F1 Power Rankings: Brazilian Grand Prix

After eight months and nineteen races, the 2012 Formula One World Championship comes down to the 20th and final race. Red Bull may have clinched the World Constructors’ Championship in the United States but the World Drivers’ Championship is still up for grabs. Sebastian Vettel leads Fernando Alonso by 13 points heading into the Brazilian Grand Prix but history shows that the battle for the title isn’t over. In 2010, Vettel won his first championship by overcoming 15 point gap to Alonso in the final race of the season. When race wins were only worth 10 points, Kimi Raikkonen came from 7 points back to win the 2007 World Championship.

Can Alonso come from behind to win the title and how does Vettel rate his chances of becoming a three-time World Champion? I examine this and more in this week’s Formula One Power Rankings.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
You have to wonder if Vettel is feeling any pressure right now. All he has to do is finish in the top four to win the Championship. Apart from that alternator failure in Italy, Seb has finished on the podium in every race since the summer break. You’d have to go back to July’s German Grand Prix for Vettel’s last finish lower than 4th. If he slips, though, he may be in trouble. Apart from two crashes at the start, Alonso hasn’t finished off the podium since the summer break either.

#2 Fernando Alonso (LR #2)
There’s one race left and Alonso has 13 points to make up. I went over his chances to win in my US GP recap but the long and short of it is that he needs Vettel to have bad luck. A flat tyre or an alternator failure would be the best case scenario for Alonso. Basically, Alonso needs luck to win the title. There’s nothing scientific Alonso can do to win. Just drive fast and hope that Vettel can’t.

#3 Lewis Hamilton (LR #4)
Old Louise talks about his final race for the team that groomed him into a world champion: “Brazil has been the scene of some epic races for me during my time at Vodafone McLaren Merecedes and, for many reasons, this weekend will be a very big race for me… As my final race behind the wheel of a McLaren, I vow to the whole team that I’ll give it my all on every single lap. My win in Austin last week was one of the races of my life, and I’d love to take victory in Brazil this weekend to give the team the perfect farewell present.”

#4 Felipe Massa (LR #6)
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali talks about Alonso’s chances of winning the WDC: “Pragmatically speaking we know that the result has to be better. We have to be in front of Sebastian and we need some drivers in the middle, without thinking of the worst-case scenario. And this is the approach that we have to have. We know that it’s not easy because he’s driving very well and he has a very quick car. But that doesn’t change what we have to do. We have to focus on our job and see what’s the outcome of the race.”

#5 Mark Webber (LR #3)
@AussieGrit can still help his teammate out in his chase for the championship. If he’s ahead of Alonso, he’s robbing the Spaniard of valuable points. However, Webber has only finished ahead of Alonso in 6 of 15 races they’ve both finished. Flipping the script, Massa is unlike to be able to hold up Vettel. Felipe hasn’t finished ahead of Seb this season. So we’re more likely to see Webber running interference than Massa. That won’t help Alonso’s chances.

#6 Jenson Button (LR #7)
Jenson thinks that the team has finally sorted out the car. It only took them until the second-to-last race of the season: “I think we showed in Austin that we have an incredibly quick car, particularly in race-trim… Traditionally, it’s not been a circuit where we’ve been at our strongest, but I think this year’s car has often been strong at tracks where we wouldn’t normally have been up there, so I think we have a chance to go for the win.”

#7 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #5)
The Iceman talks about the keys to success in Brazil: “To do well in São Paulo you need to have a very solid weekend without problems. Obviously, qualifying on the front row is very important as is a good strong all round package. Also, the engine is important for getting up the hill. I think the key factor is once again downforce, but it’s also important to have a stable car under braking. The final corner is very important to get right, because it leads onto the steep main straight.”

#8 Romain Grosjean (LR #9)
Grosjean talks about weather and altitude not affecting how Lotus plans for the race. I doubt this is what the engineers think: “To be honest the weather and altitude is not something we can change and therefore we just have to deal with it. We will plan our strategy well and just aim to be in a position to fit the right tyres at the right time. The good news is that Brazil is closer to our normal time zone so jet lag will be less hard to cure when we go back home!”

#9 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #8)
Also changing teams next year is The Hulk: “I want to thank everyone for believing in me and giving me the chance to return to Formula One this year as a race driver… It’s a great team of people; they’re fun to work with and I think we can be proud of the results we achieved together. That’s why it was not an easy decision to leave, but I’m happy to be leaving with good memories.”

#10 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #10)
Pirelli Motorsports boss Paul Hembery talks about the 2013 tyres that will be tested during Friday practice (though likely not by Vettel or Alonso): “We’ll be bringing some of our 2013 prototype tyres to Brazil in order for the teams to get a taste of them during free practice… Both the compounds and construction will be different, which means that the characteristics of the new tyres will be altered, with a wider working range and some compounds that are slightly more aggressive.”

#11 Bruno Senna (LR #14)
Bruno is basically like royalty in his homeland of Brazil. I hope he has a good run on Sunday and not just because of those now quiet rumours about becoming unemployed: “I’m extremely excited to go back home for the final race of the season. Racing at your home Grand Prix always has a different flavour to it and the energy and excitement you get from the crowd is amazing. I’ve only had the chance to race at home in Formula One twice, but on both occasions the crowd gave me an extra boost.”

#12 Pastor Maldonado (LR #16)
This is also basically a home race for Pastor too: “The Brazilian Grand Prix is very special and there’s no better place to finish the season. The atmosphere is very Latin American and the fans are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable in the world. It’s also close to Venezuela so I always see lots of Venezuelan flags around the track and lots of Venezuelan people around Sao Paolo so it feels a bit like a home Grand Prix.”

#13 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #12)
I’m really going to miss Kobayashi Maru’s fun-loving personality next season: “I like Brazil! I like the Brazilians and I like the Churrascarias… I’m really looking forward to this Grand Prix. It’s always special to race in front of the Brazilian fans because they are so enthusiastic about motorsport. I have heard from many different people that I have a lot of fans in Brazil, which is a surprise to me, but a very nice one.”

#14 Paul di Resta (LR #15)
Dario’s cousin thinks Interlagos is a tricky track for the drivers: “I enjoy the circuit, but at the same time it’s quite tricky because of the undulating layout and there are some unusual corners. It’s also quite a tough track on your neck because of the anti-clockwise layout and the high number of left-hand corners… It’s a circuit that usually produces good racing and there’s also talk of rain, which would add another element into the mix.”

#15 Nico Rosberg (LR #11)
Keke’s kid hopes that the last race of the season will be another barnburner: “The final race in Brazil should be a great occasion with the world championship going right to the end of the season. Hopefully it will be another great show for the fans after the eventful race in Austin. I hope that we can also have a positive weekend with a good performance to end our season well.”

#16 Michael Schumacher (LR #13)
Old Seven Times talks about his second retirement: “My departure from Formula One will probably be less emotional for me this time than in 2006, when we were still fighting for the championship and everything was much more intense. This time round, I will be able to pay more attention to my farewell and hopefully savour it too. I have had fantastic years in Formula One and a lot of support from fans around the world, and I wish to particularly thank them for that.”

#17 Sergio Perez (LR #17)
In case you forgot, Checo is bailing on Sauber for McLaren. I wonder if the Macca boys are regretting the move after Sergio’s recent performances: “The Brazilian Grand Prix will be the last race of a very long season that has seen a lot of ups and downs, and it will be a very special event for me as it is the last race I will drive for my team of Sauber before I leave. It is a great team and I want to thank everybody for everything they have done for me over the last two years. I am sure it will be very emotional for me in Interlagos. The best way to say thank you, of course, would be a great result.”

#18 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #18)

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)

#20 Vitaly Petrov (LR #20)

#21 Timo Glock (LR #21)
Tim O’Glock is focusing on holding onto 10th in the WCC: As we head into the final race of season, it’s quite unbelievable that it’s almost over once again. Having said that, Brazil is always quite an eventful race where anything can happen, so at the front of the field the championship could be quite exciting yet. For us, our usual objective since the last few races, which is to try to hold position and finish the year by getting the very best from the whole package.”

#22 Charles Pic (LR #22)
Sadly, Chuck doesn’t address the rumours of driving for Caterham next year: “It’s hard to believe that this is the final race of my debut season. Since the mid-point it seems to have flown by, probably because we have been making such good progress as a team and we went to every race looking for more… We have a good package but there is more of it to come still I think. I hope we can keep moving forward until the end and bring home the result we need. It will be the best reward for the whole team.”

#23 Pedro de la Rosa (LR #23)
Pedro notes that rain is a possibility for this race. Anything that slows the rest of the field down helps HRT: “The race in Brazil is always a very special Grand Prix, not only because of the track’s layout but also for the Formula 1 history and the fans. It is a short but challenging track where it is possible to overtake. But the weather and the possible showers can also play an important role in the race’s outcome. If that would be the case, we will be ready to take our chances.”

#24 Narain Karthikeyan (LR #24)
I like when Narain points out that he hasn’t run a full season since 2005: “I like the track very much and there is also so much heritage of Formula 1. The layout has some interesting parts and the fact that it goes up and down makes it quite spectacular… For the drivers, it is physically very demanding because it is one of the few circuits that run anticlockwise.”

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