2009 Brazilian GP

With five of the last championships having been decided at Interlagos, it wouldn’t be unreasonably to expect the same thing a sixth time around.

And the only driver who can mathematically wrap up the title this weekend is Fernando Alonso, who currently enjoys an 11-point lead over his nearest rival, Mark Webber. Should Alonso manage to do it, this would cap off a remarkable second half of the season for the Spaniard, who has climbed back from a 47-point deficit to get into the five-way fight for the championship crown.

But as the championship deadline draws ever nearer and his rivals become more desperate, Fernando will certainly know that anything can happen, and that it would be unwise to count the chickens…

Here is our preview of this weekend’s all-important Brazilian Grand Prix…


The Circuit

Date: 7 November 2010 No. Laps 71
Lap Length: 4.309km Race Distance: 305.909km

Lap Record: 1:11.473 – Juan Pablo Montoya (2004, Williams)

At all of the nineteen venues being visited in the 2010, there are few crowds – with the possible exceptions of those at Monza and Silverstone – who are as passionate as those who cram into the dilapidated grandstands at Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit each year.

And the Brazilian fans have certainly had plenty of heroes to cheer over the years, with the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa achieving considerable success on the international motorsport stage.

The Sao Paulo circuit has played host to Formula 1 since the 1970s – albeit in a much longer configuration than today – but sadly fell out of favour when the (sadly duller) Jacarepagua circuit opened in Rio de Janeiro.

Despite the more interesting location in Rio, the flat high-speed circuit didn’t pose the same challenge that Interlagos did, with races at Rio often being more of an economy run than an action-packed event.

And so the circus moved back to a truncated Interlagos in 1990 and it has remained there ever since.

Despite its third world facilities that somehow seem to escape criticism each year when (incredibly) the likes of Silverstone are continually attacked for their far superior amenities, Interlagos has an ‘other worldly’ charm that makes it a popular venue for the Formula 1 travelling circus.

Martin Brundle describes a lap of Interlagos

A terribly bumpy, anticlockwise circuit, the track is physically demanding due to its layout and high altitude, which place great strain on driver and car fitness. A well-balanced car – one that offers good grip in the twisty sections without compromising top speed on the straights – proves to be a difficult compromise to reach here when setting up a Formula 1 car.

Being in a tropical climate, weather is often a factor at the track, which features a well-used passing point at the braking point to Turn 1, and a less-used spot at Turn 4, the Reta Oposta left-hander at the end of the back straight.



The History Bit

Since 2005, Interlagos has held a traditional position at the tail of the Formula 1 calendar, which has led to it being a championship-deciding venue every year since.

Fernando Alonso started the run by clinching both of his championships with Renault in 2005 and 2006, while Kimi Räikkönen took the 2007 crown in one of the most thrilling championships seen in recent years.

Button took his maiden title at last year's Brazilian GP In 2008, it got even better, when Lewis Hamilton took his first championship by passing Timo Glock on the final corner of the final lap in the rain to secure the points required to beat Felipe Massa to the crown. And last year, Jenson Button finally sealed his first Drivers’ Championship with a storming drive through the field after a difficult qualifying session.

And even when it hasn’t played host to a championship-deciding race, its previous position as one of the opening races of a Formula 1 season still meant it was often an action-packed race for drivers and fans.

Many will recall Giancarlo Fisichella’s shock maiden win with Jordan in 2003, where he won a rain-shortened race that was marred by several huge accidents up and down the field.

The 2001 race was made famous for Juan Pablo Montoya making his mark as one of F1’s truly great overtaking specialists, with his ballsy pass on Michael Schumacher to take the lead at just his third F1 race. Montoya would later crash out when collected by Jos Verstappen’s Arrows as he tried to lap the Dutchman, and Schumacher would lose the race win to David Coulthard, who handled the late rain shower with greater aplomb than the rainmeister.


What to expect?

With Jenson Button achieving a point-less result in Korea, the defending World Champion is still a chance for the title, albeit extremely remote, and in all likelihood, he will have to play a supporting role to the better-positioned Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton sits 21 points behind Alonso in the title race, and will be banking on a win (with Alonso finishing off the podium) in order to have a chance of taking the championship at next weekend’s season finale at Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton’s other problem is that the McLaren hasn’t looked like a genuine race-winning prospect for some time.

Red Bull’s problem is almost the reverse, but it’s problem is in how it manages to find ways of throwing race victories away after doing its usual trick of locking out the front row.

Of the 17 races to date, a Red Bull has been on pole position 14 times but only won seven times. That’s a damning statistic for the team, which runs the risk of losing both titles despite clearly having the quickest car in the field.

Sebastian Vettel sits in a similar championship position to Hamilton, and if Alonso finishes ahead of him this weekend, then his hopes for a maiden championship are over.

Mark Webber won last year's race in Brazil and will need a repeat result in 2010 Team-mate Mark Webber sits much closer to Alonso in the championship race, and the Red Bull is being roundly criticised for not yet forcing Vettel to support the better-placed Webber for the Drivers’ Championship, but Webber’s problem is that he hasn’t won a race since Hungary, and requires a serious form turnaround to take the championship to the wire.

Wins at both Interlagos and Abu Dhabi will secure the championship for Webber, but can he arrest the almost inexorable Alonso march to a third Drivers’ Championship?

While Fernando might not have the quickest car in terms of raw pace, both Lady Luck and plenty of good form have seen him with three of the last four races.

Alonso is in the fortunate position of having team-mate Felipe Massa as a rear gunner this weekend, which is something that neither of the rival squads can afford while both pilots are still mathematically in contention and able to pinch points off one another.

Unless McLaren or Red Bull can achieve something heroic at Sao Paulo, next weekend’s race in the Middle East could turn out to be little more than a parade float for Spain’s latest motorsport superstar.

No doubt this weekend will answer plenty of questions for the fans, and as usual, the Richard’s F1 team will bring you all the latest news and analysis from the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend.

[Original images via LAT]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.