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Tire deterioration a concern at Pirelli's home Italian GP

Frightening deterioration of tires prompts concern entering home F1 race of supplier Pirelli

Tire deterioration a concern at Pirelli's home Italian GP

With Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes dominating Formula One, the real drama at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix could come from frightening tire deterioration on a Monza circuit that features the highest speeds in the sport.

Two weeks ago at the Belgian GP, the right rear tire of Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari was torn to shreds at 320 kph (200 mph) in the penultimate lap. That came two days after the same thing happened to Nico Rosberg in practice, prompting the Mercedes driver to demand action from tire supplier Pirelli before Monza.

So far, all Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery has announced is that the company's investigation of Vettel's tire failure at Spa is complete and "detailed conclusions" will be presented at Monza.

Ferrari used a single pit-stop strategy in Belgium which put additional stress on the tires, and Pirelli has reiterated its belief that the number of laps a driver can run on one set of tires should be limited in the rules -- rather than letting teams decide.

With parts of the Monza circuit still featuring long straight sections from an old oval track, speeds can exceed 360 kph (220 mph). The premium on straight-line speed means teams use minimal wing resistance, forcing drivers to brake more heavily.

Hembery said "we're expecting a fair degree of wear and degradation."

Here are a few things other key factors at the Italian GP:

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HAMILTON'S HISTORY LESSON:

The banking curves from Monza's oval track were used only four times in F1 races, all in the 1950s and 60s, but they still stand.

Lewis Hamilton tested those curves when he drove an old Mercedes W 196 with British great Stirling Moss -- a three-time winner of the Italian GP -- earlier this year.

"Having that taste of what it was like for those guys back in the day really gives you a feel for the history of this place and why it became so legendary," Hamilton said.

"It's still a big challenge today, too," Hamilton added. "Fast but really technical at the same time with some heavy braking and big kerbs to ride for the best line."

Hamilton has two wins at Monza, one of them last year, plus three podiums and three pole positions.

Mercedes is chasing its 23rd consecutive pole position, which would move the team within one of the all-time mark set by Williams in 1992 and 1993.

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RED SMOKE

As Italy's only F1 race, Monza is a pilgrimage site for red-clad Ferrari fans.

"(Monza) is the only circuit where you expect to be driving through flares," Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo said. "We had that on the warm-up last year, massive cloud of red smoke at the second Lesmo (turn). Pretty different, but I like that.

"The Italian fans are passionate -- some might say crazy -- and you'll really get your fill of atmosphere," Ricciardo added. "The drivers' parade is special. They'll all be there with their shirts off, yelling 'Forza Ferrari.' It's a laugh."

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CURIOUS SEBASTIAN

Sebastian Vettel will be making his first appearance at the Italian GP as a Ferrari driver.

The German joined Ferrari last year after having won four consecutive titles at Red Bull. His two wins this year, in Malaysia and Hungary, were the only non-Mercedes victories of the season.

Vettel could become the second driver to win with three different teams at Monza after British great Stirling Moss.

Vettel won with Toro Rosso in 2008 and Red Bull in 2011 and 2013. Moss triumphed with Maserati in 1956, Vanwall in 1957 and Rob Walker Racing in 1959.

"I've got a whole load of great memories and feelings linked to Monza and I always like coming here," Vettel said. "And being here with Ferrari makes it even more special.

"I am curious to see what it will be like driving at this track, partly because this year's power unit is more powerful and also because I'm looking forward to meeting all our fans: I can't wait."

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Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf


Updated : 2021-09-26 17:27 GMT+08:00