If Max Verstappen attempts any more jostling with the Ferrari cars this weekend, he’s going to get a rough reception from the crowd at the Italian Grand Prix.
Unlike last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, which was the closest thing to a home race for the 18-year-old Dutch driver, Verstappen will be on hostile territory in Monza — which is effectively Ferrari’s home track.
There was a high-profile tangle between Verstappen and both Ferraris on the first turn in Spa, and Verstappen then infuriated Kimi Raikkonen with some aggressive blocking moves when the 36-year-old Finn tried to get past him at high speed later in the race. Raikkonen lost his cool and angrily berated Verstappen.
While Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes remain the drivers to beat, the developing rivalry between Verstappen — Formula One’s rising star — and Ferrari threatens to overshadow what happens at the front.
In May, Verstappen drove brilliantly to win the Spanish GP on his Red Bull debut — joining from feeder team Toro Rosso after just four races of this season — and he followed that up with three more podium finishes. In Belgium, he became the youngest driver ever to qualify on the front row, starting from second, only to finish a disappointing 11th.
Verstappen sits sixth in the drivers’ standings, just behind Ferrari’s Vettel and Raikkonen.
By winning in Belgium, Rosberg moved within nine points of Hamilton at the top of the standings. While Hamilton had to start from the back row in Spa as a result of too many engine-part changes this season, he should be free of penalties in Monza.
Here are some other things to know about the Italian GP:
CIRCUIT CONTRACT: Monza’s contract with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone expires this year but the Italian Automobile Club (ACI) is prepared to offer a new three-year deal worth 68 million euros ($76 million).
Ecclestone had requested 25 million euros ($28 million) per year.
No circuit has hosted more F1 racing than Monza, which was on the inaugural 1950 calendar and has been a mainstay ever since, only dropping off in 1980 when Imola hosted the Italian GP. The track located in a royal park outside of Milan will be hosting its 66th GP this weekend.
FULL THROTTLE: With parts of the Monza circuit still featuring long straight sections from an old oval track, it features the fastest speeds in F1.
Speeds can reach 370 kph (230 mph) on the approach to Turn 1 at the end of the start/finish straightaway.
Teams prepare low-drag configurations that are generally only seen in Italy.
While average speeds are high, cornering speeds are reasonably low, which minimizes tire wear.
Most teams will aim for a one pit-stop strategy. All the top-10 finishers in last year’s race stopped once.
DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT: “I love the notion of coming to a racetrack that’s distinctly different from the others,” McLaren Honda driver Jenson Button said. “People often think that Monza is all about the straights, with tight, small corners. But that’s not really true. Corners like the Lesmos, the Ascari chicane and Parabolica are big, fast corners that require precision and commitment. It’s a great track.”
HARD BRAKING: Much of the action in Monza occurs at the start. The track is very wide along the start-finish straight, which gives cars plenty of room to maneuver on the long run to Turn 1. Drivers accelerate up to 300 kph (185 mph) then brake hard entering the slowest corner on the track.
CHANGES PLANNED: Changes are planned for the Monza circuit for the 2017 race, with a new first corner bypassing the sweeping Curva Grande. So this should be the last race on the classic layout.
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf