Our regular F1 writer, Nick van der Meulen, takes a look at the penultimate race of the year in his piece: F1 preview Brazil 2019
As the 2019 F1 season draws to a close, the circus has a final stop in the “New World”, namely, Interlagos, Brazil. The circuit is situated not far from the country’s financial hub, Sao Paulo. It is said that the run-off area at Turn 1, previously populated by houses, was where former F1 start Rubens Barrichello grew up. You can read an F1 opinion piece on Lewis Hamilton at this link.
Brazil is passionate about its motorsport and its flag shows up next to the name of an F1 world champion 8 times (Emerson Fittipaldi twice, Nelson Piquet three times, Ayrton Senna three times, respectively). Brazilians have had their fair share to cheer about with regard to winners at home: Fittipaldi was the first to do so (twice), followed by the then-rising star Carlos Pace. Piquet followed suit in the 80s (twice) and Senna had to wait seven years before doing so (twice). Brazilian fans had to wait over a decade before witnessing Felipe Massa take victory on home soil (twice).
Of the current drivers on the grid, Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) is the most successful, with three wins, while newly-crowned world champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) has won twice. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) will remember this circuit with affection as he powered to victory – and the world title – in 2007. Hamilton will remember this circuit with affection too: despite local hero Massa taking victory in 2008, the Englishman snuck into fifth place with a few corners to go, in slippery conditions, to snatch the world championship away from the Brazilian – his first.
From a constructor’s perspective, McLaren is the most successful in Brazil, having won 12 times (the last being 7 years ago) ahead of Ferrari (11). Williams has taken victory in Brazil 6 times, but the last time was 15 years ago…
There have been some memorable events at Interlagos. Obviously, the drama to conclude the 2007 and 2008 titles will be remembered. Giancarlo Fisichella won his first Grand Prix (and Jordan’s last) in 2003, after a court appeal, when the race was red-flagged in sodden conditions and the victory originally awarded to Raikkonen. Nico Hulkenberg will always remember his shock pole position in 2010, driving for Williams – the team’s first in five years. He got mugged at the start, though, and eventually only managed to finish eighth.
Click here for some of the more memorable Brazilian F1 Grands Prix moments.
What to expect at Interlagos this weekend? Hamilton and Mercedes will want to continue racking up wins. Team Principal Toto Wolff will not be present, however, and it will be interesting to see how the team copes without him. As ever, Valtteri Bottas will be gunnin’ to outperform his illustrious teammate.
Vettel will be looking to reinstate Ferrari at the top of the podium, following the team’s mysterious loss of speed at Austin, while Charles Leclerc will have an uphill battle this weekend as he faces a grid penalty for receiving a fresh Ferrari engine for his mount. As ever, Max Verstappen (Red Bull-Honda) will aim to be on the podium and will be in the hunt, looking to put his incident (pictured above) with Estaban Ocon last year behind him Teammate Alexander Albon, newly signed by Red Bull for the 2020 season, will be looking to improve and earn his first podium finish.
The “best of the rest” will be a torrid battle between the McLaren-Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, fighting with the Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and soon-to-be F1 refugee Nico Hulkenberg for bragging rights. Toro Rosso-Honda, who recently announced the retention of their current line-up for 2020, and Racing Point-Mercedes, in particular, will hope to spring a surprise.
Interlagos is a winding circuit with a fast, curved “straight” as well as demanding slower corners, producing a relatively short lap. The main passing area is on the brakes into Turn 1, however, history has shown that the Brazilian Grand Prix does produce dramatic racing…don’t miss it.