3 drivers to keep an eye on in the Italian Grand Prix

pjimage (16)There’s always something special about the Italian Grand Prix. The Tifosi turn up, the anticipation of the start and and most unique podium on the calendar. So with just hours until the last race of the European season, which drivers should you be keeping an eye on?

Pascal Wehrlein

Manor Racing saw just their 3rd Q2 appearance of 2016 yesterday during qualifying. With teams such as Renault and Sauber struggling for power output – the Mercedes power unit in the back of the Manor pushed Pascal Wehrlein in to a 14th place grid slot. The German driver will start 13th tomorrow following the 5 place grid penalty for Romain Grosjean and his unscheduled gearbox change.

Wehrlein should be able to move forward tomorrow as the Mercedes engine is better than the Ferrari, Renault and Honda. Unfortunately, Manor’s downfall will be their aerodynamics, which leaves them vulnerable to overtakes on the back straight following the Ascari chicane and the main straight (out of Parabolica). It’ll be interesting too see if Manor opt to go for a one-stop and negate the use of the super-soft tires.

Wehrlein will surely be aiming for points this weekend to further prove his ability. With Alonso and Massa starting ahead of them – it’ll be a rookie vs two of the most experienced drivers in Formula One through the first chicane. This will certainly be a battle to watch.

Wehrlein’s battle with Ocon will also be perplexing as the latter will start from 22nd following his electrical problems in Q1. We haven’t been treated to an on track fight between the two yet and we’ll have to wait and see if Ocon can catch up come lights out.

Esteban Gutierrez

Haas continued their successful start in Formula One yesterday with their maiden Q3 appearance thanks to Esteban Gutierrez. The Mexican driver put in arguably the best lap of qualifying to surprisingly propel himself into the final top 10 shoot out of the Italian Grand Prix, knocking out popular Williams driver, Felipe Massa.

It’s was a much needed confidence boost for Gutierrez as he’s spent most of the season pelted by bad luck and ever-elusive points finishes. Four 11th places best sums up his season so far. This has led many to speculate whether he was actually worthy of the Haas seat and I think if he can put more drives in like he did in qualifying those stories will quickly go away.

However, one disadvantage of making Q3 and starting P10 is being forced to start on the super-soft tires, ultimately forcing Gutierrez into a two-stop strategy. A one-stop has generally been regarded as faster around Monza and Gutierrez’s traffic management will be key if he is too score his maiden points tomorrow.

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Valtteri Bottas

Williams have been quietly confident heading into this weekend as they are well aware Monza suits their car. After sandbagging as they usually do throughout Friday, Bottas confidently took 5th place on the grid ahead of both Red Bulls yesterday.

2016 has certainly been disappointing for Williams and a 5th place grid slot will certainly renew confidence for many within the team. After dropping behind Force India last time out in Spa, Williams and Bottas are in dire need of a strong race and will be pushing harder than ever to keep the Red Bull’s behind them.

I imagine Williams will be targeting the podium and hoping Ferrari’s new engine upgrade can prove unreliable. Bottas has only stood on the podium once this season, in Canada, and he’ll certainly be hoping to do it again. Monza is his best chance.

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Steven Walton is an 18-year-old Journalism Student at the Ara Institute of Canterbury. He previously attended St Andrew's College in Christchurch, where he excelled at History and Classical Studies. Steven is the Editor-in-Chief at Green Flag F1 and spends most of his days living, breathing, and immersing in the Formula 1 world.

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