In the last several years the Brazilian grand prix has moved around quite a bit on the F1 calendar. It’s gone from the second race of the year to being the season-ender a few times. Now, it finds itself settled as the penultimate race of the year. But regardless of when the Brazilian grand prix is run it always delivers a stunning show.
History reveals that the land which the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace is built on was first bought with a housing development in mind. Luckily, part of the Sau Paulo land was not suitable for housing and a so a racetrack, named Interlagos, was born. Several decades later the successful arrival of Emerson Fittipaldi on the world motorsport stage became the catalyst for a Brazilian grand prix in the 1970s. By 1981 Rio had taken over as host of the Brazilian grand prix. But thanks to the fervour that surrounded Ayrton Senna, a Sau Paulo native, the race has returned and been run at Interlagos ever since.
The circuit isn’t a long one at 4.309 kilometres and its lap record is just shade over seventy-one seconds. It doesn’t have any corners in its layout to really trouble the drivers either. “There’s just not a corner that gives you any real satisfaction. I don’t want to make it sound dull, because it isn’t, but like Russia, there isn’t a corner that makes you go ‘Woooo-Hoooo!’ It needs a few more corners and something really high speed,” says Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. “There’s a couple that look good on paper but because of the cambers, you never really have the grip to go barrelling in.”
From the Aussie’s perspective it doesn’t sound very challenging and it looks like it could be a bit of a damp squib. But somehow, year after year, the circuit and the boisterous fans combine with an untouchable force to deliver astounding Brazilian Grand Prix races.
The stunning 2012 race in which then Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel had to fight back through the field after a first-corner incident comes to mind. In 2007 Kimi Raikkonen beat the odds to win the driver’s championship. In 2008 the driver’s world title race between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa climaxed in the most dramatically breathtaking fashion. As local hero and Ferrari driver Massa crossed the line as world champion only to be denied as McLaren driver Hamilton found his way past the Toyota of Timo Glock on the last corner of the last lap. These stunning races are merely what are in the recent memory bank of Formula 1. The Brazilian grand prix has been delivering this kind of drama for decades.
Last year Nico Rosberg put together a faultless weekend to win from pole. It comes as no great revelation that Mercedes is the overwhelming favourite for victory going into the weekend. However, there are a few factors that could change the outcome of Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix. The weather around the Interlagos circuit looks set fair with temperatures predicted to reach into the early 30s. It will mean a considerably high track temperature which will play to the strengths of the Ferrari, as it did in Malaysia.
The factor of racing on home soil should never be diminished and given Felipe Massa’s adoration for his home race he will undoubtedly feature in some way this weekend. A podium finish may not be out of the question for the Williams driver.
Often we try to predict what will happen over a grand prix weekend. We base our view on car performance in relation to a specific layout, weather forecasts, and occasionally a gut feel. But in Brazil you do so at your peril. Because this race has the uncanny ability to surprise and deliver a spectacle to the level no one can possibly imagine.