Even as the battle to stand on top of the podium in 2017 may have ended with Lewis edging past Sebastian Vettel to secure his fourth drivers’ title, there’s still a lot to play for. With two grands prix to go, starting with Brazil on November 12th, fans will be hooked to see an enthralling contest unfurl in the 71-lap challenge imposed by the legendary Interlagos.
In ‘Senna Land’, as all eyes are on Max Verstappen, clearly the most followed and admired driver in the previous grand prix here at Brazil for his breathtaking driving and mercurial assault in the wet, it is expected that 2017’s Brazilian Grand Prix will produce another belter of a race.
But as you sit closer to the edge of your seat in anticipation of this weekend’s race, who are the five drivers who need a great Brazilian Grand Prix?
1 Fernando Alonso
There’s no driver in F1 that divides opinion about his ability and style quite like Fernando Alonso.
To some he’s a petulant child who cries incessantly on the team radio upon the advent of any mechanical problem in his less than overwhelming McLaren. But to others, Alonso is the only driver capable of extracting something special out of a stubborn and unpredictable MCL 32.
The latter is precisely what Alonso would hope for this weekend as he enters the Brazilian Grand Prix, where the last time he scored decent points was in the grand prix of 2014 where a handy sixth place was collected, but not before a titanic duel in the closing stages with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, then his Ferrari teammate.
Fans would expect Alonso, who sits a grim P16 in the 2017 drivers' standings, to produce another nail-biting finish in the fight to the chequered flag this weekend, perhaps like the kind he demonstrated a fortnight ago in a thrilling, nervy battle with Lewis Hamilton, where he nearly denied the four-time world champion a hard-fought ninth in Mexico.
2 Nico Hulkenberg
Having endured some harsh results in his previous races, all thanks to an unreliable Renault engine, life hasn’t been all that bright for Hulkenberg. The German driver has collected no points whatsoever from the last three GPs, running into persistent technical problems with his utterly useless Renault engine.
This has only helped to make a rather indifferent 2017 journey for Nico, where he’s struggled with consistency and grip in the latter half of the season, a highly forgettable one.
But out here at Interlagos, Nico has enjoyed a fairly decent run where, in the previous grands prix of 2016, 2015 and 2014, he secured a P7, P6 and P8 respectively.
Amidst inclement weather and uncertainty, often the only constant here at Brazil, Nico would hope to add to his tally of 34 points that currently sees him missing out on finishing inside top ten of the 2017 drivers' standings.
3 Daniel Ricciardo
The honey badger, the man behind the ‘shoey’ and arguably one of the fastest drivers out there, Daniel Ricciardo is amongst the few consistent scorers in the unpredictable world of F1.
But life for Ricciardo hasn’t been all that exciting recently, especially where the last two races are concerned. After securing a thrilling third at Suzuka, a race not exactly memorable for his closest rivals Ferrari, the ever-smiling Australian stumbled upon a spate of unprecedented back-to-back DNFs in the USA and Mexico, where the power unit in his Red Bull let him down in his fight for the podium.
But among the few drivers who can put together a decent run on Saturday to make the most on a Sunday, Ricciardo, it is expected, would come in handy at Interlagos even as most eyes would be fixated on his teammate Max Verstappen, who demonstrated perhaps one the most sterling drivers ever at the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Ricciardo, however, would want to work on his past record at a track where he previously endured a rather sedate eighth in 2016 and, if you turn the clocks back to 2015, retirement from the race due to a problem with his left front suspension.
4 Felipe Massa
A crowd favourite here at Interlagos, Felipe Massa will compete at the Brazilian Grand Prix for the last time this weekend since the Brazilian driver recently confirmed the news of his imminent retirement at the conclusion of the 2017 F1 season.
Despite a season where Massa has failed to drive home his Williams FW40 for a top five finish, fans would expect the local hero to secure some valuable points on Sunday in order to bow out in a far more thrilling fashion than what his season has entailed so far.
To draw some inspiration from his previous exploits here in the heart of Brazil, Massa would do well to remember that 2 of his 11 race wins have come here the Interlagos in 2006 and 2008 when he was driving for Ferrari. Similarly, 5 of his 41 podium finishes have come at Brazil, making it one of his favourite tracks on the F1 calendar.
It would also augur well for his own record, having secured only 34 points in a not so memorable 2017 season where he’s been beaten fair and square by teammate Lance Stroll.
5 Sebastian Vettel
Even as 2017 has turned out to be a season utterly dominated by the now four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, one ought to spare a thought for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who not only earned 11 podiums but was the only driver who came close to snatching Lewis’ crown.
Now that the fight for the drivers’ title has found a fitting conclusion, one could expect Sebastian to drive a rather comfortable, unflustered remaining two grands prix, beginning with Brazil.
Not that Vettel would himself agree to that approach, having collected no better than a fourth place in Mexico from the last three races.
In what could be expected to be an all out charge by the German driver, Vettel may well be hiding some aces up his sleeves as he takes to Interlagos this weekend. But up first, he would hope to make the most of a decent qualifying run on the all-important Saturday.
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