Friday, 25 November 2011

Brazilian Grand Prix, November 27

Few fans are as passionate as the chanting, samba drum-wielding Brazilian crowds that cram into Interlagos each year.Having cheered Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna to championships in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, they expect great things from their modern day heroes Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello.The pressure seemed to jinx Barrichello, who had a series of disastrous Brazilian Grands Prix and has only once made the podium at home.But in 2006 Massa ended the drought and dominated at Interlagos to the delight of his countrymen – and then repeated the feat in 2008, although it wasn’t quite enough to bring him the title.

Having recently settled near the tail end of the calendar, it has become the scene for many title denouements, and the organizers hope that will be the case again this year as it reclaims the season-closing slot that Abu Dhabi had taken for the past two seasons.Fernando Alonso clinched both his championships at Interlagos, Kimi Raikkonen edged out Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in 2007’s three-way thriller, Hamilton claimed the 2008 title in the most dramatic of circumstances with his final corner move in the rain, and then in 2009 Jenson Button tigered through the field to secure his first crown.

Even when not deciding a title, Interlagos is rarely dull, as the bizarre 2003 event, won by Giancarlo Fisichella and Jordan amid downpours, mega-shunts and organisational confusion, demonstrated particularly well.The Sao Paulo circuit was first used as a Formula 1 venue in the 1970s, but fell out of favour when the more exotic location of Rio pitched for the race.While the city may have been more glamorous, Rio’s circuit didn’t match the challenge posed by mighty Interlagos, which returned to the calendar in shortened – but still demanding – form in 1990.The track is bumpy, the ramshackle facilities somehow escape the kind of official censure that the likes of Silverstone have received, and Sao Paulo itself can be a fearsome place for travellers.

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