As the end of the season approaches, Formula One has left Europe and flown off to the final three long distance races. The Brazilian Grand Prix can't seem to decide where it wants to be on the calendar; it used to be one of the early flyaways,...
As the end of the season approaches, Formula One has left Europe and flown off to the final three long distance races. The Brazilian Grand Prix can't seem to decide where it wants to be on the calendar; it used to be one of the early flyaways, then last year it was the final event. This time around Interlagos is the 17th round of the championship and will be followed by Japan and China.
While some of S?o Paulo's more nefarious characters are best avoided, the Interlagos circuit is popular. It's quite a physical challenge for the drivers as it's anti-clockwise and bumpy, while the engineers face the task of finding a balance between drag for the long straights and downforce for the twisty infield.
"Brazil -- like Indianapolis -- is a circuit with two very distinct halves: a very high speed section past the pits and along the back straight where top speed and low drag are at a premium, combined with the twisting infield which demands downforce and mechanical grip," said Renault's engineering chief Pat Symonds. "So we work hard to find the right compromise on wing levels."
The circuit is also hard on tyres. "The anticlockwise nature of the Brazilian track means that from a tyre point of view, Interlagos can be tough on the right front and right rear tyres," explained Bridgestone's Hisao Suganuma. "The other issue we have to take into account is the track surface. Although bumpy, the tarmac itself is relatively smooth which would normally require as soft a compound as possible."
Juan Pablo Montoya ended his four years with Williams with victory at Interlagos in 2004. He is hoping that he and McLaren teammate Kimi Raikkonen can achieve the maximum this weekend. "Myself and Kimi had a great battle here last year and hopefully we can dominate again this weekend by taking 18 points away from Brazil, which is what we need for the Championship battle," he remarked.
However, while McLaren could easily snatch the advantage over Renault in the constructors' standings, all eyes will be on Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard needs six points, regardless of what title rival Raikkonen does, and he will be the youngest ever champion. But anything could happen and for Alonso it's just another race at which he will try to do his best.
"I go there trying to do the maximum," he said. "What's the point of going to a race and only aiming for a podium? You can't do that, you have to want to be the best, to attack. So that's what I am going to Brazil to do. We need to have a smooth weekend, no problems, and hopefully we will get the result we want."
As Michael Schumacher prepares to hand over his crown, he is not expecting any vast improvement in Ferrari's form. "Naturally, we do not have as high expectations for the race as we did last year," he commented. "We will be well prepared but have to wait until Friday to really see what sort of shape we are in. Obviously, I hope to do better than in my last race. Whatever happens, we will be fighting for a good result."
Teammate Rubens Barrichello finally got on the podium at Interlagos last year after a nine-year drought of not finishing his home race. He is one of three Brazilians competing in front of the home crowds, along with Sauber's Felipe Massa and Antonio Pizzonia, who continues to stand in for the injured Nick Heidfeld at Williams.
"Here, like in Spa, the weather could play its part," said Barrichello, who will compete in his home event for the last time with Ferrari. "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."
Toyota is homing in on Ferrari's third place in the constructors' standings and the Cologne squad is aiming to take the place by the end of the season. "Our pace has looked good recently so our target for the last three flyaway races is to challenge Ferrari for third place in the constructors' championship," said Jarno Trulli.
"We are only ten points behind and we can definitely manage it if we continue to push hard. To come from near the back of the grid last year to the position we are in now is an amazing achievement and it's down to a fantastic performance by the whole team."
Interlagos, like Spa, is often an unpredictable event. The weather can be anything from scorching heat to torrential downpours and last year we even had dogs roaming the track during the Saturday morning practice session. Will Alonso be celebrating on Sunday or will Raikkonen keep himself in contention for another race? Place your bets…