Although we’re unlikely to see an exciting conclusion to the championship on Sunday, anyone rooting for a down-to-the-wire title battle will be hoping for a home win for Rubens Barrichello or for Sebastian Vettel to repeat his dominant Suzuka performance.
The title looks like a long shot for anyone who isn’t Jenson Button. But we’ve seen bigger upsets in the past at Interlagos.
People talking about protecting ‘F1’s traditional races in Europe’ – but if Interlagos disappeared off the calendar I’d be just as sad as if Monaco, Monza, Spa or Silverstone got the chop.
But it seems Interlagos is here to stay and that’s a great thing because it has character, history, wildly enthusiastic fans and a corker of a track.
KERS and tyres
Looking ahead to the race, the tyre situation could be especially important. As at Suzuka, the compounds will be two ‘stages’ apart, but this time they will be softer: drivers will have the medium and the super-soft tyres to use.
With several quick bends on the Interlagos circuit and the potential for high temperatures, the super-soft tyres will take quite a pounding. Although we’re unlikely to see the kind of extreme swings in performance we saw earlier in the season, keep an eye out for which teams struggle to get a decent stint length out of these tyres.
KERS should make the biggest difference in the first and third sectors – especially the latter, where the cars have the long, uphill acceleration zone out of Juncao towards the start/finish straight.
On paper, this looks like a track best suited to the likes of McLaren and Brawn. The Red Bulls have thrived on tracks with lots of high-speed corners, which Interlagos is a bit short on. However Mark Webber was able to test their Interlagos-specification front wing at Suzuka, which should at least give them a head start on their setup.
Opportunity for Barrichello
For Barrichello, this is a precious opportunity for him to finally win his home Grand Prix after 16 attempts, some of them thwarted by the most cruel misfortune. In 1999 his engine failed while racing in the top three for Stewart.
Two years later, now driving for Ferrari, his car broke down on the way to the starting grid. He had to run back to the pits – in 35C heat – and take over Michael Schumacher’s spare car. Two laps in, he slammed into the back of Ralf Schumacher’s Williams, putting them both out. In the chaotic 2003 race Barrichello finally looked on course to win after taking the lead – until he ran out of fuel.
Barrichello may be good friends with Felipe Massa. But we can only imagine his frustration at seeing the man who replaced him at Ferrari winning the race twice in the past three years, becoming the first Brazilian since Ayrton Senna to do so.
But while Barrichello goes all-out for the win, Button knows all he needs to do is shadow his team mate and the title will almost certainly be his.
Though all the focus will be on the championship contenders, Kamui Kobayashi will become the fifth driver to make his Formula 1 debut this year. He’s had more mileage in a 2009-spec car than most teams’ third drivers have – but how will he cope?
Drivers to watch
Lewis Hamilton – On paper, the early favourite for victory.
Rubens Barrichello – A home win plus a Button DNF would be a fairytale finish for Barrichello this weekend. Particularly as Massa will be waving the chequered flag.
Kamui Kobayashi – This could be one of the toughest years ever to be a rookie F1 driver. Kobayashi has had some practice in the TF109, but his two season in GP2 were pretty poor.
Giancarlo Fisichella – Badly needs to start scoring points if Ferrari are going to achieve their target of beating McLaren to third place in the constructors’ championship.