Hamilton not expecting Mercedes F1 romp in Monza
By Mat Coch
Friday 10th September, 2021 - 5:05pm
Lewis Hamilton is not expecting to have it all his own way in this weekend’s Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix despite Mercedes having traditionally performed well in Monza.
Conversely, the venue has been an Achilles heel for Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel recording the team’s last win at the circuit back in 2013.
Mercedes dominated at the circuit from 2014 to 2018, before Charles Leclerc won in 2019 and Pierre Gasly sensationally emerged victorious 12 months ago.
While aware of his team’s pedigree going into the weekend, Hamilton is conscious that Red Bull has this year shown itself to be a far greater threat than it has previously.
“I imagine this to be potentially different this weekend,” he warned.
“I think we could hopefully still be quick, but if you look at that Honda engine, it’s had the legs on us this year.
“We’ve got these long, long straights, so no doubt, these guys are going to be very, very fast this year.”
Hamilton was successful at the British Grand Prix, another venue which favours comparatively low downforce and high power, charging back from a time penalty to overhaul Leclerc in the final laps.
However, in that instance it was Max Verstappen who’d qualified on pole – via Sprint Qualifying – and led on the opening lap before tangling with Hamilton.
The Dutchman heads into this weekend considering his options.
Staring down the barrel of an almost guaranteed engine penalty at some point this season, Monza offers arguably the best opportunity to take that hit due to the ability to race back through the field.
Ironically, that penalty is likely as a result of his opening lap retirement from the British Grand Prix.
“We haven’t really decided yet where to take it,” Verstappen admitted on Thursday.
He added that it wasn’t the plan to take the new power unit this weekend, though that could change based on how the weekend unfolds.
Verstappen currently holds a slender three-point advantage in the championship fight over Hamilton, a lead he reclaimed following victory on home soil last weekend.
Opening practice for the Italian Grand Prix gets underway at 22:30 AEST tonight ahead of qualifying at 02:00 AEST on Saturday morning.