Round 20 - Brazil 23-25 November 2012
Circuit Length:4.309 Km
Lap Record:1:11.473 = 217.038 km/h, J. Montoya (Williams) 2004
Pole Position:Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault); 1:11.918 = 215.695 km/h
1st:Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault) 1:32.17.464 (av. race speed = 198.876 km/h)
2nd:Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault), 16.983s behind
3rd:Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes), 27.638s behind
Fastest Lap:Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault), 1:15.324 = 205.942 km/h on lap 71
BREATHLESS FINISH TO A BREATHLESS YEAR
It’s the 20th and last round of F1’s longest-ever season – and the title fight is still alive. No time to catch their breath after an amazing debut event in Austin, and they head now for a place where the engines themselves find it hard to breathe. Interlagos, at around 875 metres, is the highest track on the calendar. For every 100 metres the engine, drawing in less oxygen, loses around one per cent of its power – and it’s a place where you need that power.
The main feature of the popular Interlagos track is the long uphill drag from Turn 12 to the start/finish line. With less help from the atmosphere, the engine is looking for the car’s handling and aerodynamics to lend a hand. That’s not to say Interlagos is slow: the average race speed is around the 200 km/h mark, while Mark Webber’s fastest race lap in 2011 was clocked at 205.942. It’s a short lap at 4.309 kilometres, with 10 left-handers and five right, and it’s the fifth and final anti-clockwise venue of the year.
As if you needed telling, Sebastian Vettel heads into the race with a 13-point lead over Fernando Alonso. Red Bull, already constructors’ champions, has won at Interlagos for the last three seasons: Webber has finished 1-2-1 in those three, Vettel 4-1-2. But in the three previous seasons the Brazilian race belonged to Ferrari: two wins to Felipe Massa and one to Kimi Raikkonen in his title-winning season in 2007.
So let’s turn to the normally tight-lipped Finn first. “There is no doubt about it; the greatest day of my career came at Interlagos when I won the World Championship in 2007 and that means I have very fond memories of this place,” says Kimi. “All in all it has been good to me. I have finished here every year since 2003 and been on the podium five times. Actually, in 2003 they gave the winners’ trophy to me but afterwards it turned out I only got P2. [Can you remember who was eventually declared the race-winner? See below] I have lived some of the best moments of my life at this circuit, and that’s something nobody can take away. That’s why it is one of my favourite places to go back to.”
Red Bull will arrive in Interlagos with a small question-mark in their minds over the ongoing alternator problem which has eliminated Vettel twice this season and ended Webber’s race in Austin prematurely. Word is that they will try yet another solution for Brazil – which means Vettel may be vulnerable to mechanical failure. That’s not something that has worried Alonso in 2012 as Ferrari has contrived to provide a bullet-proof car. Its only drawback is that it’s comparatively slow…
“Brazil is a great way to finish the year,” says Webber. Not surprising, given that the Aussie has won twice there in the last three years, but that’s not the reason he gives: “It’s one of my most favourite weekends because of the history with the drivers they’ve had; Senna, Piquet and Fittipaldi, these guys did a huge amount for the sport. Interlagos is a legendary circuit, it’s got a great atmosphere, there’s always been a bit of drama and also there is always a bit of weather floating around.” Yes there is: the forecast for 2012 is for rain throughout the weekend, some of it predicted to be a tad extreme…
One man with mixed feelings might be Felipe Massa: the little Brazilian has won twice at Interlagos for his home fans, but in Austin he “took one for the team”, as Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali put it, over his gearbox replacement and he may be asked to make another sacrifice if Sunday’s race starts to fall Alonso’s way. “I think Felipe is going back to his normal shape,” added Domenicali, referring to Massa’s racing rather than his physical form. “He can make the difference; he can help Fernando to stay connected to the title until the end.”
Another with contrasting emotions will be Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren man produced one of the finest races of his life to win in Austin and will be all the more determined to repeat that performance in Brazil in his 110th and final appearance for the team. “As my final race behind the wheel of a McLaren, I vow to the whole team that I’ll give it my all on every single lap,” he says. “My win in Austin last week was one of the races of my life, and I’d love to take victory in Brazil this weekend to give the team the perfect farewell present.” McLaren haven’t won in Brazil since 2005. Look for strong farewell efforts from Nico Hulkenberg, leaving Force India, and Sergio Perez, having his last outing with Sauber, as well.
Last but not least, it’s interesting to consider the Raikkonen phenomenon again. In his comeback year the Finn has yet to record a DNF; in contrast with Michael Schumacher, who leaves the sport for good after this weekend, his return has been an unqualified success. “Our record shows that the team can build a reliable car and that I know how to drive it,” says Raikkonen, whose radio message in Abu Dhabi is already part of F1 folklore. “The last round of the season means that it’s the last chance to enjoy that feeling for some time. That’s what a driver loves; to put a helmet on and go racing. Every time I get in the car I want to fight for victory and this is no different; I want to celebrate a good result with the team in Brazil. That would give the best feeling for the winter and also for next season.” For once, Kimi said it…
* Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan) was declared the winner of a 2003 Brazilian GP foreshortened by torrential rain. The trophy was handed over at the next race in Italy!