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Formula One Returns to ‘Temple of Speed’

Max Verstappen is back on top, while Red Bull chase Mercedes

Following the uninspiring Belgian Grand Prix, the Formula One World Championship produced a spectacular race in the Netherlands. Max Verstappen celebrated his seventh victory in front of his home fans, who covered Zandvoort in orange smoke.

While a truly spectacular ending of the race, the 2021 Formula One World Championship season is far from over, as the drivers still have nine more rounds left. Next on the menu is the heavily anticipated Italian Grand Prix, slated to take place on Sunday at the world-renowned Monza Circuit.

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the first practice session at the Autodromo Nazionale
ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP

As per usual, we can expect the crowd to consist mostly of the Tifosi, with more Prancing Horse flags that you can count. But while Monza remains Ferrari’s home turf and constructor’s most successful track, Ferrari won here only once across the last ten years (Charles Leclerc in 2019).

Will Ferrari deliver and win their 21st Italian Grand Prix is anyone’s guess, but based on what we have seen over the season, it’s very easy to see why any sportsbook you will visit will favor Mercedes and Red Bull to claim the spoils.

Mercedes’ Time To Shine

Red Bull were the dominant force throughout the first half of the season, but now we’re moving into Mercedes’ territory, with the Italian Grand Prix and the Russian Grand Prix. Even though Ferrari hold the record for the most Italian Grand Prix wins (20), the Prancing Horses won here only once since Fernando Alonso edged past Jenson Button and Felipe Massa in 2010.

In the following three years, Red Bull won twice (2011, 2013), while McLaren picked up the Italian Grand Prix in 2012 with the help of Lewis Hamilton. The Brit has since moved to Mercedes and helped the Silver Arrows win five races (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018).

As evident by the F1 betting odds for this weekend, Mercedes are expected to shine on Sunday. Even team principal of Red Bull, Christian Horner, did not hesitate to admit that Monza will be more of a Mercedes track than the recently finished Dutch Grand Prix.

“Their car and engine package has always historically been very strong at those circuits and they have been weaker venues for us,” said Horner after Verstappen’s win in the Netherlands.

“So I expect them to have the advantage at the next two, but thereafter it should be nip and tuck, I would certainly hope.”

With that in mind, it’s fair to expect Hamilton to be in the front row to claim his sixth victory at Monza.

When we talk about Mercedes, it’s only fair to mention Valtteri Bottas; however, with the announcement that he is joining Alfa Romeo next season, it seems unlikely that the Finn will grab his maiden Italian Grand Prix title.

Speed and Home Advantage

There’s a good reason why Monza is known as the “Temple of Speed”, considering over 80% of the lap is spent at full throttle. Speed is obviously crucial and a key component of any previous champion at the track, which is why it’s easy to cross out several of the underdogs who stood a chance at some less speed-intensive and more technical tracks.

When we talk about critical factors the drivers need to win the Italian Grand Prix, it’s hard to ignore the home advantage. As evident this season, home advantage has been important – Hamilton won in Britain, while Verstappen claimed both Austrian races and the Dutch Grand Prix.

However, the question remains: will it be enough for Ferrari to challenge for the win and count on another double-point finish? While the former scenario seems unlikely, the latter should be achievable for Carlos Saint and Charles Leclerc, who have proven to be an excellent pairing.

Prediction

Last year, we got to see Pierre Gasly claim his maiden Formula One victory at Monza, with Sainz and Lance Stroll collecting the other two medals. However, the race was quite chaotic, with mechanical failures, Hamilton picking up a penalty, and a couple of bad crashes.

This weekend, we expect a calmer race, especially knowing that the weather looks great. So at least we can rest assured that the 2021 Italian Grand Prix won’t be anything like the Belgian race.

The forecast for this weekend looks good, with plenty of sun, high temperatures (29°C, 84°F), and practically no chance of rain (2%). With that, we can expect a more “traditional” top three, with Verstappen and Hamilton firm favorites to secure at least 15 points.

Picking between the two was never easy throughout this season, and it doesn’t help that we have to choose between a five-time winner and the current Formula One leader, who is fresh off a commanding victory on home soil.

Hamilton is priced as an even-money favorite (at BetUS), while Verstappen at +110 (BetUS). If you’re betting online, you might see slightly different odds depending on the sportsbook you’re using, but the odds will tell the same story – Hamilton is expected to win.

Instead of picking between the two favorites, we will take a shot with Carlo Sainz to finish on the podium at +1000 (at BetUS). It’s a long-shot bet, but a good one at the offered price.

Sainz seems slightly underrated at the offered odds, which largely has to do with his iffy showings in Spa and Zandvoort. However, if you consider the massive straights at Monza, there is a possibility that Sainz can finish on the podium and help Ferrari claim much-needed points and extend their lead ahead of McLaren. And let’s not forget – he did it last year.

Pick: Carlos Sainz podium finish (+1000)

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