Brazilian GP Preview – points mean prizes as midfield battle reaches exciting climax

Despite Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton having wrapped up another constructors’ and drivers’ championship double with two races still to go, there’s still much to play for as teams arrive in Sao Paulo for the penultimate grand prix of the season.

With Ferrari and Red Bull Racing all but guaranteed second and third in the constructors’ standings, the battle behind the leading protagonists holds much interest with two rounds remaining. Although it’s unlikely that McLaren will be displaced from fourth, only 19 points separates fifth placed Renault from Acronis partner team Racing Point.

And, with all-important prize money up for grabs, Brazil represents another big opportunity to bag crucial points in the fight to be crowned ‘best of the rest’.

“Brazil presents us with another good opportunity to score points,” commented Racing Point CEO and Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer. “The car has been working well across a range of different tracks and I’m confident we can be just as competitive this weekend. It’s hard to judge our performance at the last race in the USA because it was compromised by various factors, but there’s no doubt we didn’t show our true potential.

“Overall, as we near the end of the season, I can say that I am pleased with our performance since the summer break. We’ve worked hard to improve the car and scored points in all but one of the last seven races. The point we scored in America helped move us up to sixth place in the championship and mathematically we can still aim for fifth. There’s lots at stake and lots to fight for, so we need to maximise the opportunities this weekend.”

Key to maximising those points scoring opportunities will be the consistency of Sergio Perez, whose recent run of form has netted points from the unlikeliest of grid positions.

“When you arrive in Brazil, you know the season is nearing the end,” added Perez. “It’s the time of the year when it’s getting close in the championship. We still have a chance to fight for fifth, so adding more points this weekend is very important.

“The start of the lap is good fun through the Senna ‘S’ and I think it’s probably the best place to try and overtake during the race. At the end of a long straight you can be very late on the brakes and dive down the inside. The circuit is quite short and it reminds me of a karting track. Even though it looks quite simple, it’s not easy to get the perfect lap. You need to be really precise with placing the car and to find the lap time you need to use the kerbs.”

Perez also has the personal goal of moving up the drivers’ standings as he lies just two points behind Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo but also has Lando Norris, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen snapping at his heels.

Back at the sharp end of things, it remains an equally intriguing scenario as to who will finish as the best driver behind the dominant Mercedes duo, with just 9 points separating third-placed Charles Leclerc from the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel a further five points behind the Dutchman.

And, with Leclerc handed a ten-place grid penalty for an engine change in Austin, Texas, the Monegasque has work to do to remain ahead of his rivals.

“Charles will get a new Power Unit there, as his was damaged on Saturday in Austin, which meant he had to use a previously used and less powerful version for the rest of the weekend,” commented team boss Mattia Binotto in his team’s race preview.

“Fitting a new PU means taking a grid-penalty in Sao Paulo, but we should be back to our normal performance level and show some fighting spirit to finish the season on a high note. That will be important in order to confirm we are making progress with our car and to take some of that momentum into the winter work. I know that our drivers and the whole team are fully focused on that.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.