Autosport - 8 September 2011

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F1 PREVIEW ITALIAN GP

Straight talk David Coulthard

13-time GP winner and 2001 world title runner-up

DC warns: don’t assume Red Bull will struggle at super-fast Monza this weekend, while hoping that Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton will create more headlines – for all the right reasons

/G E T T Y

: G I L H A M

P IC

Since Spa, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about how this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza is going to give Red Bull its biggest challenge of the year, and that the characteristics of its car are not going to be as well suited to the long straights of Monza as McLaren and even Ferrari.

I’m not convinced, and allow me to explain why.

For the first time, a grand prix is going to feature a pair of individual DRS zones; one on the start/finish straight and another on the long drag out of the second Lesmo and up to the Ascari chicane. This presents double the number of encouraged overtaking spots – although I’d rather have had a zone approaching the Parabolica rather than Ascari because the kink in the straight after Lesmo 2 could make

Red Bull may not struggle in Italy, as was first feared life difficult to judge the exact point to pull out of the slipstream of the car in front.

The fact that the DRS aids overtaking means that the advantage of running tiny little rear wings in order to boost straightline speeds will be hugely taken away – especially in qualifying trim. I’m sure most teams will use a more conventional downforce set-up in order to increase corner speeds – something that Jenson Button did last year at Monza to such good effect, and which will be especially crucial exiting Lesmo and into that DRS zone.

All of those things together mean that the car with the strongest overall aerodynamic package – not just the best engine and braking – should be the car to beat. And there are no prizes for guessing which car that has mostly been. Besides, even if Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber do have a bad weekend, they’re not realistically going to finish outside the top six.

One thing you should expect to see, however, is a bit of a jumbled-up grid as teams compromise themselves in qualifying with the gearing and wing settings to maximise their performances in the race or, more particularly, in the middle part of the race when the cars are closest to their average lap times.

SCHUMACHER ON A HIGH

At Spa we saw a very good recovery drive from Michael Schumacher, who showed the kind of pace that we should expect from him every weekend. I think the psychological benefit of a performance like that will be huge for him and it will be fitting if he can continue to do that until the end of the season.

I find myself willing Michael on, and as he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning it would be good for the sport if he can have one more big result before he hangs up his helmet – whenever that may be.

CAN LEWIS BOUNCE BACK?

It will be interesting to see which Lewis Hamilton shows up at Monza; not the racing driver – that’s obvious – but the man outside the car. His various outbursts this year about officials and other drivers have seemed out of character, and Spa seemed to be no exception.

But then, after the race, came that act of contrition and acceptance of 100 per cent responsibility for causing the collision with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi that put him out of the race. The fact that, in my opinion, it certainly was not all Lewis’s fault is not really the point; the fact that he made such a whole-hearted apology was a bit of a surprise.

I can’t work out if it’s a front designed to win back a bit of support from the fans – he’s given those who don’t like him plenty of ammunition this year – or a genuine change of attitude, the sort that happens to everybody at some point in their lives. I guess we’ll find out over the remainder of the season.

‘‘One thing you should expect atMonzaisajumbled-up grid’’

September 8 2011 autosport.com 15