Brazil: The Race That Decides The 2008 F1 Driver's Champion
Interlagos, Brazil, was the home circuit of the late Ayrton Senna, considered by many as the best technically competent driver ever in Formula 1. Next weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix is the 18th and final race of the 2008 F1 season; it will also be the penultimate challenge between two drivers and two F1 teams in determining the F1 Driver's Championship and F1 Constructor's Championship for 2008.
Lewis Hamilton (Vodafone McLaren Mercedes) and Felipe Massa (Ferrari) will submit their skills to the corners and straights of the Interlagos circuit in a challenge for the Formula 1 Driver's Championship title. The combined race finishing order of Lewis Hamiton and Heikki Kovalianen in the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 F1 car versus Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari F2008 F1 car, will also determine the winner of the F1 Constructors Championship. The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team has an 11 point disadvantage to overcome, so a 1-2 finish for them would certainly make them happy.
Felipe Massa has the Brazilian crowd behind him as this is his home race, but his challenge is to overcome the seven point lead that Lewis Hamilton has accumulated (94:Hamilton vs. 87:Massa) and to do this he will have to place first or second and Hamilton score no points in order to take the title.
The Sao Paulo Interlagos circuit was constructed in the late 1930's and the first Formula 1 race on the circuit was in 1972 as a non-championship event, with the circuit officially becoming part of the F1 series in 1973. The current Interlagos circuit is 4.3 km in distance and today's track profile has remained virtually the same since 1990. The McLaren team has won the Brazilian Grand Prix 11 times, including six wins on the Interlagos circuit. The all-time highest winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix was Alain Prost, with six F1 wins, followed by Michel Schumacher with four, and the late Ayrton Senna won in Brazil twice.
Lewis Hamilton was recently asked his views about driving the Interlagos circuit and this is what he had to say, "I love the circuit: It's in this incredible natural arena that is just amazing to race on. And it's anti-clockwise too - so it presents an additional challenge to the drivers. The track always seems to provide good close racing. One of the reasons for that is because there's a long straight leading up to the first corner, and you can slipstream other cars and overtake into Turn 1."
Lewis was asked about the late Ayrton Senna's relationship with Brazil and the Interlagos circuit, and he indicated he held the driving talent of Senna in the highest regard. Hamilton said "Ayrton has always been my favourite driver. I think he's the best driver there ever was, and still to this day, I don't believe anyone would beat him. If I could achieve just a small part of what he achieved, it would be a dream for me."
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 Team, indicated that the Interlagos circuit is bumpy and hence the team and race engineers spend a lot of time finding a technical balance between harshness and overall control and speed. He said, "The track itself is situated at a fairly high altitude which has a knock-on effect on engine horsepower and downforce, both of which are a little lower than at a regular circuit. For this race, we'll also be looking at the possibility of running Lewis's engine in a safer setting, so it has a bit more margin than normal. It's something we do throughout the season, but clearly there's a greater need to be safe this weekend."