Deja-vu for champion Vettel
Tom Millard previews the Italian Grand Prix and expects Sebastian Vettel to continue the dominance shown in Belgium last time.
- Related Content
"We had massive pace," conceded Sebastian Vettel, while unsuccessfully trying to play down the extent of his dominance at Spa-Francorchamps last month.
Vettel won the Belgian Grand Prix by a country mile, the rest scrabbling in his wake for the scraps thrown from a Red Bull on cruise control.
With a 46-point lead at the top of the drivers' standings, the German is now as short as 1/10 to take his fourth successive world championship, a price which will probably look good value as the teams pack away their equipment in Monza's parkland surroundings on Sunday night.
That's because the script is looking eerily similar to two years ago, when Vettel's Red Bull was expected to struggle at the two low-downforce late summer races in Belgium and Italy, yet won both with an ease that sent rival engineers back to the drawing board.
Then, as now, most pundits had expected the Red Bull's underpowered Renault engine to have met its match with the high-speed drags up to Les Combes at Spa and the Ascari chicane at Monza.
But the team were able to configure their car to make a virtue out of its weakness, taking advantage of superior front downforce to slingshot out of the corners preceding the long straights far faster than the other cars, leaving them impossible to overtake despite their ultimate top-speed deficit.
Judging by the speed trap evidence at Spa, history appears to be repeating, with the Red Bull fastest at the start of the long Kemmel straight and seventh fastest at the end of it.
A repeat of those figures this weekend out of the Parabolica onto the start/finish straight, and out of the second Lesmo bend down towards Ascari, will bestow Vettel and Mark Webber with a significant advantage over the field.
Yet Vettel is 7/4 across the board to repeat his Spa/Monza double from two years ago, a price which looks very fair on the available evidence.
The bookies are probably right to see Fernando Alonso as the man most likely to challenge the champion at Ferrari's home race.
It's never wise to write off the Scuderia on their own turf given the extent to which they have enjoyed the rub of the green in the past, and it might be an idea to side with their lead driver in combination with Vettel in Ladbrokes' dual forecast market.
The pair are 7/2 to repeat their one-twos at the calendar's other two low-downforce tracks in Canada and Belgium, and this looks the logical outcome if the race goes to form.
We don't want to write off a Mercedes team with three wins from the last six races, especially given Lewis Hamilton's qualifying form of four consecutive poles, but they showed nothing in a similar trim at Spa to suggest they will be able to compete with Red Bull or Ferrari.
The instability of the W04 through fast corners will have concerned the Brackley boys, and a repeat of those jitters in Monza's four high-speed bends will completely nullify any top-end advantage provided by the formula's most powerful engine.
There's a small question mark over the weather (the chances of rain are currently fluctuating around 20 per cent on both Saturday and Sunday), and in the absence of any eye-catching prices in the other markets, we'll stick with our conservative bets on Vettel and Alonso.