INTERLAGOS, Brazil — Brazil plays host to the 19th and final round of the Formula One World Championship as teams make their way to São Paulo and the suburb of Interlagos, home of the Autódromo José Carlos Pace.
The lap of Interlagos is one of the year’s shortest but it crams a lot into its 15 turns and 4.3 kilometers. It presents a classic demand for compromise between the high-downforce requirements of the looping medium-low speed middle section and the flat-out, low-drag search for ultimate top speed that characterizes the long section uphill from the Junção corner to the start-finish line, which then drops down to the overtaking-friendly, heavy-braking Senna S.
As in 2012, Pirelli will bring its hard and medium compounds to Interlagos. The rain-affected 2012 race provides few clues to strategy but key to Jenson Button’s victory last year was his ability to run on slicks in marginal conditions, winning on a two-stop strategy while his pursuers made an extra stop for rain tires. The forecasts suggest rain may play a part again.
Even if rain does fall, the 2013 edition is unlikely to deliver quite the level of drama seen in 2012’s title-decider. However, although the main issues of the season have been resolved, F-1 goes to Interlagos with questions still to be answered. There are tight battles up and down the field in the Constructors’ Championship, not least of which is the competition for second place. In the USA, Mercedes increased their lead over Ferrari to 15 points, while Lotus remain a longshot thanks to Romain Grosjean’s sterling efforts in Austin. Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Marussia and Caterham are fighting to avoid finishing the season in last place. Marussia currently hold tenth, courtesy of Jules Bianchi’s 13th-place finish in Malaysia. In the normal course of events it would be difficult to imagine that being under threat — but Interlagos is perfectly capable of springing a surprise.
• Sebastian Vettel’s sixth place in last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix made him a triple world champion. It was the sixth time the Drivers’ Championship has been decided at Interlagos since the race was moved to the back end of the calendar in 2004. Fernando Alonso (’05, ’06) Kimi Räikkönen (’07), Lewis Hamilton (’08) and Jenson Button (’09) also sealed their titles at this circuit. Only Räikkönen marked the occasion with a victory.
• McLaren have a record 12 victories in Brazil. Emerson Fittipaldi triumphed at home in 1974, as did Ayrton Senna in ’91 and ’93. Alain Prost won in ’84, ’85, ’87 and ’88, Mika Hakkinen in ’98 and ’99, David Coulthard in 2001, Juan Pablo Montoya in ’05 and Button last year.
• Button is scheduled to make his 247th grand prix start on Sunday — a record for a British driver, overtaking David Coulthard who ended his driving career in F-1 at this circuit in 2008.
• Prost’s four McLaren victories are bracketed by wins for Renault (’82) and Ferrari (’90) making him the most successful driver in the history of the race. He and Carlos Reutemann are the only drivers to have won the race both in Rio and São Paulo.
• The current 4.3-kilometer layout of Interlagos has hosted the Brazilian Grand Prix since 1990. Prior to this the race was held in Rio at the Jacarepaguá circuit (’78,’81-’89) and on the original 8km Interlagos layout (’73-’77, ’79-’80).
• Vettel’s victory in Austin was his eighth consecutive win of 2013, beating a record set by Michael Schumacher in 2004. This weekend Vettel can equal the nine consecutive victories recorded by Alberto Ascari. Ascari’s record was set over the season’s 1952-1953 and is only applicable if the Indianapolis 500 (in which Ascari and other ‘regular’ F-1 drivers did not participate) is discounted.
• Interlagos historically has provided excellent overtaking opportunities. In the modern times Turns One & Two (Senna S) and Turns Four & Five (Descida do Lago) have provided the bulk of the overtaking action. Records show that from 30 races at this circuit, pole position has only led to victory on 10 occasions. The only driver to win from pole this century is Felipe Massa, who managed the feat in both ’06 and ’08.
• This is Mark Webber’s final grand prix. To date, the Australian has 214 grand prix starts, nine victories, 32 other podium finishes, 13 pole positions and 18 fastest laps. He has twice finished third in the Drivers’ Championship (’10, ’11). His first F1 race was the 2002 Australian Grand Prix, in which he finished fifth, driving for Minardi.
► This weekend F-1 also says goodbye to Cosworth for the immediate future. The engine privateer has powered 176 F-1 victories, second in the all-time list behind Ferrari. It’s most recent victory was at this circuit in 2003: Jordan’s Giancarlo Fisichella awarded the win after a red flag. Cosworth also recorded its most recent pole position here, Nico Hülkenberg taking P1 for Williams in 2010.