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Red Bull hopeful of replicating Spa pace at Italian GP

Sergio Perez says Red Bull hopes to be as strong in Formula 1’s 2022 Italian Grand Prix as it was recently at Spa when running a similar low-downforce set-up.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Red Bull ended up with a 1-2 result at Spa, with Max Verstappen leading Perez home despite starting down in 14th on the grid (13th when considering the number of cars that took the start) as the team comprehensively outperformed its rivals.

Form at the Belgian venue is typically an indicator of how the weekend at Monza will turn out for most teams, as low-drag aerodynamic packages are rewarded even further at the Italian track because it features fewer sweeping corners.

Red Bull has also had the edge on title rival Ferrari at all the other low-downforce-requiring circuits that F1 has visited so far in 2022, with the RB18’s skinny rear wing package also combining well with its potent Honda engine.

When asked by Autosport to explain the car’s key strengths for the Monza weekend in the pre-event press conference, Perez replied: “We’ve got quite an efficient car.

“We’ve seen in Spa and hopefully again at Monza that we tend to like more the lower downforce wings.

“So, the car seems to perform better when we run with the smaller rear wing. Hopefully that can be a good thing again here.

“But it’s going to be very different conditions, so we’re also very curious to see how we’re able to cope in those different conditions.”

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Motorsport Images

While Perez also said he hopes that Red Bull “will have similar pace to what we showed in Spa”, he cautioned that the different corner characteristics at Monza as well as expected wet weather during Friday practice could impact his team’s chances of repeating its Belgian domination.

“This track is a little bit different to Belgium,” he said. “Certainly, the weather will be.

“It will be interesting to see how we are able to perform.

“For example, Mercedes was very strong last weekend [in the Dutch GP] – especially with the tyre deg. So, it will be an interesting one this Sunday.”

Speaking alongside Perez in the Monza press conference was Lewis Hamilton, whose Mercedes squad struggled badly at Spa – where all teams were forced to raise their rideheights to navigate the Eau Rouge hill compression, which Red Bull was able to do without shedding downforce as much as its rivals, a key factor in its domination.

In response to a question on whether he expects the W13 to perform better at Monza than it did at Spa, Hamilton said: “I don’t think it can be worse!

“That’s a positive way of looking at it. It can’t be worse than Spa I don’t think. No, I think it will be a lot better here.”

Hamilton arrives in Italy knowing he will take a grid penalty for running a fourth engine of the 2022 campaign, after his third – fitted brand new at Spa – was damaged in his lap one crash there with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.

Mercedes is still attempting to repair that power unit so Hamilton can possibly reuse it again later in the season, but its initial investigations are understood to have not revealed positive results so far.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13 crash with Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13 crash with Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522

But with the Monza layout offering overtaking opportunities, Mercedes has opted to make a change even though it will mean Hamilton will start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid.

That challenge follows Hamilton’s strong showing last weekend at Zandvoort, where a late-race safety car thwarted Mercedes’ ambitious one-stop strategy to try and get into the lead fight with Verstappen.

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Hamilton said he was arriving at Monza feeling “as good as I can feel” despite the engine situation and the disappointment of how his Dutch GP turned out, with his lead at the late restart becoming fourth by the flag.

“You’ll always feel better if you came off a win,” he added. “But, no, still we’ve been making so much progress as a team – we’ve closed the gap more.

“[Or] at least we’re closing the gap more and more, weekend after weekend.

“Of course, we don’t know how the car is going to be here this weekend – whether or not it will be as good as it was in the last race, we’ll find out.

“My third engine that I had [that was] brand new in Spa is still being worked on, so I can’t use it right now and I have to take a fourth.

“That’s my doing and we’re still hopeful we can use that later on. So, I’ve got to try and recover the best I can from the back.”

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