Who's hot and who's not heading into the Italian GP
The Autodromo Nazionale Monza - more commonly known as Monza - is a circuit that rewards teams with high top-end speed but has also sprung a few surprises in the past.
It was no surprise last weekend that Nico Rosberg took the checkered flag in first position after Lewis Hamilton had to start at the back of the field, but now the two Mercedes teammates are both expected to be fighting up at the front again.
But what else should be expected this weekend? Let's take a look at who's hot and who's not heading into the Italian GP:
Mercedes - HOT
It's hard to pick a favorite out of these two for this weekend. While signs indicate that things should fall into Lewis Hamilton's favor - he's won here the last two years running and has six wins in the last eight races this season - Nico Rosberg's win in Belgium was perhaps just the kick the German needed to get his season back on track. While Rosberg has never won here, the same could have been said about him for Spa... until last weekend.
Felipe Massa - HOT
In his past six races here, Massa has finished no worse than sixth, having stood on the third step on the podium on three of those occasions (including the last two). The Brazilian has had a rough season and announced his retirement on Thursday. But, with the Italian fans cheering him on from his Ferrari days and the Mercedes horsepower helping him on down the straight, you might want to keep an eye on Massa this weekend.
Daniel Ricciardo - HOT
While the Australian driver does not have the best track record at Monza, he has been on a roll recently, having taken podium finishes at the last three consecutive races. While the long straights of Monza might not be the best for the Red Bull, the Milton Keynes based team now has the second-best car on the grid, and Ricciardo could be the one sitting in the cat-bird seat if the Mercedes teammates get into it.
Force India - HOT
Force India now sits fourth in the constructors' standings ahead of Williams. Nico Hulkenberg placed fourth in last weekend's Belgian GP while Sergio Perez placed fifth. The team also has Mercedes power, which will help them around the Monza circuit. Sergio Perez has even placed on the podium here before, when he took second in the 2012 Italian GP... in a Sauber.
McLaren - NOT
You may have noticed that all the above entries were listed as "hot." Who's not? Well, pretty much all the minor teams and those struggling with power on the grid. Since powerplants make such a big difference around here, expect it to be the top teams mixing it up up front. Unfortunately, that means teams such as McLaren-Honda - which have been making strides but are still down a bit on power - may struggle to score some decent points this weekend. Last year, Jenson Button finished 14th while Fernando Alonso failed to finish. However, this year the team has socred points in the last three races straight, including Fernando Alonso last weekend from 22nd on the grid, and I would be delighted if they could prove me wrong.