There is something about the Brazilian grand prix that brings out the very best that Formula 1 has to offer. For years the South American circuit has delivered some of the most memorable races and visuals in the sports history.
The Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace has immortalised itself by crowning five world champion in the 21st Century, so far. In 2005 and 2006 Fernando Alonso wrapped both of his titles here and in 2007 Kimi Raikkonen won the championship by one point over then rookie Lewis Hamilton. In 2008 one of the most dramatic endings to any championship season culminated in Hamilton’s first title. The unlikely story of Brawn resulted in Jenson Button’s title at the end of the 2009 season. The last champion here was crowned in 2012 as Sebastian Vettel swept to his third driver’s crown.
In 2016 the opportunity for another champion to be crowned has once again come to the fore. Nico Rosberg currently leads his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by nineteen points with a maximum of fifty still on the table. For Rosberg the equation is clear – win the race and he will become the world champion. It sounds like a simple enough task but there is of course one rather large obstacle in way – Lewis Hamilton. Granted, Hamilton doesn’t have the greatest of records in Brazil but he must throw caution to the wind in order to stop Rosberg. This weekend there is no percentage game to be played, no damage limitation. It is the type of situation where a true champion thrives and one that, arguably, all F1 fans relish.
The Autodromo is one of the shortest circuits on the calendar but still provides a specific challenge to drivers. “The track is quite a technical layout, especially sector 2, it’s important to get this right for a quick lap. Like many of the circuits we race at it has had a lot of history and great moments over the years, this makes it one of the ‘special’ ones on the calendar,” says Red Bull driver Max Verstappen. Red Bull could be in with a good chance this weekend as despite the long start/finish strait the layout should suit their car.
Sebastian Vettel is likely to lay off the radio commentary this weekend after his rather colourful Mexican grand prix. The German driver apologised to all parties involved and will most likely opt to do his talking on track where Ferrari should be able to deliver a turn of pace which could make proceedings quite interesting.
The track surface is quite an abrasive one for which Pirelli have brought the hard, medium, and soft compound. This doesn’t provide any profound insight as to what will happen in the race though. In truth, over the years the Brazilian grand prix has been one of the most unpredictable races of the year with a tendency to err towards the dramatic. Naturally, the expectation is that Mercedes are the favourites going into the weekend but at this history-laden South American circuit nothing is a given.
It’s already primed to be a weekend of high stakes but it’s likely to be an emotional one too. Brazilian driver Felipe Massa will contest his final home race ahead of his retirement from the sport. The image of Massa winning this grand prix amid the euphoria of the crowd is a special memory. What’s more, few will ever forget the gracious manner in which Massa conducted himself as he fell agonisingly short of winning the 2008 title. While his star may have waned slightly over the last few seasons we will never forget Felipe Massa’s prodigious quali speed, his glorious wins in Brazil, and the grace he showed in 2008. Obrigado Felipe.