Make no bones about it: teams will be shedding both downforce and their inhibitions in the bid to claim one of Formula 1’s greatest prizes. To F-duct or not to f-duct may have been the question since before Spa in fact. Today will show which cards the front runners really have had in hand during this minor bout of poker play. None with the capacity to run the air-stalling device will want to risk allowing their closest competitors getting the jump on them this weekend.
Fastest through the speed traps may well not be fastest amount to fastest on the time sheets, even at a race where straight line speed is traditionally king. Running the f-duct device allows for vastly superior traction through the sweeping Lesmo right-handers not to mention the never ending Curva Parabolica without ceding too much in way of straight-line speed.
It may seem logical choice, but before the team downed tools for an early night, they would have had to consider whether it’s the system for maximum attack, both at the beginning of the race and cars running close quarters during the race itself
Performance under braking is a primary concern, which might prove to be a little skittish. For the most confident of drivers, a skittish car should be relatively easy to tame. How the tyres bear up over a race distance is another matter, so the heavy fuel running will have been of even more importance than at many tracks.
The stability of tyres gaining better traction could also be telling. A more stable tyre lasts longer so goes the theory. A one or two-stop race could rest on the borderline decision on downforce and it’s affects on sustained tyre performance. The F-duct teams will be looking to ensure that such performance translates into a clean 1-stop strategy. There are little doubt drivers using the lower downforce option will be hoping to do the same, though the variables increase somewhat with the any lack of stability under braking or loss of traction.
The last of the classics ushers in the age of the uncertain after Monza for McLaren, who know all to well that even with a notable performance upgrade expected in Singapore, a win this weekend is what’s needed to propel their championship charge forward.
Since the return from the summer break, Lewis Hamilton has shown no uncertainty of his will to win in Belgium and Italy. Such desire has brought him half way to achieving his goal. After Friday practice his ambition seems more than achievable, as McLaren appear the best prepared team; confident in their cars inherent performance and the knowledge they will have gathered running on varied fuel loads.
McLaren have covered their bases as much as could be expected. They find themselves in the healthiest of dilemmas in being able to run their cars both in both high and low set-up configurations. To defend from in front will be easier than it seems – even considering the straight-line deficit of running so much wing – as mid corner performance is making up for any deficit.
Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull topping the time sheets in P2 might suggest more reason for confidence on their part, shortages of water and mid-corner balance for Webber and Vettel respectively might be the smallest signs that this may not be one of their finest weekends.
Force India will be hoping to repeat last season’s Italian result. Given the competitive nature of the field, to be anywhere near the top 5 will be a sterling result for them. Renault continues to harbour ambitions of a strong weekend. Without the lottery that is the weather, solid top 10 finishes will be also they can reasonably expect.
Under the bluest of skies, the Italian Tifosi only sees red. Whether black and white flags are their calling will largely depend on where McLaren are over the remainder of the weekend. This may be Ferrari’s home race, but it remains to be seen whether the top step also proves to be theirs.