Brazil preview - intense Interlagos hosts fight for final spoils 24 Nov 2011
Back in 2009 Red Bulls Mark Webber dominated the Brazilian Grand Prix and would dearly love to close out a winless 2011 season with a repeat victory, as he bids to overhaul McLarens Jenson Button and Ferraris Fernando Alonso for second overall.
Brazil is one of the best races of the year, the Australian says. Its a track which reminds me of Brands Hatch and the Formula Ford racing there because its a like a bowl in terms of the atmosphere. The Brazilian people love their motorsport and are extremely passionate about it, obviously off the back of Piquet, Senna, Fittipaldi and Rubens Barrichello - theyve had some really great drivers. There are nice memories for me from Brazil. Ive always done well there so I hope I can get a nice result, it would be a great way to end the season with a good last race.
Its also an important race for home grown hero Felipe Massa, the other top team driver without a 2011 triumph. If the conditions are tricky it goes without saying that Ferrari team mate Alonso will vie for the win, but in his 100th race for Ferrari Massa says: "This will be a very important weekend for me, as it will also mark the end of the 10th year since I first raced in Formula One.
"Fortunately, I am still young and there is more to come, but 10 years is still a landmark in an F1 driver's career. Then there are my six years racing for the Scuderia, competing in 100 Grands Prix for the team, which makes me one of the drivers who has raced the most for this team.
"Therefore, putting it all together, 10 years of Formula One, 100 races with Ferrari and all of it at home in Brazil, makes this something really special for me. It will be an emotional time and what I would like to add to it all would be a good result come Sunday afternoon.
There are plenty of drivers out to frustrate that plan, of course, none more fearsome than double champion for Red Bull Sebastian Vettel and McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, both of whom clinched their titles here in dramatic circumstances.
The long left corners are a strain on our neck muscles because the track is anti-clockwise, which is opposite to normal, Vettel points out. Thats why I usually do some special training before Sao Paulo to get my muscles used to it. One of the best overtaking places is in the first chicane, the so-called Senna S. Its perfect for braking as you can drive in the slipstream of the car in front, to be able to pass. Im coming here to win!
Lewis Hamilton, rejuvenated by victory in Abu Dhabi, wants another one here to round out a tough season. Winning in Abu Dhabi last week was a fantastic feeling, and its made me even more determined to finish the 2011 season with a victory. It would be great to go into the winter off the back of another win, so thatll be my aim.
Its rare for there to be a straightforward race at Interlagos - particularly if the weather plays a role. I hear its been raining heavily in Sao Paulo at the moment - if it rains on Sunday, anything could happen. I remember having one of my best races in Formula One there in 2009 when I qualified 17th in seriously wet conditions, but raced up to third by the chequered flag. I spent the whole race overtaking people - it was brilliant.
Of course, for Jenson and myself, Interlagos is the circuit where we won the world championship, so it will always hold some happy memories for us. In fact, Ive only been here once (in 2009) when I wasnt in contention for the championship. This year, with both titles already wrapped up, I want to enjoy myself: and I think we have the car to once again make a difference - well pick up where we left off in Abu Dhabi, I hope.
Hamilton and Button are fighting to finish with four wins to the others three after Hamilton levelled the score last time out.
Youre struck by the sense of history whenever you go to Interlagos, Button says. Theres the bust of Carlos Pace on the way in to the circuit, and so many great drivers have come from here - including two McLaren world champions, Emerson Fittipaldi and Ayrton Senna. Its such a unique place: its always an exciting experience to be racing around in the bowl with the packed grandstands looking down on you.
There are a lot of physical challenges to overcome at Interlagos. Its a busy lap with a lot of corners and gradients. I can only imagine what it must have been like to race here in the 1970s when it was twice as long but still packed into the same amount of space. Although its not the only anti-clockwise circuit on the calendar, the combination of bumps, gradients and corner speeds put a lot of stress on neck muscles that are more used to turning right than turning left.
KERS Hybrid will play an important role at this circuit because there is quite a short drag from the startline to the first corner. Towards the end of the lap youve got a long uphill section out of the final corner and the power will certainly help there, too. And, if you cant get past into the first corner, then I definitely think youll be able to close up along the start/finish straight and then have a look at passing on the short straight ahead of Turn Four, using DRS.
I think we proved in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago that McLaren still want to win races even though both championships are now settled. Certainly Im determined to win my fourth grand prix of the year, even if it means fighting all the way to the last lap of the last race.
Further down the field, Brazil also has the Senna name to cheer, courtesy of Bruno at Renault, where he needs a good result after a run of misfortune, while Force India seem set to hang on to their sixth place overall barring disaster as they have 57 points. Sauber and Toro Rosso, however, battle out seventh place, with 42 and 41 points apiece.
Meanwhile, down at Williams Rubens Barrichello insists that he is not treating this race, his 326th, as a farewell even though his prospects of staying in F1 seem bleak. "I am positive," the veteran Brazilian says. "I am not going to say goodbye to people."
There will be one DRS zone for the race along the back straight. We think this will be enough, as the main straight usually gives a good enough opportunity to overtake anyway, so we dont want to make it too easy, explained FIA race director Charlie Whiting.
Pirelli are bringing new tyres to this race in readiness for 2012, with two new compounds set to make their debut. During Fridays two free practice sessions drivers will have two extra sets of an experimental hard tyre, which has already been tested by Lucas di Grassi in Pirellis Toyota TF109 car in private tests at Jerez and Barcelona this year. This tyre is considerably softer than the current hard. The results will be fed back to Pirellis engineers as they prepare for the 2012 season, just as was the case during the free practice sessions in Abu Dhabi, where an experimental soft tyre was tried out.
For the race itself the P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero White medium tyres have been nominated. However, the soft tyre is another new compound, which was tested by the teams during the young driver test at Abu Dhabi last week and during Friday free practice at the Nurburgring.
With forecasts suggesting storms on Saturday and showers on Sunday, Friday may be the only day on which the drivers really get to use them, however. After a predicted ambient temperature high of 23 degrees Celsius on Thursday, followed by partial cloud and 24 degrees on Friday, comes the chance of rain on Saturday and Sunday.
The race will run over 71 laps of the unchanged 4.309 kilometre (2.677 mile) circuit, or 305.909 kilometres (190.085 miles). It starts at 1400 hours local time, which is two hours behind GMT.
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