F1: Brazilian Grand Prix Preview

Daniel RicciardoFollowing his victory in the United States, Lewis Hamilton will hope to inch a step closer to winning the 2014 Formula One Drivers’ Championship at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 16:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports F1).

Hamilton extended his championship lead over Nico Rosberg to 24 points by leading his teammate home to a Mercedes one-two last weekend. Rosberg pipped Hamilton to pole position, but the British driver emerged victorious by virtue of his stronger race pace.

Under normal circumstances, Hamilton would have been able to wrap up the championship at this weekend’s penultimate Grand Prix of the season. However, with double points on offer at the final race, it is mathematically impossible for him to do so. Even if Hamilton wins and Rosberg fails to finish, his lead will be 49 points, with 50 still on offer in Abu Dhabi.

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Daniel Ricciardo (pictured) came in third for Red Bull, finishing ahead of the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas thanks to some good driving and a superior pit stop strategy.

Fernando Alonso held off Ricciardo’s teammate Sebastian Vettel to finish sixth for Ferrari.

Kevin Magnussen (McLaren), Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) and Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) rounded out the top 10. It was Maldonado’s first points finish of the season.

As in Austin, the grid will be two cars lighter this weekend, with financial difficulties preventing both Caterham and Marussia from taking part. Lotus, Force India and Sauber all threatened to boycott the race in the United States due to their dissatisfaction over the distribution of the sport’s revenues. All three are, however, expected to compete in Brazil.

The Circuit

In its contemporary form, the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo has been the venue for the Brazilian Grand Prix since 1990. The older, longer version of the track hosted the race between 1973 and 1977, and twice more in 1979 and 1980. The current layout requires the teams to find a good balance between downforce and straight-line speed.

Rain is always a possibility at this circuit and current weather forecasts suggest that both qualifying and the race will be run under wet conditions. Following discussions with the drivers, Pirelli have chosen their medium and soft compound tyres for this weekend’s event.

Mercedes

Even though Hamilton is unable to wrap up the championship this weekend, he does still enjoy one significant advantage over his teammate Rosberg coming into the final two races of the year. Even if Rosberg wins both races, two second place finishes, or third in Brazil and second in Abu Dhabi, would be sufficient for Hamilton to be named champion.

Hamilton is not normally the sort of driver to willingly settle for second but with the championship tantalisingly close he can be expected to be a little more conservative than normal this weekend.

Rosberg beat Hamilton in both qualifying and the race in Brazil last year and has placed ahead of his teammate of the time on five of the six occasions he has finished at Interlagos. The German driver therefore has a solid chance of bringing Hamilton’s five-race winning streak to a close on Sunday.

The Race

Vettel has been the slower of the Red Bull drivers for much of the year, but he should be considered the more likely of the two to secure a podium finish this weekend. Ricciardo has freely admitted that he struggles to get to grips with Interlagos, while Vettel is a two-time winner at the circuit and has never finished lower than sixth in Brazil.

Williams have been Red Bull’s primary competition for podium finishes throughout the season, but they have struggled badly in wet conditions. With rain forecast for this weekend, Red Bull and Vettel can be fancied to finish in the top three on Sunday.

Force India failed to score points for only the second time this season in the United States, with both of their cars retiring from the race. They are, though, still in with a chance of pipping McLaren to fifth in the constructors’ championship and seem optimistic that they will have good pace this weekend.

Nico Hulkenberg has finished eighth or higher in each of his three previous races at the Interlagos circuit. He also qualified on pole position for Williams in changeable conditions back in 2010. With wet weather expected, the German driver will be confident of achieving another strong result on Sunday.

In the right circumstances, Hulkenberg is capable of securing his seventh top six finish of the season.

Lotus enjoyed their strongest race in quite some time last weekend, with Maldonado finishing ninth and Grosjean coming through from last on the grid to finish just outside the points in 11th. Grosjean was particularly happy with the balance of the car.

Grosjean and Maldonado are both big fans of the Interlagos circuit, despite retirements having hampered the majority of their previous visits to the track. Of the pair it is Grosjean, with two points finishes to Maldonado’s one so far this season and strong qualifying pace in Brazil last year, who looks best placed to steer the team to another top 10 finish on Sunday.

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