It’s 2008 and lap 69 of the final race of the season at Interlagos, Brazil. Felipe Massa is leading a race while his championship rival, Lewis Hamilton, lies in fifth. Rain is becoming heavier and Hamilton runs wide, allowing Sebastian Vettel to sneak past demoting him to sixth. Taking the cheqeured flag at the end of lap 71, for a fleeting moment, Massa is in full belief that he is World Champion. His jubilance turns to anguish as it transpires that Timo Glock, struggling on dry tyres, is being overtaken by Lewis returning him to fifth, a position which hands the Englishman the title.
This thrilling, climactic end to the 2008 season is indicative of the unexpected developments Interlagos can conjure up. Fernando Alonso goes into the race trailing SebastianVettel by thirteen points. However, the threat of rain and Red Bull’s inferior reliability in comparison with Ferrari, could make that points difference inconsequential. As the man chasing the lead for the title, the Spaniard believes he goes into the weekend under less pressure than Sebastian Vettel. The pressure that comes with a final race title decider, affects the whole team, not just the drivers. Entering the season finale Abu Dhabi in 2010, Alonso was leading the championship by fifteen points, but suffered from a bad decision regarding pit stops, resulting in Vettel seizing the title. Inclement weather means rapid decisions need to be made about strategy and tyres, and quick decisions made in the midst of a pressurised situation can often be regretted.
This weekend’s season finale in Brazil marks the departure of a significant number of drivers, either to a different team or from the sport completely. The race will no doubt be an emotional one for Michael Schumacher as he drives a Formula 1 car competitively for the final time before his second retirement. During the driver’s press conference he maintained that he was happy to “try a different way of life again”, but seemed less than convinced by his own words. The Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo was also the setting of his first farewell to the sport in 2006, that time as a title contender. Due to less pressure this time, he believes he can enjoy his last race and “savour the moment more.” Let’s hope he is given this opportunity and that the bad luck he has suffered this season regarding reliability, doesn’t rear it’s ugly head at the most untimely moment.
Questions to Lewis Hamilton during the drivers press conference appeared to rouse emotions regarding his move from McLaren to Mercedes stating he has, “only happy memories.” He will be hoping to score a great finish in his final race, as will Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg who complete their farewell drives for Sauber and Force India respectively. Kamui Kobayashi, Bruno Senna and Heikki Kovalainen will be fighting hard to save their seats for next season, then throw Brazilian passion into the mix in the form of Senna and Massa, and you have a veritable explosion of emotive racing.
Fuse all of these extra elements to a Driver’s Championship teetering on the edge of a precipice, and the result is highly charged racing under which circumstances, anything can happen.