Formula One: Ferrari also fighting for Monza's future

Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel competes in the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza, on Sept 3, 2017.
Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel competes in the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza, on Sept 3, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

A Vettel win at team's home a positive amid hosting deal rethink and 'strong loss' last year

MONZA (Italy) • There are few Formula One circuits that stir the heart quite like Monza, where the sense of history and passion for the sport are palpable. There are fewer still where you can reach out and touch the fabric on which this tradition has been built.

The past is still very much in evidence but, at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, for Ferrari and for Monza, the future is very much the most immediate concern.

Walk the grounds inside the track and its grand history is clear.

For Ferrari, the honour in winning here matters more than anywhere else. They are favourites to do so on Sunday with Sebastian Vettel, who may well be in the process of writing his name alongside Ferrari's greats.

The Scuderia have not won at Monza since Fernando Alonso in 2010 and have not won the drivers' championship since Kimi Raikkonen took the crown in 2007.

Their fans are anxious for both droughts to end. Historically, home wins have heralded further glories.

In 1979, Jody Scheckter took his only win at the track and, in doing so, the title for Ferrari, who also secured the constructors' title.

In 1964, John Surtees lived up to his nickname, Son of the Wind, by winning at Monza, and the title was his two races later in Mexico City.

Vettel, a keen student of the sport, will know these moments but, perhaps, he will be most conversant with just how much it meant when Michael Schumacher took the title for Ferrari, 21 years after Scheckter.

In 2000, his win at Monza was crucial. That victory over Mika Hakkinen took him to within two points of the Finn and, two races later, the German was champion in Japan. It had taken Schumacher five seasons to deliver for Ferrari.

Vettel is now in his fourth but is in the best possible position to emulate his great countryman. The Ferrari's pace advantage should serve them well and he trails Britain's Lewis Hamilton (231 points) by only 17 points.

For Vettel, adding his name to Ferrari folklore with a home win is only half the job done. He will want to ride the wave to the title.

Should he do so, the fans will take to him all the more, which it has to be hoped is good for Monza, a circuit that is feeling the weight of the financial burden of hosting fees agreed with former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

The deal with F1 ends after next year and, earlier this month, Angelo Sticchi Damiani, the president of the Automobile Club d'Italia (ACI), warned that there is no guarantee it could continue to host the race.

"We closed last year's race with a strong loss and the 2018 budget will not be different either," he told Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It is clear such a situation is not sustainable in the long term. The ACI is ready to do its part but not under any conditions."

The circuit will celebrate its centenary in 2022, which will be a hollow affair if it has no grand prix but, as things stand, it is a real danger.

"(F1 chief executive) Chase Carey has always told me that an F1 without Monza is unthinkable," Damiani said. "We agree on that but we must also deal in facts."

THE GUARDIAN F1 ITALIAN GP
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2018, with the headline 'Ferrari fight for Monza future'. Print Edition | Subscribe