F1 Preview: 2017 Italian Grand Prix

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Formula 1’s stint in Europe for 2017 comes to a close this weekend with the Italian Grand Prix at the historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza, on the outskirts of Milan.

Lewis Hamilton heads into the race weekend riding high after a controlled victory in Belgium last weekend, drawing him back to within seven points of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the top of the drivers’ championship.

The high-speed nature of Monza should play towards Mercedes’ strengths, but the same was said of Spa, yet Vettel was able to push Hamilton all the way in the fight for victory.

There will be an extra dose of pressure facing Ferrari this weekend. Monza being its home race, the grandstands are set to turn a sea of red as its loyal Tifosi fan base turns out for the Scuderia’s 70th anniversary weekend.

Can Vettel deliver a popular home win for Ferrari, its first since 2010? Or will Hamilton continue to turn the screw on his rival in the title race?

Here’s what to watch for in this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

2017 Italian Grand Prix – What to watch for

Hamilton, Mercedes aim to tie things up

Lewis Hamilton’s victory at Spa last weekend gave Mercedes the perfect start to the second half of the season, responding to Ferrari’s one-two in Hungary before the summer break with a convincing victory.

While most were surprised by just how competitive Ferrari proved to be, Hamilton nevertheless capitalized on an opportunity for victory at a ‘Mercedes track’, reeling Vettel in at the head of the drivers’ table.

Another win for Hamilton on Sunday at Monza would see him take the championship lead, albeit on race wins should Vettel come second once again, the pair theoretically tied up on 238 points.

With Singapore coming up in two-and-a-half weeks, a race Ferrari should dominate, Monza is an important race for Mercedes to rack up some points and get in another blow in the title fight.

Hamilton could also become F1’s all-time pole position record holder on Saturday, having scored the 68th of his career at Spa to tie with Michael Schumacher. Taking a 69th on Ferrari home soil would be particularly significant.

Ferrari celebrates 70 years of racing

Seventy years since Enzo Ferrari first drove a car to bear his name, the Italian manufacturer is set for a weekend of celebrations and events at Monza as it bids to write the next chapter of its F1 success story.

Vettel’s showing at Spa gave the team confidence that it won’t be walked over by Mercedes at high-speed tracks, the German saying there is now no circuit for Ferrari to fear through the closing rounds of the season.

Monza is a crucial weekend for Ferrari all the same. With announcements regarding both Vettel and Raikkonen now out of the way, the team will know that this year’s race represents its best chance of a home victory for some time.

Will the Tifosi get the result they so want? Or will this anniversary weekend be one overshadowed by Mercedes’ success?

Will Red Bull get dragged into the midfield fight?

With engine power being a key area for this weekend’s race at Monza, Red Bull may find itself struggling to keep up with Mercedes and Ferrari even more than usual. The issues with its Renault power units are well-document, and while the situation may not be as bleak as things are for McLaren and Honda, the frustration is there.

Reliability has been one of Renault’s biggest weaknesses so far this season, with Max Verstappen suffering yet another failure at Spa last weekend. The Dutchman is reportedly set to take some new power unit elements for Monza, meaning he will start further back thanks to grid penalties, leaving Daniel Ricciardo to fight alone.

With the oncoming midfielders such as Force India and Williams armed with Mercedes power, they could yet suck Red Bull into the pack.

Fernando begins to think about his future

The saga surrounding Fernando Alonso’s future should hopefully begin to show signs of progress this weekend at Monza. The two-time world champion has long-stated he would begin to plot his 2018 plans come September, even joking at Spa that he had “one week of freedom” given it was the end of August.

Alas, Friday marks the beginning of September, and Alonso’s options are looking more and more limited. If he is desperate to stay in F1, then staying with McLaren or, in a strange twist to silly season that arose at Spa, a move to Williams may be the solution.

On-track, expect this weekend’s race to be another difficult one for Alonso. His sensational start at Spa was quickly overshadowed by his lack of straight-line speed, with cars streaming past on the Kemmel Straight. The decision to retire was questionable, with Alonso’s cited engine issue never being found by Honda…

2017 Italian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Autodromo Nazionale Monza
Corners: 11
Lap Record: Rubens Barrichello 1:21.046 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft/Soft/Medium
2016 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:21.135
2016 Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 1:25.340
DRS Zone: T11 to T1, T7 to T8

2017 Italian Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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