Where did they all go? Years ago, it seemed like Italian drivers were everywhere in Formula One. OK, perhaps they weren’t at Ferrari , but you didn’t have to look too far down the grid to find a pilota at the wheel of an F1 car. But those days are over. Jarno Trulli (2011) was the most recent Italian driver on the grid, and Ferrari heads to the Italian Grand Prix this weekend winless for the season and on track for its first campaign without a victory since 1993. And with Monza, according to Bernie Ecclestone at least, in danger of losing its place on the calendar , times are tough for F1 fans in Italy. Or are they? Is a new hero waiting for their attention?
One of the great joys of any F1 telecast is to hear the radio transmissions between Fernando Alonso and his race engineer, Andrea Stella. They’re even better when, to paraphrase a Martin Brundle line, they’re of an Italian speaking in English to a Spaniard. And they’re better still when they’re speaking about the Red Bull driver who has won the past two races coming into Monza. “Ree-cheeardo is a six seconds ahead,” (or similar) is something we’ve heard more than once. Which begs the question: while Ferrari’s tifosi will undoubtedly cheer for Alonso at Monza, might Daniel Ricciardo, the son of a father who is an Italian immigrant to Australia and a mother with her own ties to Italy, get some support of his own at la pista magica just outside of Milan?
Remarkably, Ricciardo comes to Italy with three wins for the season, a 58-point championship advantage over his four-time and reigning world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel, and in the box seat to capitalise again if Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton trip over one another, which has to be on the cards after what happened in Belgium last time out and given just how tight the first corner is at Monza. While several names who should know (including Alonso) are downplaying Ricciardo’s chances of stealing the world championship from beneath the noses of the warring Mercedes teammates, the odds of that becoming improbable rather than impossible will only shorten if Rosberg and Hamilton reprise their Spa shenanigans . Another Ricciardo victory will give the locals, and perhaps “their” new driver, something to cheer about if Ferrari can’t buck the trend and stand on the top step at home.
A comprehensive Italian Grand Prix preview takes centre-stage on Episode 71 of ‘The Inside Line’ this week, while we also look at the future F1 prospects of Simona De Silvestro at Sauber (strong) and of Max Verstappen at Toro Rosso (not strong, if you believe Jacques Villeneuve) for next season.
Check out ‘The Inside Line’ on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday September 3, and/or on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 8.30pm on Thursday September 4.
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 I won’t count Luca Badoer if you don’t. Deal? Good.
 Three words. Will. Not. Happen.
 A very interesting read by a British journo who isn’t, like so many British media types, rushing to cheerlead for Hamilton so they can protect their access to him. Worth the investment, if only for a different point of view. I’m not taking sides, merely presenting an angle to the story you won’t find on a UK-based F1 broadcast any time soon.