Brazil – update

Just a few notes on what’s going on down in Brazil at the moment.

Title Decider
F1’s points system runs 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 and Lewis Hamilton has a 7 point lead over Felipe Massa. They are tied on 5 wins apiece.

This is what LEWIS HAMILTON needs in order to win the title:

Finish in the top five (even if Massa wins).
Alternatively: Massa to finish 3rd or lower no matter where Hamilton places.

That’s it. Sounds easy, right? Last year proved it isn’t.

This is what FELIPE MASSA needs in order to win the title:

Finish 1st with Hamilton 6th or worse (tiebreaker on wins per below).
Finish 2nd with Hamilton 8th or worse.
Finishing 3rd will only give him 6 points so won’t cover the existing deficit.

If Hamilton finishes 6th and Massa wins the race it is a tie on points and the title would go to Massa based on number of wins.

It is worth remembering that if they are tied on points and tied on wins the title will be decided on the ‘quality of results’ system. That’s the number of 2nd-place finishes, if it is still a deadlock it goes to # of 3rds, and all the way down until a winner is found.

Ferrari have an 11 point lead over McLaren. For McLaren to win the Constructors’ title they need to outscore Ferrari by 12 points which just isn’t going to happen realistically is it? They do need to keep tabs on BMW who can take 2nd position from them – Kovalainen needs to be on his game as do the two BMW drivers.

My prediction: Massa to win the race, Hamilton to finish on the podium and take the title. It won’t ‘feel’ right if the title-winner isn’t on the podium, always a nice symmetry and he gets to celebrate with the crowd. Ferrari will get the Constructors’ title.

The forecast for the weekend is for showers, indeed FP2 was held in such conditions. It will rain tomorrow but maybe not during qualifying, though the track may already be wet. Showers are possible during the race on Sunday.

Hamilton is great in the wet and the Mclaren is more suited to it than the Ferrari. The outcome of the title could depend on which Felipe Massa turns up. There’s the guy who was quick in the wet in Monaco, and the guy who threw it away (5 times) at Silverstone. I think the former will appear with this being his home race.

Let’s hope this fight isn’t decided by a Safety Car or a stewards’ decision.

One thing to note if it does rain heavily is that last time it did, in 2003, a large river of water crossed the track after the Senna ‘S’, creating the most expensive parking area for damaged cars in the world. The track has been resurfaced since ’03 so hopefully that won’t happen again.

Check this for a review of ’03 (with crappy music), featuring lots of overtaking, Montoya’s great driving and the two huge crashes which ended the race:

If it rains on Sunday let’s hope we get the great racing without the big crashes!

David Coulthard
This will be David Coulthard’s last Formula 1 Grand Prix. To mark the occasion his car has been painted in the colours of Red Bull’s own charity, Wings For Life. F1 teams are not allowed to run cars in two colour schemes without unanimous agreement from the team bosses (you might remember BAR trying that in 1999 and having to run that ridiculous livery with 555 on one side and Lucky Strike on the other). This time it is all for a good cause as well as DC being a popular paddock figure, so they of course agreed.

David remains with Red Bull as chief test driver and consultant, and a strong persistent rumour since July has been that he’ll join the BBC’s broadcast team in one role or another and will attend each race in that capacity. I look forward to it – he can be funny and outspoken!

Helmet Cam
The Straw Poll column at reports that F1 will be trying out the Helmet Cam this weekend, similar to the one pioneered in Champ Car a few years ago. I remember seeing the view from Paul Tracy at Long Beach and being amazed at the acceleration of the car! I can’t wait to see the F1 version.
Read the whole of that column for Friday (it is daily during F1 weekends) for a brilliant story of the Canadian Formula Una girl’s application for a visa!

I’ll see you for the notes after the race on Sunday, which will be the last race I watch live this season (before I hit my big pile of recordings!).
I’d like to do notes on qualifying to mark the end of season but I’ll have been chasing a little white ball around a golf course. We’ll be rushing back to watch qualifying and it’ll be away from a PC.

Enjoy the race!


Preview: 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix

Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo, Brazil

The circuit is more widely known as Interlagos, which is the original name of the track and means ‘between the lakes’. It was renamed thirty years ago for a Brazilian driver killed in a plane crash – Pace scored his only F1 win at Interlagos.

Click the link above to see the track layout in the 1970s compared to the layout today. This week you’ll hear the drivers speak of the direction of travel being an issue on their neck muscles. It is rare in Formula 1 to have an anti-clockwise track which I’m sure your average NASCAR or IndyCar driver would find quite funny…
Normally the drivers train for lots of right-handers on a clockwise track, they have to train specifically for this track (and now these days Istanbul as well) which runs the other way, and particularly because of the long, steep uphill left-hander at the end of the circuit, beginning at Junção.

The track itself is notorious for being the bumpiest of the season, something which was largely cured last season after a complete relaying of the asphalt, though many bumps still remained. They may well appear again this year! The facilities in general are not up to scratch per F1 standards, however because it isn’t a European track nobody seems to mind so much. Under an agreement signed in March the GP will remain at Interlagos under the proviso that pit and paddock facilities are improved over the coming years.

There are also frequent crime problems with members of the Toyota team being mugged a few years ago and similar incidents reported from time to time.

The Brazilian GP was often held at the beginning of the year and was the season-opener until 1996 when Melbourne took over, relegating Sau Paulo to 2nd event. In 2004 Brazil was moved to the end of the year, being the season closer every year since except for 2005. In 2009 the new Abu Dhabi circuit is scheduled to be the finale with Interlagos being the preceding event.

Ferrari have walked the last two runnings of this event, however McLaren hold the most wins with 11 to Ferrari’s 9 and Williams’ 6. This is assuming Wikipedia is correct which isn’t guaranteed.

Felipe Massa these days is largely untouchable at his home track so I would expect him to dominate this weekend, however it depends on how his head holds. Lewis Hamilton faces the same problem but more so, since he threw it away last year with a mistake before a gearbox problem ended his race anyway. That sort of thing has got to mess with your head even if only a little bit.
I also expect Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso to play a large part in this race, with Robert Kubica and maybe Nick Heidfeld also getting amongst it. The rest won’t be able to live with the pace.

I’ll be back in a day or two with the points break-down and what Lewis and Felipe have to do to win the World Championship.

I think this race is pretty favourable to most people around the world, though maybe not the Antipodeans. That means there’s no excuses, you have to watch this race live alongside live timing!
(you do need to register for free and have Java installed, I suggest doing so before the weekend)

Qualifying is at 2pm local, 11am US EST, 4pm UK, 5pm CET.

Racing begins at 3pm local, Midday US EST, 5pm UK, 6pm CET. Check your listings because you want to watch the pre-race show, right?

(Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks and Springboks who take James & Martin’s coverage note that you’ll probably get the BBC feed next season)