Classy Charles Leclerc aiming to be new king of Monza and other talking points ahead of Italian GP

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Ferrari head to their homeland this weekend as Charles Leclerc bids to back up his victory in Belgium while Sebastian Vettel searches for his first win in over a year.

Here’s some key talking points ahead of the Italian GP.

FORZA FERRARI

It’s been nine years since Ferrari won their home race when Fernando Alonso crossed the finish line ahead of 2010 world champion Jenson Button.

But following Charles Leclerc’s emphatic victory in Belgium last Sunday, the Italian marque have to be favourites for victory on home soil this weekend. And what a weekend it would be to see Ferrari locking out the front row and dominating race day with a 1-2 finish.

Aside from Leclerc’s heroics in Spa, it was yet another day of frustration for Vettel, who finished fourth and has yet to taste a race win since his victory in Belgium last August.

A series of errors undermined his tilt for a fifth world title in 2018, that honour instead going to Hamilton as the Briton powered to his fifth crown.

But, even if the drivers’ championship does seem out of sight, this is the perfect weekend for Vettel to turn it all around and boost the confidence of a driver who looks low on belief.

To see both Vettel and Leclerc on the podium on Sunday would be a serious filip for the Scuderia.

HAMILTON TO THRIVE 

One man who will have supreme confidence going into this weekend’s race is Hamilton.

The Briton has won five times in Monza, including four out of the last five races, and will be bidding to extend his run to nine wins this season.

For the bulk of this campaign, the 34-year-old has been operating in a class of his own. Still extracting the best from his car, he looks simply relentless in his pursuit of a sixth title.

Winning again on Ferrari’s home turf is likely to spur him on even more.

As for Hamilton’s team-mate, Valtteri Bottas has shone in Italy over the years, with back-to-back podium finishes. A third successive one looks likely on Sunday.

MAX AIMING TO BOUNCE BACK

Max Verstappen’s stunning run of 21 successive races finishing in the top five came to an end last Sunday when he crashed out on the opening lap.

The Dutchman retired after a collision with Kimi Raikkonen on turn one. Once he discovered his steering rack was broken he could not continue.

It meant bitter disappointment for the thousands of Dutch fans who made their way to Belgium for what is effectively the Red Bull star’s home race. Verstappen was born one hour away in Hasselt.

Still, apart from his error, the 21-year-old is in a sweet-spot during this championship, sitting 22 points behind Bottas in third, and in with a serious chance of finishing second in the final standings.

Unfortunately, Verstappen will start from the back of the grid this weekend for taking on a revised power unit for the 14th round of the campaign.

His best finish in Monza was fifth in 2018, but judging by his recent sparkling array of form, he should clinch a podium if all goes to plan this weekend.

ALBON LOOKS THE PART

The Thai-British driver flew the Red Bull flag with aplomb in Belgium, finishing fifth in his first race with the senior team.

The 23-year-old, who was promoted from Toro Rosso during the mid-season break, didn’t look overawed by the step up to a race-winning operation.

Starting all the way back in 17th, Albon tore his way through the field, completing his charge to a career-best fifth with a late pass on Sergio Perez.

His standout move of the race was his swift pass around a sluggish Daniel Ricciardo on lap 35, demonstrating his sheer commitment behind the wheel of the RB15.

As the F1 circus moves from Belgium to Italy this weekend, Albon has the chance to cement his Red Bull credentials once again for the 2020 season.

HOPE FOR THE WEEKEND…

Lando Norris was denied his best ever finish in an F1 race when losing power as he was about to start his final lap in Spa.

Starting 11th on the grid, the 19-year-old battled his way up to fifth only for engine failure to deny him 10 points.

McLaren will head to Monza off the back of collecting no points in Belgium after Carlos Sainz’s early retirement on lap 12.

One of the most likable driver pairings on the grid, let’s hope Norris and Sainz enjoy positive, incident-free races on Sunday.

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