MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Italian Grand Prix

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The Italian Grand Prix at Monza has traditionally marked the beginning of the end for each Formula 1 season, acting as the final European round of the year.

In the modern sport, the bulk of flyaway races mean that we still have seven more races after this weekend’s grand prix, but much is already being decided and in 2015.

The driver market is becoming increasingly clear, with the majority of drivers poised to remain with their current teams.

Williams announced on Thursday it would be retaining Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas for 2016, whilst Force India signed Nico Hulkenberg up for another two years earlier this week.

The race for the championship also appears to be becoming increasingly one-sided. Lewis Hamilton extended his lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to 28 points last time out in Belgium, storming to his sixth victory of the season.

Another win on Sunday would see Hamilton break past the 30-point barrier, and given his form in the second half of 2014, it is difficult to see where Rosberg claw his way back into the fight.

Ahead of this weekend’s race at Monza, MotorSportsTalk’s Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno have made their predictions. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. Hamilton is in a fine run of form at the moment, and I can’t see much changing at Monza this weekend. The grunt of the Mercedes engine should prevent Sebastian Vettel or Ferrari from posing a threat, leaving only Rosberg in Hamilton’s way. And it’s not like that has been much of a problem recently.

Surprising Finish: Romain Grosjean. Riding high after his third-place finish at Spa, I’m tipping RoGro to impress once again this weekend. Lotus may be facing a rough few weeks financially, but the car is sound and Grosjean is one of the most underrated drivers on the grid.

Most to ProveSebastian Vettel. A driver’s first Italian Grand Prix as a Ferrari driver is always an important occasion. Although Vettel may struggle to emulate Fernando Alonso and win first time out, he will be expected to bring home a podium at least.

Additional Storyline to WatchGrid penalty one-upping. McLaren racked up 105 places worth of grid penalties at Spa. I wonder if any of the teams can beat that this weekend.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. Because Mercedes, because horsepower, because Lewis was back to being authoritative again at Spa.

Surprising FinishNico Hulkenberg. We’re seeing the upgrades of the B-spec Force India and Sergio Perez took it to great heights at Spa. Nico, now armed with a new contract, is due for his first top-five finish of the F1 season. It’s a long shot, but if he has the  chance to stand on a Le Mans and Monza podium in the same season, given the crowds rushing the track afterwards, would be extraordinary.

Most to Prove: Williams. Consecutive double dip races without top-five finishes is not what this team needs. They’re not vulnerable in the constructors’ championship – yet – but can’t afford a third successive lackluster grand prix.

Additional Storyline to WatchWhat, if any, stories emerge about the race’s future. As the European finale and with some talk in the last year about Monza possibly falling off the schedule, the significance of this year’s race may become more important if a new contract is not agreed upon. Monza, more than nearly any other circuit on the calendar, represents the soul of the sport.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari