Italian Grand Prix: Title battle resumes at magic Monza

The magic of Monza: Italian GP preview

The spotlight will once again be on Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as the battle for the world championship heads to Monza this week for the Italian Grand Prix.

The tussle for the title took a new twist at the Belgian Grand Prix last time out as the Mercedes duo clashed on the track, effectively ending Hamilton's race.

A line has been drawn under the incident in the days since then, but will tempers flare on the circuit this weekend?

The story so far...

Hamilton and Rosberg, both 29, arrived at the Belgian Grand Prix with the latter leading the championship by 11 points.

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However, Rosberg's front wing punctured Hamilton's left-rear tyre when he hit the back of the car on the second lap. The German finished second in the race while Hamilton retired late on, having dropped way down the field as a result of the incident.

It extended Rosberg's lead to 29 points but he was booed on the podium and Hamilton later revealed that his team-mate said in a post-race meeting that he had crashed into him on purpose.

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff said Rosberg's driving was absolutely unacceptable and he was later punished by the team as he accepted responsibility for the crash, with both drivers warned another similar incident "will not be tolerated".

Reasons to watch the Italian GP

BBC Sport chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:
"All the greats have raced in Monza, and several have died, and that history has created an atmosphere like no other. Dappled early autumn sunlight through the ancient trees, the old banking that held grands prix in a former age spearing through the woods, the ghosts of former heroes all around. No wonder it's called La Pista Magica - the magic track. "It should be sacrosanct, this place, but a shadow hangs over it this year, following Bernie Ecclestone's threats not to renew Monza's deal after 2016."

A thrilling championship battle between Rosberg and Hamilton continuing on the fastest circuit in Formula 1, coupled with the hugely passionate Italian F1 fans, all makes for a potentially classic grand prix.

Italian GP
The Monza circuit is a good challenge for the drivers and braking stability from high speed is a crucial requirement

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will find plenty of support with the Ferrari headquarters located a few hours drive away and they will be backed by the devoted Tifosi - the vocal fans of the Italian manufacturer.

Jenson Button, whose future in Formula 1 is uncertain, will look into the history books for a boost heading to Monza - he has been on the podium four times, while his team McLaren have won the race on 10 occasions, most recently in 2012.

Meanwhile, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo is quietly going about his impressive business. Winner of the Belgian Grand Prix last time out, the Australian will target his fourth victory of season on the iconic circuit.

The magic of Monza

Located in a picturesque royal park, 30 minutes north of Milan, Monza is known as the Cathedral of Speed.

With misty mornings giving way to bright, sunny days, Monza has an ambience unmatched by any rival. Beautiful, atmospheric and steeped in a rich history almost as long as that of motorsport itself.

Monza fast fact
The race has been won from pole in 11 of the last 14 years.

It has hosted the Italian Grand Prix since it was built in 1922, with very few interruptions, and it is a circuit loved by the drivers.

Hamilton, who won the race in 2012, describes it as special while Button says he will never tire of going there.

It is the last race before Formula 1 heads to the Far East, and every driver will be determined to put on a show.

"I won't give up until the flag drops"

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton tweeted this picture and also said on Twitter he plans to "claw back the gap" in the championship this weekend

Rosberg may be in the driving seat to win the world championship, but Hamilton is determined to push him all the way until the final race in Abu Dhabi. He tweeted:external-link "My aim this weekend is to claw back the gap in the Drivers' Championship. I won't give up until the flag drops in Abu Dhabi."

Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg has won four races this season

During a difficult couple of weeks following the incident between himself and Hamilton in Belgium, Rosberg has been able to show his sense of humour, posting a picture on Instagram external-linkof himself sporting a beard which, fortunately, is fake.

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso last won the Italian Grand Prix in 2010

Fernando Alonso will be able to guarantee huge support for himself this weekend, with the devoted Ferrari fans sure to be out in numbers for the team's home race.

A classic Italian Grand Prix

Many of the greats of Formula 1 have raced and won at Monza and up there with the best of them is Nigel Mansell's superb win in 1991.

The British driver, who was to win the world championship the following year, came out on top after a three-way battle between himself, Williams team-mate Riccardo Patrese and McLaren's Ayrton Senna, who was Mansell's rival for the title that year.

Classic F1 - Italian Grand Prix 1991 (UK users only)

Senna led from the start, tracked closely by both Williams drivers, who were also engaged in their own private fight. The two men were closely matched in the FW14 car, and Patrese had beat Mansell on some occasions.

When Patrese passed Mansell at around half-distance, with the two men still hounding Senna, Monza looked like being another one of those occasions.

But the Italian then spun on the very next lap, leaving Mansell to challenge Senna alone, and he passed the Brazilian a few laps later.

Italian Grand Prix coverage details.