Ferrari previews Brazil
Brazil will be hosting the two biggest global sporting events, the Olympics and the football World Cup in the next few years, but both these great occasions will have their work cut out matching the excitement generated in recent times by the Brazilian round of the Formula 1 World Championship.
2010 will mark the thirty eighth edition of this race. In the early days of its history it would serve as the season opener, but since 2004 it has more usually brought the curtain down on the year's racing and as such, has been the scene of some dramatic championship deciders.
This year, the scenic and spectacular Interlagos circuit hosts the penultimate round of the season and the battle for the Drivers' crown could not be closer: Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's Spanish driver, Fernando Alonso is ahead on points with 231 to his name, but in fourth place, Sebastian Vettel is just 25 points - equivalent to one race win - behind, with Mark Webber second on 220, ten points more than third placed Lewis Hamilton.
In theory, Fernando has a mathematical chance of clinching the title this Sunday, but it would require major misfortune to befall his rivals.
"It is unlikely to decide the outcome, but it will be a very important race," is the opinion of Scuderia Ferrari's Team Principal Stefano Domenicali. "If one were to lose valuable points here it would make Abu Dhabi a bigger call."
Within the Maranello team, everyone has heeded Domenicali's advice following victory in Korea to keep their feet on the ground.
"The approach the team will adopt in these final weeks of the championship will be the right one, keeping in mind the strengths of our rivals, Red Bull and McLaren," says Domenicali. "We have seen how complicated the races have been throughout the season, which means we have to be very careful. As far as the F10 is concerned, there will be a few small updates on the aerodynamic front, but nothing really significant, because the difference will come from reliability, from finishing the races without losing points and having the right mindset.”
“However, I think the F10 can be competitive in Brazil and that, for better or for worse, the relative strengths are those we have seen in the last few races. We can expect to find that Red Bull is again very strong, while McLaren could have some more updates to be quicker still and we will be in the fight."
The Brazilian "fight" is one that Ferrari has won a total of ten times, including two victories for Felipe Massa in 2006 and 2008.
"Brazil is Felipe's home race and knowing him the way I do, I am sure there will be that little bit extra motivation to do well," affirms Domenicali. "He will want to show his fans what he can do so I expect him to be very much up for the fight, doing all he can to win. He will be very quick, which is exactly what we need right now to reach our goals."
Felipe himself is really looking forward to racing in front of his fans....
"This was the race I missed most last year, when I had to sit out the final part of the season after the accident in Budapest," says the Paulista. "After sitting it out in 2009, it would be great to get back to winning ways, especially as it would be vital in terms of the fight for both championships."
Alonso has never won here, but a third place in Interlagos was enough to give the Spaniard his first world championship crown in 2005, while a second place in Brazil the following year saw him retain his title for a second year.
"Fernando will tackle the race at Interlagos in the same way he tackled the last few rounds, which means with great determination, keeping in mind that the key is to finish the race and, unless something unpredictable happens, that would mean bringing home a big points haul," reckons Domenicali.
As for our championship contender, Alonso is well aware what an unpredictable race this can be.
"We will tackle this round with the same spirit in which we went into the last few races, which means concentrating on our own work, determined to make the most of every opportunity, aware that the totting up will be done in Abu Dhabi after the final race," says the Spaniard. "The track is very interesting and usually produces a spectacular race. The weather, which can be very changeable, could play an important role and we will have to be ready for any eventuality. With such a short and quick track, the gaps will be reduced and there will be a lot of drivers all within a few tenths."
Domenicali has witnessed many exciting races during his long career with the Scuderia, so we asked him to pick his best and worst memories of this fascinating event...
"I would say my best memory of the Brazilian Grand Prix goes back to the 2007 race. It was the final round and we went into it seventeen points down, so to come out of it with Kimi winning the Drivers' title and taking the Constructors' championship with him and Felipe was truly memorable from a sporting point of view. The worst memory would have to be 2008 and what I would describe as 'Felipe's final corner.'”
“As he crossed the line he was world champion and then, unfortunately, after a few seconds the title was just handed to Lewis Hamilton. That was a difficult moment, although the bitterness was eased slightly by the fact we won the Constructors' title that year. For Felipe and the team, that was a really difficult moment. What was an extraordinary moment in our sport was to see how Felipe reacted a few moments after the end of the race, when he stood on the podium, displaying admirable self control, as did the team, displaying his and the team's great sense of sportsmanship." Ferrari PR