Since the Belgian Grand Prix, I spent some time at the factory having meetings and working on the simulator and apart from that, I have been at home in Monaco. On Wednesday, I head back to Maranello for some promotional work and the World Premiere of the new 458 Spider, before taking the short drive down to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. I’m sure I don’t have to add that this is a weekend I am really looking forward to. I first raced in Italy way back in 2000, the year I was competing in Formula Renault. Italy definitely feels like my country, starting with the fact that I have Italian roots, going back to my grandfather who was born in the south of the Italy. My family has always had a very Italian tradition at home in Brazil, so it was a natural thing for me to move to Italy to pursue my career and my dream of being a Formula 1 driver. I remember everyone said that you need to go and race in England, because if you don’t do that then you will not get to Formula 1. But I took a different direction, having a career in Italy. It seems to have worked because not only did I become a Formula 1 driver, I became a Ferrari Formula 1 driver! Italy is therefore a very important country for me and I love to go there, especially to race. It is a big part of my life and combined with the fact that this weekend is the home race for the whole team, clearly the Monza weekend is something really special for me.
I can still remember my first race at Monza: I was competing in Formula Renault and had two races, one on Saturday in the Italian series and the other on Sunday in the European championship and I won them both. In fact, it was not my first ever race in Italy, which actually took place at Mugello and I’m pleased to say I won that one too. When I first came to Italy, I lived quite close to Monza, in a place called Erba. I lived there for a year, as I had a place just opposite the workshop of the team I raced for, living in the house that belonged to my team boss. So this weekend is very much a second home race and one where I usually meet plenty of people from my racing past in the Monza paddock.
Back to 2011 and of course this is a very important weekend for us. Not in the sense of it being a last chance for us this year or anything like that, but because we really want to produce a great result for ourselves, for the team and most of all for the fans. Spa was not fantastic for us and the cold weather accentuated our tyre problems, but this weekend, we have the same tyre compounds but hopefully much hotter weather. We will need a car with good top speed. Like all the teams, we will have a low downforce set-up unique to Monza, with small wings and in free practice you need to make sure the car is well balanced with good traction to pull out of the slow chicanes and that it is able to deal with jumping the kerbs, which is vital for a quick lap time, especially in qualifying.
As for the race, I think we will see a lot of overtaking, because of the high speed nature of the track and the fact we will have two zones where we can use the DRS. I’m not saying it will be an advantage to be lying second coming into Parabolica on the last lap to overtake the car in front, because if you have a good car, it’s probably a better strategy to pass before then and pull out a gap that is bigger than one second. However, if you are fighting right down to the last lap, that could be the case, which would make for a very exciting race. At this point of the season, it is not difficult to predict that Scuderia Ferrari, McLaren and of course Red Bull Racing will be the main contenders. However, Mercedes have shown they have possibly the best top speed on the straight out of all of us and as that is so important at this circuit, they could also have some influence on the final result.
Monza is our last weekend of racing in Europe this year and, because this season has not gone so well for us, it will be even more important to do our job perfectly and try and get the result that we and all the tifosi want and deserve. For my part, I can’t wait to drive through those historic gates of the Monza park on Thursday morning, then start driving on Friday, leading up to trying to improve on my third place from last year. Standing on that incredible podium which hangs over the pit lane, looking down at the crowd, is a great experience and I want to do it again on Sunday.