Italian drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Vitantonio Liuzzi will be looking to impress at the Italian Grand Prix, and overall Formula One leader Jenson Button badly needs to rebound from a poor run to keep his championship hopes on track.
When Fisichella gets into the Ferrari car for Friday morning’s practice it will be the culmination of a 14-year dream for the 36-year-old Italian, who will replace Luca Badoer after the reserve driver finished last in both races since taking over for the injured Felipe Massa.
“It will be an incredible weekend, with lots of pressure, but it’s pressure that will give me a push forward,” said Fisichella, who got the opportunity after finishing second at the Belgian GP for Force India. “The goal is to obviously score a lot of points. It would be a dream to get on the podium.”
Force India handed Fisichella’s seat to Liuzzi, who returns to the F1 grid for the first time since 2007 with a realistic shot at victory following results in Spa, where the Indian team picked up its first-ever points and showed leading pace.
The last Italian driver to win at the Italian GP was Ludovico Scarfiotti for Ferrari - in 1966.
“I am confident I can carry on our progress,” Liuzzi said. “I’m very motivated; I’m in good shape and hungry to get some more points on the board.”
The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is the last stop on the European leg of the calendar and boasts the season’s fastest track, where four long straights enable cars to reach top speeds of 340 kph (211 mph).
Button is sorely in need of a victory after finishing out of the points for the first time this season in Spa.
The Brawn GP driver’s lead has dwindled from 34 points over teammate Rubens Barrichello to 16 since victory in Turkey, while Red Bull rivals Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber are also both 20.5 points behind with five races remaining.
“At the start of the season everything was nice, everything was easy. He was in a new team winning six out of the first seven races. That’s different to fighting hard for the championship. Now he has a different kind of pressure,” said Massa, who continues to recover from life-threatening head injuries. “If he does not cope with the pressure he will not win the championship.”
Ferrari, Force India, Red Bull and even McLaren are all expected to contend, while Renault has returned its KERS overtaking boost system to the car for an extra advantage.
“It’s been a season full of surprises, so it’s impossible to predict what the weekend will bring, but I hope that we can have a good one,” said the 37-year-old Barrichello, who has picked up momentum since a victory in Valencia, Spain.
Ferrari is hoping to secure third in the constructors’ series - it holds a 12-point lead over McLaren. Brawn GP leads Red Bull by 23.5 points.