Nestled in the suburbs of Milan lies the Parco di Monza, a large royal park that contains the Autodromo di Monza, the location of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Returning to Monza elicits a whole host of metaphorically romantic memories; from the traditional home of Ferrari, to the golden September sun that shines through the tall trees as cars pass by at speeds of up to 190mph on the run down to the Variante Ascari. It is, and has been, the perfect setting for a Grand Prix since its inception in 1922.
The 2010 running of the Italian Grand Prix couldn’t be more finely poised. The previous event tipped the world championship scales back in favour of Lewis Hamilton, who drove majestically to record his third win of the season and move ahead of Mark Webber in the standings.
Circuit characteristics will play an important role in deciding who wins this year's world championship, such is the defining characteristics of the top cars in 2010, with McLaren expected to go well once more on the engine-busting straights in Italy.
On the other hand, Red Bull openly admit that this weekend may turn out to be a relative struggle, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a non-Red Bull car take pole on Saturday for only the second time this year.
It’s no secret that the Renault power plant that powers Christian Horner’s team is not at the level of Mercedes or even Ferrari for that matter, and the circuit does not necessitate huge amounts of downforce, which has been the dominion of Red Bull this year.
With higher downforce circuits still to be visited, such as Suzuka and Singapore, McLaren and Ferrari will be imploring their engineers and drivers to produce this weekend.
Another team that is expected to unsettle the established order is Renault; Robert Kubica had a deserved second position taken away from him by his own clumsiness in Spa, where the newly introduced “F-Duct” worked wonders for the French outfit.
On a track that shares similar characteristics, if not even more suited to the Renault, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that the pole can grab back-to-back podiums and haul himself in front of Felipe Massa to become best of the rest behind the five championship contenders.
With a rookie teammate who can only improve, undisputed number one status within the team and a new contract as of this summer, and rumours of renewed investment from parent company Renault (the team is mostly owned by Genii), Kubica is looking more and more settled and should be a dark horse for the 2011 season.
Weather-wise, it is unlikely that we will see a repeat of conditions two weeks ago, with a batch of high pressure moving in on Thursday evening which should see three clear days and plenty of sunshine. This forecast is relatively stable, yet a period of rain on Monday may yet accelerate its movement and become part of the picture on Sunday.
In other news, Sakon Yamamoto has been confirmed as the second driver for Hispania Racing for the remainder of the season, leaving Karun Chandhok out in the cold for 2010 and possibly longer.
Expect to see a tight battle once more, with McLaren expected to lead the charge around the open, green expanse of the Monza park.