The Formula 1 season climaxes this weekend at Interlagos, the cauldron in Sao Paulo, with a fiery atmosphere and wild fans famed for its tendency of serving up unpredictable, sometimes even chaotic races.
The name Interlagos evokes many great moments in F1 fans’ minds: Ayrton Senna collapsing after claiming victory with his car stuck in 6th gear in 1993, Michael Schumacher charging through the field after suffering a puncture in his final race for Ferrari in 2006 and Lewis Hamilton passing Timo Glock for the world championship at the final corner on the final lap to snatch the title from Felipe Massa.
The fiery and passionate atmosphere provided by the F1-mad Sao Paulo locals is often cranked up even further when the circuit is host to a championship deciding race such as this Sunday’s, when either Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel will be crowned as a 3-time World Champion, becoming just the ninth and youngest man to win at least three titles.
Sebastian Vettel goes into the weekend as the heavy favourite equipped with his superior Red Bull and a 13 point championship lead. Vettel only needs to finish fourth if Alonso wins in order to secure the championship, just seventh if Alonso takes second place, and if Alonso doesn’t get on the podium Vettel is champion even if he retires.
In Vettel’s favour the unpredictable reputation of the track is contradicted by the recent record book. A Red Bull has won there for the past three years with Sebastian Vettel leading a Red Bull one-two for the past two years.
But, Alonso’s task isn’t impossible. The chance of rain during Sunday is 40% which would definitely mix things up and the Red Bull has lately appeared very shaky reliability wise. Mark Webber –Vettel’s team-mate – suffered an alternator failure at last weekend’s US grand prix which was the third such failure in a Red Bull this season.
Gate-crashing this duel is McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, on scintillating form. In Abu Dhabi he was heading for a dominant win until his McLaren let him down and in Austin last weekend he chased Vettel superbly and then passed him after taking full advantage of an opportunity supplied by an errant backmarker.
In his final race for McLaren at the track where he took his lone championship, it will be an emotional weekend for the Briton before he embarks on the daunting challenge of winning in a Mercedes. Hamilton is driving as well as he ever has done and the depths of his rocky 2011 season seem well and truly behind him.
This weekend also marks Michael Schumacher’s second retirement. With his dire Mercedes he’s unlikely to go out on a high like he did with his charge through the field in his first retirement race. Instead the seven times champion is likely to be in a struggle to get a point.
It looks like being an historic season finale worthy of this historic F1 season.