The tifosi will descend en masse on Monza this weekend to cheer on Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz during an Italian GP that will ultimately feel inconsequential to the title race.
The Italian GP has thrown up many surprises in recent years. Pierre Gasly got his first, and so far only, race win at the iconic circuit in 2020, whilst last year, McLaren secured a one-two with Daniel Ricciardo taking the chequered flag.
Few are expecting a surprise winner this weekend, but the major surprise is the way in which the title race is poised, or not, going into the race weekend itself. This was supposed to be a triumphant return for Ferrari, a pivotal race in the constructors and drivers’ titles. Such was the expectation pre-season and during the opening races, that it was almost unfathomable to think that by the beginning of September there would be a run-away championship leader, even more so if one was to say that the runaway leader wasn’t even at the wheel of a Ferrari single-seater.
But this is the reality for Ferrari. Although there will be the usual fanfare that accompanies the event, the on-track action is likely to feel utterly inconsequential. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen now has a lead of over four race wins with just eight races remaining. Only a collapse of epic and unprecedented proportions will deny the Dutch driver consecutive titles. Speaking after Verstappen’s fourth consecutive win in the Netherlands last weekend, Leclerc all but threw in the towel, admitting that the gap is “now really big”.
So, Ferrari head into the race in an all too familiar position in recent seasons. They may be able to race for the win, but they aren’t in the race for titles. Few would have thought that to be the case when Leclerc stormed to pole and took the race win at the opening race in Bahrain.
Ferrari have, however, been handed a boost. The Mercedes has looked resurgent in recent races, and whilst they still lack straight-line speed, they were nonetheless expecting to challenge the Ferrari for the “best-of-the-rest title”. However, Lewis Hamilton is set to start from the back of the grid after taking an engine penalty. They will therefore only have George Russell to contend with.
And whilst Ferrari come into their home race with the familiar feeling of being out of the championship race, they do so with unfamiliar livery. There will be a temporary sprinkling of yellow added to the car, whilst Sainz and Leclerc will be dressed in yellow and black to mark 75 years since Scuderia was founded, which, along with blue, is one of the colours of the Modena emblem.
Ferrari may not be in the front for the title, but they remain in the hunt for race wins, and regardless of the larger context, a win at Monza will do a lot to lift the mood of the tifosi, who are dreaming of a repeat of 2019.
Photo source: Scuderia Ferrari Press Centre