The main talking point at this, the 33rd Brazilian Grand Prix (the 23rd at the Interlagos circuit,) will be the outcome of the Drivers' Formula 1 World Championship. Unfortunately, for the first time in six years, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro will...
The main talking point at this, the 33rd Brazilian Grand Prix (the 23rd at the Interlagos circuit,) will be the outcome of the Drivers' Formula 1 World Championship.
Unfortunately, for the first time in six years, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro will not be involved in the final scramble for overall honours. Instead, Ferrari will be doing its utmost to maintain its third place in the Constructors' classification, while Michael Schumacher will fight for third place in the Drivers' points table.
Test driver Marc Gene was running at Jerez de la Frontera last week and, as Ferrari Managing Director Jean Todt pointed out, the team cannot expect any miracle cure to emerge from a few days of testing. Nevertheless, the team will be tackling the sixteenth round of the championship with the same determination as ever.
That will be particularly true for Rubens Barrichello, who will be starting his home grand prix for the thirteenth time this weekend, especially as it is the last time he will appear in front of his fellow "Paulistas" bearing the red colours of the Scuderia.
The Brazilian Grand Prix has been won by a home-grown driver just seven times and despite coming very close on several occasions and starting from pole position for the last two years, a third place in 2004 is the best result Barrichello has managed at the track where he first tried his hand at competition at the wheel of a kart.
"In performance terms, I have always gone well here," says Rubens. "However, looking at the current situation, both in theory and in practice, we do not have a car capable of delivering a win. Nevertheless, I will face the weekend in a positive frame of mind, as you never know what might happen."
"Look at Hungary, where we were expecting very hot conditions and a difficult weekend. In the end, we did very well there. Here, like in Spa, the weather could play its part. So, I am in a strong frame of mind and will go to the track thinking I can fight for the win. I would love to do well in Brazil. That is my main target for this end of the season."
One of Rubens' other important targets for the year came true on the day after the Belgian Grand Prix, when his wife Silvana gave birth to their second son, a few days before Eduardo's fourth birthday. The new addition to the family is called Fernando, a topical name on the weekend when Alonso can enter the history books as the youngest ever F1 champion.
If the Spaniard succeeds, Interlagos would be an appropriate venue, as the 24 year old will beat a 33 year record established by Emerson Fittipaldi when he became the first Brazilian to take the F1 crown back in 1972.
Barrichello's final Ferrari appearance in Brazil will be a memorable event for the 33 year old, but he is keeping it in perspective. "I don't think it is a question of it being an emotional moment," he maintains. "With Ferrari, we have had a good time together and I have done a good job for the team. But my move next year is not a case of restarting my career. I think that restart happened when I joined Ferrari. I have different aspirations now and I think my decision is a good move, but it is just a simple case of changing team."
"I am being asked now to pick my best moments and that is difficult. Obviously, my first win in Hockenheim would be one; my two pole positions here in Brazil of course and I would also mention standing on the podium alongside our President, after winning in China last year. The important thing is that there have been many more good points than bad ones!"
Technically and physically, the 4.309 km track presents a host of interesting challenges. Despite several attempts at resurfacing, Interlagos refuses to give up the bumps which are such a part of its character. It is also, along with Imola and Istanbul, one of three anti-clockwise tracks on the calendar, although the race date move to the end of the season means this factor has less effect on the drivers than when the championship began here as the neck muscles have had plenty of time to toughen up.
The fact the track, named after Carlos Pace, is at altitude means the "thinner" air has a negative effect on both downforce and on engine power, although the rules of physics naturally affect all the cars equally. It is generally regarded as a medium downforce circuit, with good overtaking opportunities. This is down to the fact the cars spend around 60% of the lap at full throttle and there are two significant straights followed by tight corners.
Strategically there a few options for the race given that the pit-lane is very long, but lap times are not significantly affected by fuel load. However, as usual, the biggest uncertainty for the weekend will centre on the weather, which can be stormy at this time of year, with showers already predicted for all three days when the cars are on track.