Italian Grand Prix preview: Pirelli back in the spotlight at Monza

Focus on.... Pirelli

Sebastian Vettel's spectacular tyre failure on the penultimate lap, and his sweary tirade at Pirelli after the race, dominated the headlines after the Belgian Grand Prix. The Italian manufacturer arrives in Monza ready to publish its full findings on the cause of the accident, which it initially put down to excessive wear and Ferrari's optimistic one-stop strategy. The implication it was at fault angered Ferrari and Vettel, with the team insisting it only opted for that strategy with Pirelli's blessing.

It came just two days after Nico Rosberg suffered a high-speed tyre blowout of his own, one which was caused by "an external cut". But Pirelli's failure to give satisfactory answers to drivers about that incident, coupled with Vettel's explosive rant after the race, means the company arrives at Monza looking to heal the damage and avoid a rift with Ferrari. The tyre company will reveal its findings from that crash and likely put forward safety measures to ensure similar blowouts do not happen again.

In need of a podium

The cash-strapped Lotus outfit needed a lift in Belgium and it got one in the form of Romain Grosjean's stellar drive to third. With uncertainty over its involvement in races after Monza and ongoing talks with Renault about a buyout for 2016 it could do with another one in Italy. However, the man who needs it more than ever is Pastor Maldonado.

Reputations are difficult to shake and Maldonado has enhanced his negative image this year - and not always fairly, either. His crash in Belgium came two days before Grosjean returned Lotus to the podium and he arrives in Italy 26 points behind the Frenchman. Aside from his 2012 Spanish Grand Prix victory, Maldonado's highest finish has been one fifth place. Lotus heads to Monza knowing it can be on the podium again if circumstances fall the right way as they did in Spa and Maldonado needs to make sure he is the man who makes it happen.

In need of points

Carlos Sainz must own a black cat (or four). The Spaniard has suffered four consecutive reliability DNFs and finds himself trailing Max Verstappen by 15 points, hardly a fair reflection of the season so far considering the rookies have been equally impressive this year. A strong points finish would be the least the Spaniard deserves having suffered the lion's share of Toro Rosso's recent issues.

ESPN prediction

There are bold predictions, and there are safe predictions. The world championship could do with Nico Rosberg winning, while F1 could do with seeing a Ferrari top of the podium again at Monza ... but Lewis Hamilton is starting to look like the man who finished last season so strongly. It is very difficult to look past the reigning world champion, especially at a track where his only likely competition is going to be from the man in the other Mercedes.


Lewis Hamilton is the bookies favourite for another win at Monza, with odds of 4/9. You can get odds of 9/4 on Nico Rosberg turning his qualifying form around. Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado are 6/1 and 12/1 to repeat the team's podium performance from Spa.


Initial forecasts suggest there will be rain on Friday and Saturday before a dry race on Sunday. If Friday practice is a washout we may see limited running, with little to be gained from long stints if Sunday is going to be dry. It could, however, spice up the order in qualifying, though Mercedes still retains a good pace advantage in the wet.

Tyre talk

Prime: Medium

Option: Soft

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: "Monza is always one of the highlights of our season, with an incredible history and atmosphere. We have the medium and soft compounds, a step softer than our nomination last year, which should be well suited to Monza and the emphasis on speed that this circuit always places. We're expecting a fair degree of wear and degradation, so as always the work done during free practice will be very important when it comes to calculating the optimal strategy. With the two compounds potentially quite closely matched in terms of pace, this opens up a few options.

"The cars run low downforce at Monza and that actually increases the work for the tyres considerably under acceleration and braking, because with less force pushing down on top of the car, it's the tyres that are providing all the mechanical grip. Allied to the kerbs at Monza, this provides our tyres with a wide-ranging all-round challenge, requiring consistent durability and performance. We have finalised the investigation into Sebastian Vettel's tyre at Spa. Detailed conclusions from the technical analysis will be presented at Monza."

Renault Sport F1

Renault Sport details the stresses and strains the Monza circuit places on the main components of the power unit.

Internal combustion engine (ICE): Monza is the most power sensitive track of the season. More than 70% of the lap is spent at full throttle, more than any circuit of the season. There are four long periods of open throttle, each with an average of 13secs each. The first is the pit straight, followed by the run through the Curva Grande, then from the Lesmos to the Variante Ascari and finally from Ascari to the Parabolica.

The longest time the Renault Energy F1 will be at full throttle is the pit straight, which lasts 16 secs. The power units will reach the highest top speed of the season in Monza. We could see as much as 360kph with DRS open, even higher than last year, which was recorded as 354kph in Qualifying without tow. The Red Bull - Renault of Daniel Ricciardo achieved 362kph last year in the race when overtaking and getting a second tow from the car ahead.

Despite the ICE being flat out for approx three quarters of the lap, fuel consumption per kilometre is relatively low compared to slower tracks. This is due in part to the short length of the track and to maintaining a constant speed throughout, but also due to the high average speed with low downforce package that reduces the time spent to complete the distance. The ICE will consistently run in the upper end of the rev range, but strong acceleration is more important than the top speed as the car will cover more ground quicker.

Turbocharger: The long periods of wide open throttle generate a steady stream of exhaust gas. The energy available in the exhaust due to the high percentage of full throttle time means that the turbo will be at maximum speed for over 80% of the lap.

Tyre wear is a limiting factor to performance and strategy at this circuit. As such good low speed driveability is key to drive out of the chicanes. To achieve the desired boost target and ensure correct torque delivery from the PU. The turbo must be able to slow down and recover energy in the braking zone, plus avoid lag during the acceleration phase. This all needs to be done in less than six seconds, the time to go through the chicanes.

MGU-K: Despite the heavy braking for the three chicanes, the MGU-K is not significantly stressed in Monza. Each braking event is very short (under two seconds) and there are only three slow corners. In comparison to a corner-rich circuit such as Hungary, the MGU-K barely recovers the maximum energy allowed.

To compensate, the MGU-K recovers energy at partial throttle through overloading the ICE, although it will be difficult to harvest the max energy allowed by the regulations. The MGU-H will also feed the MGU-K down the straights.

MGU-K: The Parabolica and Lesmos are taken at partial throttle and provide the MGU-H with two opportunities to recharge the battery. The Parabolica is taken at a constant 180kph, delivering a steady stream of exhaust for the MGU-H. The two Lesmos will also be taken at partial throttle. After Lesmo 1 the driver will step on the throttle and lift only slightly for the second Lesmo. Otherwise the exhaust gases generated at full throttle will be used to harvest energy with the MGU-H at the end of the straights.