It may seem a bit odd to say that the winner of the last race needs a good performance, but hear me out on this one. Hamilton and Mercedes are likely to hold a slim advantage in raw power at Monza this weekend, and it is important that they capitalise on this, as it may well be the last time they can count on such an advantage, especially in qualifying.
Sebastian Vettel said after their performance in Spa, that Ferrari have no circuit to fear for the remainder of the year, and when you look at the rest of the calendar, you’d have to agree with him. Apart from Monza, and possibly Sepang, there are no tracks that you would class as ‘power circuits’, where Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari has been most seen this season.
Ferrari are clearly very encouraged by their pace in Spa, and Mercedes should likewise be very worried, especially given Vettel’s impressive record at many of the circuits that make up the rest of the year. It is therefore critical that Mercedes, along with both its drivers, extract the maximum from their package in Monza to take as many points as possible away from Ferrari before the flyaway slog to the end of the season begins.
It happened again for poor Max Verstappen. He was running ahead of his teammate in Belgium, only for his car to fail and the sister car to run off and score a podium. It must all really be getting a bit tiresome for the young Dutchman.
The good news is that these repeated mechanical failures don’t seem to have affected his performances on track, and he put in a fantastic lap on Saturday in Belgium to sit just over a tenth down on the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. The bad news is that he seems to be losing faith in his team, something that, despite his supposedly iron clad contract until the end of 2019, will surely give the powers that be at Red Bull cause for concern.
For their part, the team have increased the pressure on Renault to get to the bottom of their reliability issues but only so much can be done in the short gaps between races. Until Renault can fix their general reliability issues though, let’s hope Max can have a bit more luck than he’s experienced so far this year.
Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez
Cheating slightly here by putting two into one, but if they can do it on track every week then I can surely do it in an article? Ok, low blow perhaps, but the Force India drivers really need to stop hitting each other out on track, and it seems that the team are finally willing to implement team orders to make sure this happens.
With an additional threat of a race ban, similar to the ultimatum given to Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton last season, the team are clearly putting their foot down. Perez and Ocon are both highly talented drivers who should have more points to their names this year, and the team is absolutely right to step in to ensure that they can achieve the maximum result for everyone involved.
Let's hope it works!
Palmer showed signs of improvement on Saturday in Spa, making it into Q3 for only the second time this season. However, he went backwards in the race, failing to capitalise on the Force India drivers’ collective madness and retirements from the likes of Max Verstappen to improve on his 10th place start. His teammate meanwhile finished 6th after starting 7th.
It’s quite difficult to find something to say about Palmer that hasn’t already been said on his many trips to this list over the past 6 months, but it really is do or die time now for Jolyon. The interest around his seat for 2018 is just too great, with Kubica, Sainz, and who know who else (Alonso?) reckoned to be in the running for a drive with the team.
The simple fact is that, regardless of bad luck, he does not deserve a seat in F1 if he cannot score 1 single point in a car that his teammate has already scored 34 in. If he could have scored even half of this tally, Renault would be well positioned behind Force India to challenge them for best of the rest over the rest of the season.
Magnussen made a promising start to the year with his new Haas team, scoring points in 3 of the 6 races that he finished. Since then though, he hasn’t managed to replicate this sort of form, and although the team has suffered a slide in performance, his teammate continues to shine on occasion, scoring an impressive 7th last time out in Belgium.
Magnussen has had a bit of a jorneyman career so far, bouncing between teams but never really settling anywhere. He was unfortunate to get a chance with McLaren just when the team was sliding to the back of the grid, and I think very unlucky to be let go by Renault in favour of Jolyon Palmer at the end of 2016.
Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but he would do his reputation, and future prospects, a lot of good if he can snatch a handful of good results in Monza and beyond.
Which drivers do you think need a good performance this weekend? Let us know in the comments below!
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