F1 / Preview / Brazilian Grand Prix

Brazilian Grand Prix

With rain very definately on the horizon and a few surprises in qualifying, this race should be anything but dull and there's  little to split the front two on the grid.

Mark Webber celebrates his win at the 2009 Brazilian GP

Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo

Jenson Button could clinch the drivers’ title this weekend and any podium finish would seal it. In fact, only if Button were to fail to finish in the two remaining races, can we see him being denied the championship and only two of the last ten leaders at this stage have had a retirement in one of the remaining two races and not since 1992 has a championship leader retired in both.

Another factor in Button’s favour is that his principal rival, Rubens Barrichello, has failed to finish in 11 of his 16 grand prix at his home track and only once finished on the podium. However Button may have to wait a race for his crown as since the Brazilian Grand Prix moved to its current place on the schedule, a championship leader (5) has yet to win at Interlagos and his main rival, Barrichello, starts from pole whereas Button is back on the seventh row.

However rain is forecast and in such conditions, especially at Interlagos, anything can happen.

Past winners

The Brazilian Grand Prix is dominated by those starting at the head of the grid. Of the last 18 winners, only two have started worse than third and hardly surprising that both those were staged in aquaplaning conditions. If you exclude Felipe Massa’s gift to Kimi Raikkonen two years ago then 11 of the other 12 winners won from the front row.

Performances in preceding races is of less relevance here than elsewhere because only the last five races have been staged this late in the calendar.

Although only two of the last 21 top three qualifiers have retired, only once in seven years have these three filled the podium and not since 1998 has the front row finished first and second. In the past five years, only one driver from Q2 has scored points whereas prior to 2004 it was a regular occurrence.

Leading Qualifiers

It’s five years since Rubens Barrichello (Pole) started from the front but he’s converted only five of his 13 poles into wins with nine podiums. If the race starts wet, he’ll have a big advantage as such conditions favours the fastest qualifier and the last four to race in such conditions have all won.

Alongside Barrichello is Mark Webber (2nd) seeking his second career win but his previous four starts from second on the grid have yielded no wins or podiums and only one points scoring race. Starts from close to the front in the wet for his team have produced mixed results and he’s seeking his first points in Brazil, although only two of his seven previous races were from a top-10 position.

Force India continue to show strong late season form but whilst Adrian Sutil’s (3rd) qualifying has been strong of late, he hasn’t done a great deal on raceday and he did slip to fourth from second at Monza.

Jarno Trulli (4th) has failed to make Q3 almost as many times as he’s started top 10 this season and as only two of this eight top-10 starts have delivered an improvement on raceday, we’d see him going backwards in the race, especially as he’s yet to finish on the podium in 12 races at Interlagos.  

Other top-10 qualifiers

Kimi Raikkonen (5th) has especially fond memories of this track as it’s where he claimed his title two years ago. Since his very first race here, he’s always qualified fifth or better and five of seven have resulted in a podium.

We don’t know how Sebastian Buemi (6th) may fare because he’s never started this far up the grid and the team has shown little this season with a couple of 10th’s being the best previous qualifications.

For much of the extended qualifying session Nico Rosberg (7th) was dreaming of his first ever pole as track conditions may have prevented a resumption. He’s never done a great deal from this position though but has scored points in 10/13 top-10 starts this season.

Robert Kubica (8th) has had eight top-10 starts this season and scored points in four with the best being a fourth from the third row in Belgium.

In five previous Q3 qualifications, Kazuki Nakajima (9th) has scored points only once but has failed to finish in only 1/7 wet races.

Fernando Alonso (10th) has had a mixed season but when finishing has done so in a higher position than he’s started in seven of his last nine races. He’s always done well for Renault here and scored points in 9/14 wet races from the top 10.

Best of the rest

How Button (14th) would have wished qualifying had been halted after the first session but instead of starting sixth, he’s finds himself way down the grid and likely to start alongside Vettel, if Liuzzi takes a hit for a gear box change. We’ve already mentioned that cars starting outside Q3 have struggled here in recent years to score points, so Button may need rain to eliminate some of those further up the grid. He failed to finish in Belgium from this position but has finished equal or better than his starting position in 12/15 races. Although his maiden win in Hungary was from 14th in the wet, he’s scored points, albeit with an inferior package, in only one other race from outside the top 10 when the spray has been flying (14 races).
Another concern for Button is that he’s surrounded by inexperienced drivers – Sebastian Grosjean (2/5 N/F) and Jaime Alquersuari (4/6 N/F) both of whom have gone out early in races and could well take out the championship leader.

In the past 20 years, only 10 drivers who have won 1-3 races prior to the final few races of the season have started 15th or worse as Vettel (16th) and Hamilton (18th) do. Only two scored points and five failed to finish. Hamilton has never scored points in four attempts from this far down the grid, but Vettel has in 3/9 races (two in the wet) as he starts his first race of this season outside the top-10.  

Our View

The biggest smile after qualifying will have been that of Bernie Ecclestone’s as the drivers title looks likely to be settled in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi. Barrichello needs five more points than Button to make that happen and a win should guarantee him that. However, it is five years since he last fronted the grid; he hasn’t a great record at Interlagos, and is scheduled to stop a couple of laps before those closest to him on the grid.

Mark Webber’s Red Bull is probably the fastest car on the circuit and whilst he has pledged to do all he can to assist his team-mate’s slim championship hopes, the fact that Vettel is no where close to him on the grid means he can concentrate solely on his own race. Barrichello is best priced at 2.74, Mark Webber 3.05. Interestingly, in the past ten years, 55% of drivers who won mid season as Webber did, won another race that year.

Raikkonen at 13.5 might have been an each way choice considering how he likes this track and it’s where his team have triumphed for the past three years, but Ferrari are concentrating on next year and are not as competitive as they were when the Finn won from sixth at another favoured track – Spa – four races ago.

With Button, Vettel and Hamilton all starting down the grid, the top-10 line up has an unfamiliar look about it. Trulli is fourth favourite to make podium, just ahead of Sutil, but the Frenchman is too inconsistent and the German, whilst on the cusp of claiming a first ever podium, just lacks experience from the front of the grid to satisfy us. Furthermore, Sutil may get jumped by the KERS of Raikkonen at the start.

Button has real problems with three inexperienced drivers ahead of him and a couple of KERS just behind. The funnel effect of the first two corners will certainly give him plenty to think about and it’s surprising that he’s longer priced (5.0) not to finish than many of those at the front of the grid.

The weather is the big imponderable for this race. There should be rain but when and of what intensity is difficult to predict. If it’s heavy at the start that should favour Barrichello as he would benefit from clearer visibility and should build a lead to protect his earlier pitstop; dry or light rain and we would support Mark Webber and, if dry, expect Vettel to make significant progress from the rear. Our advice is to wait and see what the track conditions are like just before the start.

Heavy rain at the start or if the race starts behind a safety car
Barrichello win at 2.74

Light Rain or Dry
Webber win at 3.05

Any conditions
Lay Button points finish if 2.5 or lower



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