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MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Italian GP

Sep 6, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT

F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Practice Getty Images

The European leg of the 2013 season comes to a close at Monza this weekend with the Italian Grand Prix, a mainstay on the calendar ever since the first Formula One world championship in 1950. With the loyal Tifosi cheering on Ferrari, the Scuderia will be hoping to win for a third time in 2013 this weekend, but with Sebastian Vettel laying down an ominous pace during practice today, it appears that the German driver could enter his favored Asian leg of the calendar with a lead equivalent to more than two race wins.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Even though he has won here twice previously, Monza isn’t usually a track that favors the Red Bull since so much is about top-end speed. That said, still on fine form after his Belgian win and a win to conclude the European season would surprise almost no one.

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. Sauber won’t be able to match its surprise podium repeat achieved by Sergio Perez a year ago but Hulkenberg’s due for a good race at a track that will mask the car’s aero deficiencies and is all about power. The Ferrari-engined Sauber could be in the eighth or ninth place range.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. Job on the line and in front of the tifosi, a must for Massa to have a clean, high-points scoring weekend in Italy.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Fernando Alonso. Monza’s famed “tifosi” demand nothing less than victory from Ferrari, and it’ll likely be up to Alonso to get the job done for them. Considering his strong run last time out at Spa – like Monza, a low-downforce track – he stands a chance of coming through with a critical win for his title hopes.

Surprising finish: Mark Webber. Through eleven starts at Monza in his Formula One career, Webber has yet to hit the podium. It’d be great to see him finally break through at “La Pista Magica” as he continues his farewell tour of F1 before heading off to the sports cars next season.

Most to prove: Jean-Eric Vergne. His Toro Rosso teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, has punched a ticket to the big time with his ascension to Mark Webber’s Red Bull seat for 2014. With that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an extra-motivated “JEV” for the rest of the season starting in Italy.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. The Briton has been relentless in qualifying so far this season, chasing his fifth in a row at Monza this weekend. Given that five of the past six winners in Italy have started from pole, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him bag P1 on Saturday and simply keep it ahead of Vettel on Sunday, just as he did in Hungary.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. McLaren appear to be on the cusp of something good in Italy, having also ran well at the Belgian Grand Prix last month. Button could be poised to claim the team’s best result of 2013 so far this weekend.

Most to prove: Daniel Ricciardo. Essentially, he needs to say “here’s why Red Bull hired me” at Monza.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes have usually been handy around Monza. Hamilton’s on a run of four consecutive pole positions and he’s got a good chance of repeating his win from last year.

Surprising finish: Sergio Perez. Something of a Monza specialist – he scored two remarkable wins in his F3 days at this track from 14th on the grid, and took an excellent second here last year.

Most to prove: Pastor Maldonado. He needs to erase memories of the blunder that ended his race at Spa.

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