After eight months and 18 races across four continents, it’s time for one final race in one final continent as we head to South America’s biggest country for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.
While there is no title up for grabs at this year’s season finale, there is still plenty to be resolved at the Autodromo Carlos Pace and, for Sebastian Vettel, another record to be matched.
Perhaps the biggest feeling heading to Sao Paulo is that of an end of an era, not just for one of the sport’s most respected drivers but also for V8 power.
The Interlagos track has the challenge and the history worthy of a season finale with races like 2003, 2008 and 2012 in the recent past. Ticket sales have also been very strong considering Red Bull’s recent dominance and the passionate fans will also provide a great carnival atmosphere for what is one of the most exciting races of the year.
As I mentioned, Vettel can add one more record to his tally as a final victory in Sao Paulo would match Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in a season from 2004 and match Alberto Ascari’s nine straight wins in races entered from 1953/54.
A win would also see Vettel beat his own record of most points scored in a single season, currently he is 20 short of the 392 he scored in 2011.
But for Red Bull, for once the attention will likely switch to Mark Webber who, like his former teammate David Coulthard back in 2008, will bow out of F1 at Interlagos.
It will bring to an end a rollercoaster twelve-year career for the Australian who started back at Minardi back in 2002.
Most fans around the world would love to see the 37-year-old claim one more win to take his tally into double figures. Whatever happens in Brazil, I’m sure we can expect an emotional Webber this weekend and probably a few donuts should he make it to the end of the race.
Perhaps the biggest battle left to be resolved is for second place in the Constructors' Championship. Mercedes go into the race as hot favourites to claim that spot with Ferrari 18 points clear of Lotus. While the chances of any changes look remote, it is sure to be one area to keep an eye on this weekend.
Lotus remain under the microscope with speculation around their 2014 line-up but Heikki Kovalainen put in a strong performance in Austin last weekend and will be looking for another in Brazil.
Sergio Perez will be looking for a final strong result for McLaren in his bid to maintain a seat on the F1 grid in 2013. The Mexican’s short stay at McLaren will certainly go down as one of the stories of the season and, for the team as a whole, a failure to capture a fourth place would result in their worst season since 1966.
Force India go to Brazil with interests off the track overshadowing events on it. The speculation around who will drive for them in 2014 is now one of the hottest topics in the paddock with Nico Hulkenberg likely to return alongside Adrian Sutil.
Maintaining sixth place in the championship looks a simple task with Sauber 19 points behind.
Sauber too have more important matters off the track with sorting their finances for 2014 still their top priority. In Brazil, Hulkenberg will be looking to put in another strong performance at a track he always does well at, while Gutierrez will also look for a solid end to a disappointing rookie year.
Toro Rosso have rather fallen out the picture in recent races with Daniel Ricciardo’s tenth in India their only points finish in the final flyaway races.
The Australian was unlucky to not score last weekend in Austin but after this weekend can look forward to moving up the grid in 2014 to join Vettel at Red Bull. Jean-Eric Vergne needs a seventh place finish to beat Ricciardo in the Drivers' Championship.
Williams have reinvigorated themselves in recent races after ditching their coanda exhaust. That puts them in a good place heading into 2014 and Valtteri Bottas finally produced a result we knew he was capable of in Austin, finishing eighth.
As for Pastor Maldonado, his relationship with the team appears to have hit rock bottom and so finishing the final race in Brazil probably can’t come soon enough before a likely move to Lotus for 2014.
Finally at the back of the grid, Caterham and Marussia do have a battle on their hands this weekend for tenth place in the Constructors' standings.
Currently, Jules Bianchi’s 13th place in Malaysia is the best result for the two slower teams, giving Marussia that tenth place. However, with rain forecast for Sao Paulo it could provide the best chance for Caterham to do just as they did last year and pinch that position at the final race from their Russian backed rivals.
Max Chilton is also up for a record this weekend, looking to become the first driver to finish every race in a single season.
With plenty of interesting stories up and down the grid, the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix will be about much more than the end of Webber’s F1 career and the final race of the V8 era.
And, with a mixed weather forecast all weekend, it should also be a much more competitive weekend.
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