Berlin Sept: Lewis Hamilton is so dominant again in Formula One that the focus at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix is likely to fall of failing Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel, who hopes innovations in the stands and on the car can make a difference.
Lewis Hamilton’s procession towards a record-equalling seventh Formula One title is likely to continue in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, but the sprinkling of spectators allowed in will be casting their eyes elsewhere, said dpa.
For the first time since F1’s coronavirus-delayed season started in July, a very limited amount of fans will be allowed in at Monza as guests of home team Ferrari.
Around 250 doctors and nurses will be sat socially distanced in the grandstands with Ferrari saying it will be “a symbolic honour for their courage, sense of duty and altruism as front line workers in the fight against Covid-19.”
Northern Italy was one of the worst affected areas when the pandemic began to bite in Europe in March.
Given Ferrari’s dreadful showing this season, it is unlikely the 250 will have much to cheer – even if Charles Leclerc won at Monza last year.
At last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, Leclerc was only 14th with German team-mate Sebastian Vettel 13th.
Leclerc has often outshone four-time world champion Vettel, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season.
Having finished ahead of the Monegasque, Vettel hopes tweaks to Ferrari’s car this weekend mean they do not totally embarrass themselves on home Italian tarmac.
“We come to Monza knowing it’s going to be tough to be a frontrunner this weekend,” Vettel said in a Ferrari statement.
“(But) we have a specific aero package that we hope will make the SF1000 more competitive.”
Vettel has received support ahead of the race from former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who criticized the team’s decision to announce they were dropping Vettel back in May.
“Sebastian never caused any trouble, always worked as part of the team. He took victories that others would not have taken, in a car that was not always competitive,” di Montezemolo told RTL TV.
“I didn’t like the timing and the way we split up with Seb at all. Changes happen everywhere in life. But it’s all about the way you do it.”
The fastest track on the F1 calendar was the scene of Vettel’s shock breakthrough in 2008 when he won with Toro Rosso. He then triumphed twice at Monza while winning world titles with Red Bull, but has never sealed victory in five years with Ferrari.
In contrast, defending champion and current championship leader Lewis Hamilton has won the Italian Grand Prix four times with Mercedes and once with McLaren.
The Mercedes driver eased to his fifth win in seven races this year in Belgium last weekend. The Briton is just two wins away from equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 victories as he targets the German’s mark of seven titles.
“No matter how much success we’ve had over the years, everyone just keeps their heads down and focuses on trying to improve. It’s an incredible mentality to have and it’s inspiring to be working in that kind of environment,” Hamilton said after success in Spa.
The 35-year-old is 47 points clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen overall with 10 races left.