2016 Italian Grand Prix Preview: The drama of the F1 heads to Monza

After the excitement and drama on show in Belgium last week, all eyes will be on 'Autodromo Nazionale di Monza' in Italy ahead of the race this weekend.

2016 Italian Grand Prix Preview: The drama of the F1 heads to Monza
Cathedral of Speed is all set for racing action this weekend | Photo: formula1

Formula One returned to our screens last weekend, and as per usual, the drama and excitement was not short in Belgium. With just a short turnaround, the cameras turn to Monza this weekend for the Italian Grand Prix.

The weekend action has already been built up after what happened at Spa Francorchamps last weekend. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg took victory at the Belgium Grand Prix ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and teammate Lewis Hamilton. The defending champion Hamilton continued to prove his brilliance once again as he finished third, despite starting from the back of the grid.

Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Max Verstappen were all involved in a collision during the early stages of Spa, causing problems to their cars. Vettel, who was out wide, cut back sharply and hit his own teammate and pushed the Raikkonen into contact with the Red Bull. Kevin Magnussen also collided with the barriers on lap nine forcing the red flag, as the driver was forced to hospital for a check-up.

Other news coming from Monza ahead of this weekend's race was the announcement of Felipe Massa's retirement from F1 at the end of the season. Abu Dhabi will be the Brazillian's 250th and final competitive race. For more reaction to Massa's retirement, click here.

The drivers championship continues to develop in pace following Rosberg's win at Spa. The German is now just nine points behind his teammate and championship leader Hamilton. Here is everything you need to know ahead of this weekend's race.

History of the track

Located in a royal park 30 minutes north of Milan, Monza is known as the 'Cathedral of Speed' and remains the fastest circuit of the season. The Italian Grand Prix has been held at Monza since 1950 apart from the 1980 Italian GP which was held at Imola. Monza was designated the European Grand Prix seven times between 1923 and 1967 and the only other inaugural F1 races that are still on the calendar are the Monaco and Belgian Grand Prix.

What happened last year?

Hamilton eased to victory during the 2015 Italian Grand Prix, finishing ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Williams' Felipe Massa. Hamilton's teammate Rosberg, challenging for the championship at the time, was forced to retire two laps short of the finish line as a result of a fire to the rear of his car.

However, Hamilton's result was in doubt after the race as the defending champion was summoned by stewards for a potential breach of the minimum starting tyre pressure regulations. Despite the drama after the conclusion of the race, the results stood.

Monza in 2015 | Photo: Reuters
Monza in 2015 | Photo: Reuters

The Ferrari of Raikkonen couldn't have asked for a worse start as his car - which was on the front row of the grid with Hamilton - failed to get away cleanly and dropped to the back of the pack. Vettel was left to chase down Hamilton, but fell short by almost 25 seconds. The two Williams drivers of Massa and Valterri Bottas engaged in an intense battle for third spot, but Massa was strong enough to complete the podium.

Track information

Number of laps: 53.

Track length: 5.793 km, (3.600 mi).

Tyre allocation: Soft (yellow) and medium (white).

Lap record: Rubens Barrichello – 1:21.046 (Ferrari; 2004).

2015 pole:  Lewis Hamilton – 1:23.397 (Mercedes).

Last five winners at Monza

2015 & 2014: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes); 2013: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull); 2012: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren); 2011: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull); 2010: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

When is it on?

The familiar European schedule to weekend is once again used, with FP1 underway at 09:00am on Friday morning, and Qualifying and the Race underway at 13:00pm UK time on their respective days.

Sky Sports F1 will, as ever, show every session live, as well as the GP2 and GP3 support races. Channel 4 will be offering alternate viewing for freeview viewers, with live coverage of every session.

First Practice – 09:00am – 10:30am – Friday

Second Practice – 13:00pm – 14:30pm – Friday

Third Practice – 10:00am – 11:00am – Saturday

Qualifying – 13:00pm – 14:00pm – Saturday

Race – the 53 laps of the 2016 Italian Grand Prix get underway at 13:00pm on Sunday.

All times BST.