Hamilton out to keep Rosberg at bay in Italy

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Nico Rosberg capitalised on Lewis Hamilton's penalty saga to close within nine points of his Mercedes team-mate at the top of the Formula One drivers' standings last weekend and could displace him in Italy on Sunday.

Following a tricky start to the season, Hamilton had gone on a run of six wins in seven races to push Rosberg into second, but was dealt numerous grid penalties over engine changes in Belgium, forcing him to start from the back of the grid.

Hamilton, to his credit, fought his way through the field during a hectic race to finish third behind Rosberg and Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, but he will be eager for a return to the top step at Monza, where he has won on three previous occasions, including the last two seasons.

Red Bull once again look most likely to provide Mercedes' main opposition, but it would be foolhardy to rule out a challenge from Ferrari drivers backed by a partisan home crowd.

 

FERRARI IN THE SPOTLIGHT

It has not been a good season for Ferrari.

After showing signs of progress in 2015, the Italian outfit have fallen behind Red Bull in the battle to derail Mercedes' dominance and are without a win this year.

Indeed, Ferrari's last victory came in Singapore on September 20 last year - the same race that produced their last pole start.

The risk of finishing outside the top three in the constructors' championship - something that has only happened twice in the past 23 years - is incredibly slim, but the Tifosi will demand a performance following a run of four races without a podium finish for either Sebastian Vettel or Kimi Raikkonen.

 

HAMILTON'S PENALTY PAIN OVER

Last weekend went about as well as it could have for Hamilton under the circumstances.

A seemingly endless stream of grid penalties swamped the championship leader as Mercedes opted to take the hit on a number of engine changes.

However, in a race that featured periods under the safety car and a red flag, Hamilton never drifted too far from the frontrunners and kept his nose clean to work his way to a third-place finish.

Hamilton's focus will now be on once again extending the gap between himself and closest challenger Rosberg.

 

THE CIRCUIT

Monza has hosted more Formula One Grands Prix than any other circuit, having staged 65 races.

The 2003 GP stands as the fastest race in F1 history, when Michael Schumacher won with an average speed of around 154 miles per hour.

 

WEATHER FORECAST

The drivers will face hot temperatures in free practice and qualifying, but the threat of thunderstorms on Sunday could make for an unpredictable race.

The 50 per cent chance of rain could make life difficult for those tasked with devising a strategy.

 

TYRES

As in Belgium, Hamilton selects one more set of soft tyres than Rosberg, who prefers a better-stocked supply of mediums.

Force India's Nico Hulkenberg could be the man to keep an eye on when it comes to tyre selection, though. His three sets of mediums, two softs and eight supersofts are a break from the norm this weekend.