The Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo often produces exciting races and with most championship battles now settled, entertainment will be the primary interest at this weekend’s Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 12:10 ET).
Lewis Hamilton sealed his fifth F1 Drivers’ Championship with a fourth-place finish in Mexico two weeks ago. Max Verstappen won the race for Red Bull, with the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen filling out the podium.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas came home fifth, which meant that while Ferrari were able to erode some of Mercedes’ advantage in the Constructors’ Championship, the gap remains highly favourable for the German marque ahead of the final two races.
Ferrari could secure one-two finishes in Brazil and again in Abu Dhabi and Mercedes would still only need 22 points to win the championship – the equivalent of a sixth, a seventh and two eighths. Unless Mercedes have multiple retirements, despite only suffering two in the season to date, a fifth consecutive constructors’ championship is all but theirs.
The battle for the race win this weekend is, however, likely to be highly competitive. Vettel took victory for Ferrari last year, but there are as many as six potential winners this time around, particularly so if rain comes into play. Both Red Bull drivers always go well in the wet, and Verstappen produced an impressive drive in such conditions in the 2016 race.
It is therefore difficult to pick out a favorite to grab victory. In the circumstances, backing the Mexican Grand Prix winner Verstappen to continue his run of three consecutive podium finishes – five in the last seven races – with another such finish on Sunday looks the best bet.
Renault edged ever-closer to sealing fourth place in the constructors’ championship with a sixth-place finish for Nico Hulkenberg in Mexico. Their remaining challenger, Haas, failed to score, and Renault therefore enjoy a 30-point advantage with two races to go.
Haas seem confident that they will go well in Brazil, but there is little evidence to suggest that will be the case. They struggled for performance in the high-altitude setting in Mexico, and while Sao Paulo is closer to sea level, at 750m above, the thinner air is again likely to disrupt their package.
Romain Grosjean says that he enjoys the Interlagos circuit, but that enjoyment has not yielded many results for him over the years. He has twice retired for the race, once failed to start, thrice finished outside the top 10, and only once secured a points finish – an eighth for Lotus in 2015.
Grosjean has also been pretty erratic this year. His teammate Kevin Magnussen has nine points finishes to Grosjean’s five and 22 more points in the championship. Grosjean has retired on five occasions, four times due to involvement in accidents. All of those factors indicate that backing him not to finish on Sunday could be a solid play.
The final points positions in Mexico were filled by the Saubers of Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson, in seventh and ninth respectively, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne in eighth and the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly in 10th. After resurgent recent form, Force India had a less successful weekend, with Esteban Ocon in 11th and Sergio Perez forced to retire due to brake problems.
The team, whose points for the season were reset following their bankruptcy and takeover prior to the Belgian Grand Prix, do, however, still have McLaren’s sixth place in the constructors’ championship within their sights. Just 15 points separate them, and Force India will be confident of making some inroads into that this weekend.
Brazil has always proved to be a fertile hunting ground for Force India. At least one of their drivers has finished in the points in each of the last four races at Interlagos and they also secured top-six finishes in both 2015 and 2016. Perez finished fourth in the latter race, and will again be ready to pounce if any of the top three teams have problems this weekend.