Race Preview: Brazilian GP
November 22, 2012 | 8:39 A.M. EST
Mark Webber won last season's Brazilian Grand Prix. (Photo: Getty Images)
São Paulo welcomes Formula One as the teams assemble at Interlagos for the 20th and final round of the 2012 F1 World Championship. The Brazilian Grand Prix has been the scene of much drama since it moved from the beginning to the end of the F1 season and it has the opportunity to be so again as Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso go head-to-head around the famous Autódromo José Carlos Pace, each seeking to become a three-times World Champion.
Interlagos has never struggled to provide entertainment. The roller-coaster configuration provides several excellent overtaking prospects, while the off-camber corners and uphill/downhill braking zones provide ample opportunities for error. The weather often plays a part and the safety car has seen action frequently in recent years. In short, it is the perfect venue for a championship showdown.
Cut into a hillside, the circuit is a natural amphitheatre, providing the huge and usually raucous crowd with superb views of the action as the circuit drops from the heights of the start-finish straight down to the Descida do Lago section at Turns Four and Five. It then winds back and forth across the bowl before reaching the Junção corner followed by the long full-throttle ascent back to the line.
Red Bull Racing wrapped up the Constructors’ Championship last weekend in Austin at the United States Grand Prix, leaving the field clear for the Drivers’ Championship to be the sole focus of attention in Brazil. Going to Interlagos, Sebastian Vettel leads Fernando Alonso by 13 points. With a superior win record in 2012, Vettel will take the title if the pair finish tied on points – meaning Vettel can afford to finish fourth and be guaranteed his third World Championship in three years with the 12 points that brings. Vettel has been on the podium for the last six races but will take nothing for granted. Interlagos tends to be rather more capricious than other circuits. Standings
Brazilian GP Fast Facts
Five Brazilian drivers have won their home grand prix: Emerson Fittipaldi (1973-74), Carlos Pace (1975), Nelson Piquet (1983, 1986), Ayrton Senna (1991, 1993), and Felipe Massa (2006, 2008).
Alain Prost is the most successful driver in the history of the race with six victories (1982, 1984-85, 1987-88, 1990). Among the current field Michael Schumacher (1994-95, 2000, 2002), Massa and Mark Webber (2009, 2011) are multiple winners. Kimi Räikkönen (2007) and Sebastian Vettel (2010) have also won here.
Sunday’s race will see the second retirement of Michael Schumacher. The seven-times World Champion first retired from Formula One after the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix of 2006.
The 4.3km Interlagos layout has held the F1 Brazilian GP since 1990. Prior to this the race was held in Rio de Janeiro at Jacarepaguá (1978,1981-89) and on the longer 8km Interlagos layout (1973-77, 1979-80). The only drivers to win in both cities are Prost and Carlos Reutemann.
The shorter Interlagos circuit features many sections carried over from its predecessor. The back straight (Reta Oposta) formerly ran in the opposite direction. It is parallel to the original back straight, still in evidence behind the spectator viewing areas.
Altitude is a factor at Interlagos: the circuit is 800m above sea-level. Cars require more wing for a given level of downforce than they would at sea-level; however the thinner air does mean a corresponding reduction in drag. For engines, the reduced amount of available oxygen leads to a decrease in power.
2008 saw perhaps the most thrilling championship climax of all time with the title not decided until half a minute after the winner had crossed the line. In gloomy conditions Felipe Massa won the race for Ferrari leaving, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton the task of finishing fifth. With rain falling he was running only sixth into the last sector of the final lap. Hamilton passed the Toyota of Timo Glock in the final seconds of the race and beat Massa by a solitary point.
That has not been Interlagos’ only moment of drama. Between 2005-2010 the Brazilian Grand Prix played a significant part in every Drivers’ Championship battle. 2005 saw Fernando Alonso finish third to clinch the title with two races remaining. Alonso triumphed again the following year in a season-ending showdown with Michael Schumacher. The 2007 race was again a season finale and saw the outsider Kimi Räikkönen crowned after winning the grand prix, finishing the season one point ahead of both Alonso and Hamilton. In 2009 Jenson Button clinched the title at Interlagos with one race to spare and in 2010 Sebastian Vettel went into the race fourth in the standings but won to pull himself back into championship contention going to the final round in Abu Dhabi, where he duly won his first title.