The F1 paddock travels to the Brazilian Grand Prix for the final race of the season (Race: 5pm GMT, Sunday) with the drivers’ championship battle between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso set to reach its conclusion.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was the winner last week in Austin, Texas, but it was second placed Vettel who secured the better finish of the two title contenders, finishing one place ahead of Alonso to extend his championship lead to 13 points going into the final round.
That advantage means that if Alonso wins in Brazil, Vettel can afford to finish fourth and still win the title. If Alonso finishes second, Vettel can finish seventh, Alonso third, Vettel eighth, and so on. If Vettel fails to finish then Alonso would need to finish third or higher to be crowned champion.
All things being equal, one would expect Vettel to come away from Brazil as a three-time world champion. However the Sao Paulo weather may yet intervene to mix up the field and provide similar entertainment to that seen in recent title deciders at the Interlagos circuit, most notably in 2008.
Current forecasts predict rain on both Saturday and Sunday. While Vettel and his Red Bull team will be frantically engaging in anti-rain dances, Alonso and Ferrari will be rubbing their hands with glee at the possibility of interference from the elements. That could bring about the unlikely circumstances that would result in Alonso being named world champion.
The strong possibility of rain is certain to cause at least some havoc during qualifying, especially if the intensity increases or lessens in the middle of the session. For instance, in 2009 both McLarens, one Ferrari, one Red Bull and championship leader Jenson Button were all caught out and qualified 14th or lower.
With this in mind, it is difficult to predict how qualifying will turn out, as there are any number of factors that will determine whether or not the quicker cars and drivers are able to perform to their true capabilities.
There have been just two wet qualifying sessions this year, in Britain and Germany, and on both occasions Alonso qualified on pole. Ferrari may now be slower relative to other teams – Red Bull especially – than they were at that stage of the season, but Alonso is a wily character and is capable of getting his car onto the front row in wet conditions.
Nico Hulkenberg sprang a huge surprise at Interlagos back in 2010 when he qualified on pole position for Williams on a drying track and although a performance of similar majesty is unlikely, he has a very good chance of making it into the top ten shootout.
Hulkenberg has reached the final session of qualifying in four of the last five Grand Prix and also qualified in the top ten in both of the wet qualifying sessions this year. Determined to put in a strong performance for Force India in his final race before moving to Sauber, he can be expected to do so again.
With rain also expected on Sunday it is likely to be an unpredictable race which, as their fortunes vacillate, will induce a roller coaster of emotions for the two championship contenders.
In such circumstances it is difficult to predict an outright winner, especially with the possibility that the grid will be mixed up following a wet qualifying session the day before. Therefore it is safer to bet on a market such as a top six finish, which has greater margin for error.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa has an excellent record at his home track, winning twice and finishing fifth or higher in four of his last five races at the circuit. He is currently in good form, having finished in the top six in six of the last eight races and looks a good bet to do so again.
With a windy first corner complex followed by a long straight that does little to separate the cars going into the tighter infield section, first lap incidents are frequent at the Brazilian Grand Prix, often requiring the use of the safety car to slow down the drivers while wreckage is removed from the circuit.
The safety car has been deployed in seven of the last ten races at Interlagos and with rain adding to the potential for mayhem is likely to see use again this weekend.
F1 Brazilian Grand Prix Betting Tips Advice
- Back Fernando Alonso to qualify in the top two @ 7/2 with SkyBet.
- Bet on Nico Hulkenberg to reach qualifying session three @ 4/6 with Ladbrokes.
- Back Felipe Massa to finish in the top six @ 8/15 with Bet365 or Stan James.
- Bet on the safety car to be deployed @ 1/2 with Stan James.