forces I didnít have before. The KERS, which means 70-80 bhp more, and we could see that this was what I was missing last Sunday at Spa, when I was behind Raikkonen, and the Ferrari fansí enthusiasm. I have to give them everything back, with results a driver with my experience can gain. Well with my feet on the ground, if I will gain places on the podium or win than itís merited. After Fridayís emotion I will lower my visor, put in first gear and give 100%.Ē
15 . R. Kubica - BMW Sauber F1.09
"The Monza track is a very special one. As it is the quickest track on the calendar, the carís downforce level will be reduced even more compared to Spa Francorchamps. Traditionally our cars are quite quick on low downforce tracks and our performance was already good at Spa. I have a good feeling for Monza and I am looking forward to the race as I expect a lot of Italian fans to show up there."
16 . S. Buemi - Toro Rosso Ferrari STR4
ďIíll be preparing for Monza on the simulator. The simulator is very realistic and after Monza, Iíll be back to try out Singapore and Japan tracks too, as I donít know them very well. The simulator will be set up to replicate Monza, so not only do you see that track, but the car will be set-up to suit it, which in this case means running with minimum aerodynamic downforce to deal with the high speed nature of the track. Thatís particularly useful, as Monza is the only track that requires so little downforce and it is something we have not been able to experience so far this season. It means the car feels very light under braking and you have to be careful when you apply the throttle again. You can simulate these conditions and get a feel for it before getting to the real race track.Ē
18 . A. Sutil - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"I can't wait for Monza. Giancarlo had such a good weekend in Spa, with pole and then the podium, that it's really made me want to get in the car and do the same. For various reasons I didn't feel like I personally got the results in Spa I felt we could have so for sure I will want to go better in Italy. We've got a good car, I feel very confident in it and in the team and our top speeds have consistently been amongst the quickest in the field so I think we have a good shot at getting another good finish."
19 . K. Nakajima - Williams Toyota FW31
ďItís a track that stands out all on its own, exciting and challenging to drive, but remember that although it is low drag like Spa, the circuit has suited our car mechanically in the pas few years, so I am pretty hopeful we will go better than in Belgium. You canít help but notice the passion, thatís what makes it different. It will be a really good weekend, it always is and I can safely say that I return home having been well fed!Ē
22 . J. Alguersuari - Toro Rosso Ferrari STR4
"At the moment, Iím still very much in a development phase, coming into F1 at a time when there is no testing. Step by step, Iím getting there and every time I get in the car, I learn more, improve my understanding and go faster. Iím looking forward to racing at Monza next weekend, as I enjoy the track and Iíve had good experiences there in the past. I just want to do a good job there and continue improving and going faster.Ē
23 . R. Grosjean - Renault R29
"Itís another classic track and Iím really looking forward to driving there. Iíve had good results there in the past and I know the track well so I can concentrate on finding a good balance with the car with low downforce. We will be using KERS this weekend so I will need to get used to that during free practice on Friday as Iíve not used it before, but it should give us an advantage, especially at the start of the race.
"My aim is to do better than I did in Spa so I need to make it through to at least Q2, get a good grid position and finish the race. At the moment I am still learning about Formula One and I will continue to use every opportunity and every lap to improve as a driver and help the team. Iím continuing to build a good relationship with my engineers, which of course plays an important role in getting the most from the car."
24 . V. Liuzzi - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"I'm really looking forward to it. I was hungry to be back in the race seat again as it was my aim for the future and it's happened in a good way - for Monza, my home race and this year. I think it will be a big test for me to show what I can do. It's a good opportunity for me to show what I can do after one and a half years of being a third driver."
"There will be pressure but I am confident I will get back into it quickly. I am just one and a half years out of racing and in 2008 I did a lot of mileage with Force India as they gave me the chance to do more than 15 test days. I am also fully involved with the team in the development of the car. For sure it won't be easy but I think Monza is the best place to restart. It's smooth, really fast with lots of straights and not too many corners and I'm pretty confident that we will be straight away setting a good pace."