Brazilian GP preview: Predicting the unpredictable

This weekend the F1 circus heads to Interlagos for the Brazilian GP at Interlagos in Sao Paulo. Jenson Button will be hoping that he can finally wrap up his first F1 world championship. Sebastien Vettel and Rubens Barrichello will be doing everything in their power to take the championship to the final round in Abu Dhabi.

Another classic track on the calendar

When people talk about classic F1 tracks the first two names that are mentioned are Suzuka and Spa. However Interlagos definitely deserves to have a place up there too. The track features a combination of different styles. There is a fast section and a slow section. Turn 3 through to Turn 7 are a series of quick corners, whereas the following section from Turn 8 to Turn 12 are slow and technical.

Then there is the long drag up the hill from Turn 13 to the pit straight, which is full throttle all the way to the heavy braking zone going into the tricky Senna “S” which are in effect Turn 1 and Turn 2. The circuit is built on a slope providing plenty of challenging gradient changes throughout the lap, which adds to the excitement and character. It is also very bumpy in places, although track re-surfacing in 2007 has helped the situation.

Another key feature of the track is that it is one of the few, on the Grand Prix calendar, to run in an anti-clockwise direction. This is literally a pain in the neck for drivers, giving these muscles an absolute pounding during the race.

What also makes this race so great is the passion of the fans. The Brazilians always provide a wild football crowd like atmosphere. In the past they have avidly followed Ayrton Senna, and this season they will be hoping their hero Rubens Barrichello can take the championship to the final race, while their other local hero, Felipe Massa, waves the chequered flag at the end of the race.

All the drivers enjoy the challenge of the venue which is also known as Autódromo José Carlos Pace, in memory of the Brazilian driver who lost his life in an air crash back in 1977. The kart track is named after Ayrton Senna, as mentioned passionate people the Brazilians.

Nico Rosberg says, “Interlagos is a really fun track to drive as it has a bit of everything – gradient changes, a complete mix of corners and it runs in an anti-clockwise direction which presents a different challenge for the drivers, especially for our neck muscles”

Difficult weekend to predict

With the grid likely to be the closest it has been for years, and three drivers trying to win the championship its going an to be a weekend not to be missed. But the question is who is going to come out on top?

In Japan the whole field was covered by just 1.2 seconds. And this was on a circuit where aerodynamic performance was very important. The Interlagos circuit is less reliant on the aero-dynamic performance and is also one of the shortest laps on the 2009 calendar. This will bunch the field up even closer.

It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if we saw the whole field covered by just 1.0 second. With 20 drivers so close, and such a short lap, a driver that can extract an extra tenth or two could move themselves up a couple of rows on the grid.

It’s also harder to predict which cars the track will suit better. Silverstone and Suzuka are dominated by fast corners which suited Red Bull‘s characteristics better. For Brawn it was clear that they would be well suited to tracks like Monaco and Valencia because the car is well suited to slow corners.

In Interlagos there is the fast section which will suit Red Bull Racing, and the slower section that will suit Brawn GP. Therefore it could make this the most even contest between the two teams we have seen all season long.

Red Bull outfit will be very confident, after a huge upgrade in Singapore the car was fast even in the slow corners, and in Suzuka they were miles ahead of everyone. The Brawn boys however has the Mercedes engine which has proven to be the horsepower to have. Throw in unpredictable weather and a crystal ball becomes a requirement for any sort of prediction, and even then an untrustworthy one.

Constructor’s title sure to go to Brawn GP

Both the contending teams could find their way to glory blocked by McLaren Mercedes who were surprisingly quick at Suzuka, a track which really shouldn’t have suited this car at all. Their KERS is going to give them a big advantage up the hill, with their package which has gone from being dreadful March to brilliant in the final stages of the season.

Ferrari also have the benefit of the KERS boost. Despite halting the development on F60 some time ago, Kimi Raikkonen has been in top form of his life and managed to deliver against the odds. He will be a contender again for a podium.

Panasonic Toyota have gone very well in Brazil in the past. Last season Trulli started the race on the front row. The team’s most recent 2009 form has also been impressive with second place in the last two races. It has been a topsy turvy team for the squad, however they will be encouraged by the fact that their last two races have both been completely different types of tracks and they have gone well on both. They will be confident of potentially another podium in Brazil.

Brawn GP just need half a point to secure the constructors crown. The only way the championship would be taken to Abu Dhabi is if Red Bull scored a 1-2 and Brawn didn’t score any points. Whilst this scenario is highly unlikely, although not impossible.

Button has destiny in his own hands

The drivers championship is very much in Button’s hands but again anything can happen, this is motor racing afterall. Third place will guarantee him the championship no matter where his only challengers, Rubens Barrichello and Sebastian Vettel, finish.

A strong race from Button would show his detractors that he deserves to be F1 World Champion. Qualifying will be critical, and perhaps will be the tightest Saturday afternoon contest this year, where Button has to up his game. If he doesn’t he risks starting too far down the grid. This will make finishing third very difficult and provide opportunities to his title rivals. If he can qualify on the front couple of rows then he will be able to make the most of his strong race pace and even claim the title with a race to go.

Of his rivals, Vettel is in very good form in a top car while Barrichello, has risen to the challenge, and is going to be fired up in front of his home fans. Both are under no pressure and go into this race relaxed. They can both throw caution to the wind and in all likelihood will.

The key to the overall result could well be McLaren who are likely to have the best package this weekend. If they finish high up it could make Button’s mission easier.
Of course, when it rains at Interlagos absolutely anything can happen and could completely disrupt the championship outcome. And rain has been forecast for the weekend ahead….

My top 8 prediction

1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Rubens Barrichello
3. Sebastien Vettel
4. Jarno Trulli

5. Heikki Kovalainen
6. Jenson Button
7. Kimi Raikkonen
8. Adrian Sutil

Note: If this prediction were to come true Rubens Barrichello would take the championship to the last race, Abu Dhabi GP would be the title decider.