Tom Clarkson's 2008 Italian Grand Prix preview

Published: 12 September 2008

It’s absolutely bucketing down here. For those of you who can remember last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, the weather’s like it was there: rivers are flowing across the track, mechanics are sweeping water out of the pit garages and drivers are twiddling their thumbs because it’s too dangerous to go out.

It’s all very spectacular, but nothing like it’ll be in the race if the rain continues. The cars run minimal downforce here, giving them about 40 percent less grip than at a high downforce track like Hungary, and there will be carnage if it’s wet on Sunday. Either that, or the entire race will have to be run behind the Safety Car.

At this rate, the main action of today will take place this evening when the drivers gather for the drivers’ briefing. They’ve all spoken out against Lewis’s opportunistic move on Kimi at Spa, claiming that he gained a clear advantage by cutting the chicane, and they’ll no doubt continue to give our man a good kicking when they gather en masse. There’s clearly more than the result of the Belgian Grand Prix at stake now; this issue has become personal, with Lewis’s rivals wanting to knock him down a peg or two.

If the Italian GP turns out to be dry, expect it to be another battle royal between F1’s two heavyweight teams. Lap times are directly proportional to engine power and aerodynamic efficiency at Monza, which is the fastest track on the F1 calendar, and that points to the gap between McLaren, Ferrari and the rest of the field being bigger than normal.

Although Massa is Lewis’s closest challenger in the World Championship, expect the biggest rivalry of the weekend to be between Lewis and Kimi. Yesterday, Lewis accused Kimi of not having the balls to brake late at Spa and he went on to remind us of his sensational overtaking manoeuvre on the world champion at Monza last year. 

A quick word of advice, Lewis: never accuse Kimi of lacking balls where you’re about to race him wheel to wheel. You’ve set him a challenge now and anything could happen…

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By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller