MONZA, Italy: Nico Rosberg was booed in Belgium after a collision with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton but the Formula One leader will raise a cheer from Ferrari fans if he does it again at Monza on Sunday.
The chances of that happening at the ‘Pista Magica’, the venerable cathedral of Italian motorsport set in a former royal park near Milan, look even less likely than Ferrari winning, however.
Mercedes said last week, after a meeting with both drivers, that both understood the team’s number one rule that there must be no contact between them on the track and another incident would not be tolerated.
Hamilton, who tweeted on Tuesday that his aim was “to claw back” the lead from Rosberg after dropping 29 points behind with seven races remaining, said then that both had accepted they made mistakes at Spa.
“The fans want to see a clean fight until the end of the season and that’s what we want to give them,” added the 2008 world champion, who had complained at Spa that Rosberg hit him ‘on purpose’.
“It’s going to be a tough road from here but Championships have been won from much further back than I am now.”
Hamilton may have a psychological advantage going into Monza, the final European round of the season, as the aggrieved party from the previous race and he also has a better record than Rosberg.
The Briton won at the fastest track on the calendar in 2012, his last season with McLaren, and has twice been on pole while Rosberg has never finished higher than fifth and did not even get beyond the first corner in 2011.
Ferrari have not won since Fernando Alonso’s triumph in Spain in May last year and the Spaniard is not holding out much hope of giving the legion of red-shirted fans a victory to celebrate at Monza for the first time since 2010.
“Definitely we must try and have our best race of the year in front of the home crowd. We know what a great experience it is to stand on the podium at Monza, seeing the straight packed with people,” he told reporters at Maranello.
“I’ve been lucky enough in these last four years with Ferrari to get to the podium four times and it would be fantastic to make it five.
“It’s a very optimistic goal because unfortunately this year, we haven’t been on the podium too often. We must be realistic, as this will be another defensive and uphill race for us, but anything can happen,” he added.
The Mercedes-powered teams can again expect to be dominant, with Williams likely to be challenging for the podium, but Red Bull remain a threat.
Four times world champion Sebastian Vettel, who has been largely eclipsed by smiling Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo, took the first win of his F1 career at Monza with Toro Rosso in 2008.
Ricciardo, who also has an Italian passport, would be the next best thing to a Ferrari winner for the home crowd and is chasing an unlikely hat-trick of wins after standing on top of the podium in Hungary and Belgium.
“I’m not really that keen on super-long straights; I find them a little dull compared to hammering through a series of demanding corners but Monza is the exception to that,” said the Red Bull driver.
“There’s something about flashing through those trees in front of that massive crowd that definitely gets the pulse all the way up. Also the crowd in Monza is wild.
“Obviously it’s full-on Ferrari but in the past they’ve always been very generous to me. I’d love to get the opportunity to stand on that brilliant podium and find out,” added Ricciardo.