There’s something about Interlagos. The anticlockwise Formula One (F1) track in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is the road that has led to the championship title consistently this decade—Fernando Alonso raced to his here in 2005 and 2006, Kimi Räikkönen snatched the title from debutant Lewis Hamilton in the final two rounds in 2007, Hamilton then came back here to win a dramatic season by one point in 2008, and Jenson Button grabbed both the driver’s title and the contructors’ championship for the now defunct Brawn GP in a technically brilliant race in 2009.
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Not surprising then that Interlagos is the setting for yet another edge-of-the-seat finish to a F1 season, with no less than five drivers queueing up for a podium finish on 7 November. Ferrari’s Alonso, who edged out Red Bull’s Mark Webber from the top of the drivers’ standings after winning the Korean GP on 24 October, now has a golden chance to make it a hat-trick of titles at Interlagos. The championship will go to the Spaniard if he scores 15 points more than Webber, four more than Hamilton and finishes ahead of Sebastian Vettel at the Brazil Grand Prix.
“We’ll have to keep our feet on the ground,” Alonso told AFP. “The slightest mistake will count all the more in that there will only be one or two hundredths of a second in it between several cars in front and behind. So we shall have to be perfect.”
Webber lost control of his car and the championship race in Korea, running wide on a corner and smashing into a wall before ricocheting back on to the track and crashing into Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes. Teammate Vettel’s engine failed 10 laps from the finish, taking both Red Bull drivers out of the equation and paving the way for Alonso to win the race.
“I am back at the top of the standings, something which hadn’t happened since Australia,” Alonso said, “but we know with the points system and the gaps there are (between the title contenders), positions count for little. You only need a race such as the one we had in Korea for everything to turn around. All the same, it’s always better to be in front than behind!”
Australian motorsport legend and three-time F1 champion Jack Brabham was not upbeat about fellow Australian Webber’s chances.
“He (Webber) was there with a (14)-point lead so now he’s back in the grid and that’s going to make it very, very difficult.” Brabham told Australian Associated Press. “(Webber’s series win) would mean a lot to me and it would mean a lot to Australia, but unfortunately, his real opportunity has been blown last weekend (24 October).”
Despite Brabham’s contention, both Webber—11 points behind Alonso—and Vettel, who is a further 14 points adrift, can win the title. Red Bull chief Christian Horner too believes that both his drivers are in with a chance, and has declared that both of them will be asked to go for the title, instead of Vettel driving in a supporting role for Webber.
“It’s not easy, but I can still do it, absolutely,” Webber told AFP after the Korean GP.
British driver Hamilton, who finished second in Korea, will be hoping for a repeat of his thrilling finish in 2008, where he passed Toyota’s Timo Glock in the final corner of the race to take the fifth position he needed to win the title.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, it’s a small chance but that’s all I need to keep pushing,” Hamilton said.
The Interlagos circuit introduces such a level of unpredictability in the title race that even defending champion and McLaren driver Jenson Button, who is 42 points behind Alonso, is hopeful of turning things around.
“In Formula One, you just never know,” Button said at a press conference. “It’s totally possible that I could win at Interlagos, take home maximum points and have none of the other title contenders finish. If it’s another wet race, that could easily happen.”