It’s time for the fastest weekend of the year! Formula One heads to Monza for the fourteenth round of the 2018 season. Will the Tifosi be leaving elated on Sunday? Will Haas take the ‘best of the rest’ slot? And could we be about to see the fastest ever F1 lap? Here are your reasons to watch all of the action this weekend!

It’s Monza!

From one legendary track at Spa, Formula One heads to another with the famous ‘temple of speed’ that is Monza. The fabled circuit has tons of F1 history, having seen 67 Grands Prix so far and being ever-present on the calendar, except for in 1980. With its awesome speeds and enthusiastic fans, the Italian Grand Prix is always a spectacle.

You can guarantee the atmosphere will be electric, and even more so if home team Ferrari win on Sunday. The Tifosi flock to the circuit year after year, but Ferrari haven’t won here since 2010. Add to that the possibility of Kimi Raikkonen scoring his 100th podium this weekend and Sunday could well be a day to remember for the fans in red.

Who wins is likely to be down to who can muster up the highest speed out of their car…

Who’s the fastest?

Engine performance is essential for a strong showing at Monza. Mercedes, having had the superior engine since the dawn of the hybrid era, have won every race and taken every pole at the track since 2014. But now the tide has turned, and last weekend’s race at Spa seemed to suggest that Ferrari have overtaken Mercedes in terms of raw power. Whether or not that is fully accurate will be evident this weekend.

We may also see the fastest ever F1 lap this weekend. Last year, rain on Qualifying day prevented us from seeing how fast these cars could really go. Hopefully, things will be different this weekend. Juan Pablo Montoya has held the record for the fastest ever F1 lap for fourteen years, having set a time of 1:19.525 at Monza over the 2004 Italian Grand Prix weekend. His average speed was just under 163mph.

The track record has been beaten at all but one round so far this season. With the 2019 regulation changes, this could be the last opportunity for Montoya’s record to be broken for some time. Whoever sets Saturday’s fastest lap is in a good position for victory: all but one of the last eight races here have been won from pole.

Pesky penalties

With their sights set on a strong showing in Singapore, Red Bull confirmed earlier this week that Daniel Ricciardo would be taking engine penalties this weekend. The team aren’t expecting a strong showing at the Italian Grand Prix, thanks to their less powerful Renault engine. Max Verstappen said he was going to enjoy the scenery more than the Monza track itself.

Ricciardo will likely be joined at the back of the grid by his 2019 team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, who received a ten-place grid penalty for this weekend’s race as a result of causing the dramatic first lap crash at Spa.

It seems to have become a tradition to serve grid penalties at Monza. Hopefully we’ll avoid a repeat of last year’s crazy grid penalty situation at the Italian Grand Prix, where only four drivers started from the grid slot in which they qualified. Pole man Lewis Hamilton was the only one of those four drivers to have not taken a penalty, while Sergio Perez, who himself had a five-place grid drop, ended up one place up on where he qualified.

The best of the rest battle

After a poor couple of races for Renault, Haas are closing in on the team for fourth in the Constructors’ battle. Haas have scored points in all of the last six races, while Renault have taken just two points from the last two race weekends. Haas are now just six points away from capturing the ‘best of the rest’ honour.

Perhaps more impressively, Haas have seen both of their drivers reach Q3 in all of the past six rounds. Ferrari are the only team with a longer active double Q3 showing than the American outfit.

Force India moving up

The two teams in fourth and fifth may well be thankful of Force India’s situation. Had Force India kept their previous points they would now be fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, one point ahead of Haas and just behind Renault in fourth, following their sensational showing in Belgium.

The reality is that the team’s result at Spa moved them up to ninth, ahead of Williams. Force India now sit just one point behind Sauber and their target this weekend is to topple them. The Silverstone-based team have scored an average of just over eight points from the last four Italian Grands Prix, so it seems likely that they’ll be moving up again on Sunday afternoon. If they’re feeling particularly ambitious, they could maybe even set their sights on Toro Rosso, who lay twelve points up the road.

The driver market

Who knows what surprises the driver market will throw up this weekend! The rumour last week was that this could be Marcus Ericsson’s last race, with a shuffle ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix putting him out of a drive. That seems to be off the cards now. Sauber have said Stoffel Vandoorne, who was expected to replace the Swede, is not on their radar for a drive, while McLaren are reported to have had Esteban Ocon in for a seat fitting before the Belgian Grand Prix only to find the Frenchman too tall to fit in their car.

Elsewhere, rumours are swirling that Artem Markelov could join Williams in the place of Lance Stroll, who looks set to head to Force India. Markelov has pulled off some epic overtaking manoeuvres and masterful races during his time in Formula 2. Whether or not he’d get a chance to show his skills in the under-performing Williams is another question.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on Ferrari, who sometimes announce their next season’s driver line-up at their home event.

The 2018 Italian Grand Prix begins at 2:10pm BST on Sunday. In the UK, coverage is exclusively live on Sky Sports F1.

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