The Brazilian Grand Prix: Memories

Andy BarklamContributor IOctober 31, 2008

With the Brazilian Grand Prix approaching, its place on the F1 calendar as the season finale is appropriate to say the least. The final race of any season is often tense, exciting, and has the tendency to throw up some unusual results, not least when one or both of the titles hinge on it.

The Brazilian GP has produced races of a similar calibre in recent years, even dating back to before it was the season finale.

2003 was a prime example of what the track in Interlagos can offer, and that long ago the race was actually nearer the start of the season than the end of it.

A deluge of biblical proportions had the race started under the safety car, and as a river formed at turn 3, many drivers found themselves literally sailing elegantly into the tyre barrier, including the then five-time reigning champion, Michael Schumacher.

On a drying track, as the race entered its latter stages, Mark Webber, then driving for Jaguar, had a huge accident on the curving start/finish straight, only to have Alonso, newly promoted to a Renault race seat, plough into the resultant debris at a speed approaching 150mph. The race was red flagged as a result. And so a crash of biblical proportions to combine with the prior deluge.

With the race ended, and unforeseen events removing front-runners earlier on, it was left to Giancarlo Fisichella in the uncompetitive Jordan to claim the race win, albeit after much delay and hesitation by the stewards. A trend they have seemed more than happy to follow since!

Here we have three highly memorable moments concerning the Brazilian Grand Prix in recent years, all in the one race – arguably one of the most action-packed in a long time.

Another Brazilian race that will surely stand the test of time is the 2006 season finale and title decider, that saw Michael Schumacher challenging for his 8th title in the final race of his career.

Having started poorly, and then picked up a puncture at the hands of Giancarlo Fisichella, Schumacher produced a signature performance, fitting of a retiring legend, tearing through the field from the back, ending with a heart-stopping overtaking manoeuvre on Kimi Raikonnen to "sign out" with 3 laps from the end of the race.

Though only finishing fourth, just off the podium, having had to win to stand any chance of clinching the drivers’ crown, his recovery drive was typical Schumacher and epic in nature. This left a reminder for all to see just how good he still was… a race he very much made his own.

And so to the historic race of last season, and arguably the most relevant here, that saw three drivers in serious title contention for the first time since 1986, when Mansell, Piquet, and Prost contested the championship. With Hamilton having held the championship lead since the third round and needing to finish third to guarantee championship victory, a 7th place after an, at best, daft, botched opening-lap

overtaking manoeuvre on his team mate Alonso, and a mechanical problem mid-race, saw the victorious Raikonnen take the title, one point ahead of both Mclaren drivers.

Raikonnen scored 36 points in the last four races and overturned a 17 point deficit with two races remaining to snatch the title in spectacular fashion in Brazil. This was equalled only by the spectacular fashion in which Hamilton failed to clinch the title.

With this season’s climax in Brazil already in progress, Hamilton finds himself the same seven points ahead of Massa’s Ferrari as he was ahead of Raikkonen’s this time last year.

Fans of Lewis Hamilton will no doubt hope history does not repeat itself and that Lewis manages to become the sport’s youngest ever World Champion at the second time of asking. Meanwhile, neutral observers will desire more of the same as regards the quality and intensity of the finale.

All that can be guaranteed is that with Massa’s imperious form here in recent years, the Brazilian GP will once again undoubtedly provide the backdrop for another spectacular championship decider.