Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton must not relax at perilous Brazilian Grand Prix

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It is a bizarre feeling heading to this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo for a number of reasons.

Usually the cauldron-like setting of Interlagos is the season finale, however, this year that honour has been given back to Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit. Also, Lewis Hamilton, 24 points clear in the championship battle, cannot win his second title at the site of his first, which he took in dramatic fashion six years ago.

That is because, whereas usually he would only have to beat team-mate Nico Rosberg in order to claim the crown, even if Hamilton wins and Rosberg fails to finish, the German would still be just within striking distance of the Briton as he would be 49 points behind with 50 on offer to the winner in the UAE.

While the whole debate over whether double points is unfair or not rumbles on, for many it is also a shame that Interlagos has lost its place as the final race because it really is the perfect place to end a season.

Yes Abu Dhabi has the flashy buildings and the night time finish, but for producing drama fitting for a potentially championship-deciding race, Sao Paulo has it all.

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The carnival atmosphere as the racing mad Brazilians come out in their droves to support their favourites, a racetrack with the history and challenge of Interlagos and the always fickle weather ready to throw a curveball whenever it pleases.

Indeed looking ahead to this weekend it seems the skies could play a major role as rain is forecast almost certainly for Saturday and a high chance on Sunday too.

Never a dull race

A boring race at Interlagos is as rare as an empty day on Copacabana Beach and Lewis Hamilton knows only too well, how this race can make or break your championship.

From the low of losing out to Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, to the high passing Timo Glock at the final corner on the final lap to claim the title back a year later, the Briton can take nothing for granted at one of the most unpredictable venues on the calendar.

Fabulous Interlagos

And what a venue it is, a short lap at just 2.7 miles leading to a 71-lap Grand Prix, but the mystique of Interlagos never gets old.

A shortened version of the original, changes have been made this year as the circuit looks to ensure its future, the entrance to the pit-lane has been altered and plans are afoot to modernise the ageing facilities at one of the last great old-school circuits.

The long top straight into the curving Senna 'S' is one of the most famous overtaking places in F1 and has seen many incredible moments over the years whereas the twisting curves from Ferradura to Juncao provide a very technical challenge meaning setting cars up is very tricky with the right balance between speed and grip essential.

Battle for third well and truly on

With the two Mercedes, at least in the dry, in a league of their own, the battle for third will see another great showdown between Red Bull and Williams.

For Sebastian Vettel the pain of Austin is over and he can look forward to a normal race weekend in Brazil, team-mate Daniel Ricciardo produced some excellent overtakes while his team some brilliant pit-stops to overhaul the Williams in America and an old trick may work for the team again this weekend.

At Spa, where long straights dominate, except the middle sector, the world champions of the past four years focussed on better top speed rather than their traditional strength in the corners.

That approach could work again at Interlagos and would certainly help them against a Williams team who will be very strong on the first and final part of the lap.

Felipe Massa as always will be the local hero and has had great success at his home track during his career. The man from Sao Paulo also heads to the race after one of his better performances in Austin where he beat team-mate Valtteri Bottas and was closing back on Ricciardo for third towards the end of the race.

McLaren vs Ferrari a Familiar theme

It also wouldn't be Interlagos without a battle between old enemies Ferrari and McLaren.

And we could get just that again this weekend as the traction needed in the middle sector allied to the power from the Mercedes power unit should see the Woking team put up a Sochi-esque performance.

In Austin they weren't quite as quick as downforce remains their main issue and the same applies to Ferrari who are quick but can't sustain it over a race.

Stories continue to swirl claiming Fernando Alonso is on the brink of re-signing for McLaren and a repeat battle between him and the man he would likely replace, Jenson Button, could be on the cards.

The main issue for Ferrari, however, is Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn has only had one top eight finish in the last four races, coming in those crazy final laps in Singapore, and of the 15 cars who finished in Texas, the 'Iceman' was 13th by the end of the race.

While his set-up problems have been well known for much of the year, Raikkonen just hasn't shown the same determination as he lies 12th in the Drivers' standings over 100 points behind team-mate Alonso. Certainly he and Ferrari will be hoping for a major turnaround next year.

Sorry Sauber are in trouble

Among the final four teams, Force India will look to bounce back from a dismal double retirement in Austin that in reality has all but ended their chances of finishing fifth in the Constructors' championship while Lotus will look to build on their first points finish since Monaco and Toro Rosso too were better than their result at the Circuit of the Americas suggest.

Things, however look sorry for Sauber. After the elation of getting Adrian Sutil into the top 10 in qualifying, hopes of their first points this year were ended very quickly in the race.

Sutil was taken out by Sergio Perez on the first lap and Esteban Gutierrez was languishing behind those in front at the back of the depleted field.

Now the Swiss team has just two races to score the three points that would life them in front of Marussia, who hope to race in Abu Dhabi, and avoid the first pointless season in their two decade participation in F1.

Hamilton's super sixth straight win in sight?

But most of the attention will be whether Lewis Hamilton can make it an incredible sixth straight win this season and match Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher's second highest total of 11 wins in a single season.

It is becoming all or nothing for Nico Rosberg who really HAS to beat Hamilton in Brazil otherwise it would need a minor miracle to prevent the Briton claiming his second championship at Yas Marina.

Should it rain, that will through another unwanted element into the mix and could also bring Red Bull to the party but come rain or shine, we are set for another drama-filled weekend at one of the sport's most popular destinations.

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