Having matched Michael Schumacher’s record for most pole positions in Belgium, the chances are very good Lewis Hamilton will break it this weekend. But that’s not the only major F1 record which could fall this weekend.
Since the V6 hybrid turbo era began in 2014 Mercedes have had great form at Monza, a track which prizes outright power above all else. Hamilton has taken pole position on each of the last three occasions. If he takes four in a row this weekend he will be the second person to do so in the Italian Grand Prix, emulating Ayrton Senna’s achievement between 1988 and 1991.
Hamilton is currently tied with Senna and Juan Manuel Fangio for most pole position at this race with five.
The grid for the past three Italian Grands Prix paint an interesting picture of how dominant Mercedes were at the beginning of the new engine regulations and how other teams have started to catch them.
In 2014 Mercedes swept the front row and Mercedes-powered cars (Williams and McLaren) occupied the next four places on the grid. In 2015 every car which reached Q3 was powered by a Mercedes apart from the two Ferraris, which qualified second and third.
Last year Mercedes swept the front row again but their customer teams were further back. Ferrari took the second row and while Valtteri Bottas put his Williams-Mercedes fifth he was followed by the two Red Bulls.
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Mercedes have won the last three Italian Grands Prix and took one-twos in 2014 and 2016. In 2015 Nico Rosberg was running third when his power unit failed.
The arrival of the V6 hybrid turbos also brought a leap in top speeds. The quickest V8 car through the speed trap during qualifying in 2013 hit 340.4kph (211.5mph) but 12 months later that rose to 353.9kph (219.9mph). Last year the cars hit 357.6kph (222.2mph) at the same point. The wider, draggier cars may not be quiet as quick this year, but their average speed over a lap may be even quicker.
The form book
Hamilton’s Spa victory means he has won the most races this year with five. However Sebastian Vettel has the most second places – also five – and it’s the which is making the difference in the points standings at the moment.
Vettel leads Hamilton by seven with eighth races to go. If Hamilton wins with Vettel second again this weekend they will head to the final flyaway races tied at the top of the table.
Hamilton will be hoping Bottas can get between him and Vettel. But Monza wasn’t a particularly strong venue for Bottas during his Williams years: Felipe Massa beat him to the podium in 2014 and 2015.
As for the home favourites, this could be Ferrari’s best chance of winning at Monza since Fernando Alonso’s triumph in 2010. That was also the last time a Ferrari started from pole here.
Juan Pablo Montoya’s lap of 1’19.525 in qualifying for the 2004 Italian Grand Prix remains the fastest ever lap by a Formula One car in an official session at any circuit. His Williams-BMW averaged 262.242kph (162.95mph) around the 5.793km Monza course which has been unchanged since the 2000 season.
Could the fastest lap in F1 history be seen this weekend? The quickest lap last year was 1.61 seconds off the record. In the 12 grands prix so far this year, F1 cars have registered an improvement of at least that much on nine occasions.
But consider the characteristics of the three tracks where F1 cars have gained less than 1.61 seconds this year. Monaco, Bahrain and Montreal are all dominated by low-speed corners and, in the case of the latter two, long straights. There’s ample reason to expect F1 cars won’t gain quite enough to rival the all-time record this weekend.
It should be close, however. In Canada the cars were 1.3 seconds faster than last year. A sub-1’20 lap time isn’t unrealistic and if someone gets a good slipstream the record might just fall.
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