It’s curious that an elite sport like Formula One draws the attention that it does in a country with a social class divide as large as Brazil’s and a population that is notoriously passionate about football. Perhaps this love for Formula One is deeply rooted in the hearts of Brazilians because they have grown used to seeing the green and yellow flag billowing high above the podium since the ’70s, first with the trail-blazing Emerson Fittipaldi, then the irreverent Nelson Piquet and finally the late, great Ayrton Senna.
And yet in recent times, the country hasn’t seen another of its sons crowned as champion, which brings to light a characteristic peculiar to fans here: Brazilians value winning – even if the victor is not one of their own – as long as it’s the fruit of art and done with panache.
This may explain why, despite the lack of contemporary stars and with Sebastian Vettel’s fourth consecutive championship already in the bag for 2013, the unpredictable nature of the traditional circuit at Interlagos – which once again brings the Formula One season to a close – still draws crowds to spectacular races as it did in 2007, when Finn Kimi Raikkonen, a longshot title contender entering the race, surprised everyone, and in 2008, when Brit Lewis Hamilton snatched the cup from the hands of Brazilian Felipe Massa on the last bend of the last lap.
As for Massa, this could have been his Formula One swan song, having lost his ride at Ferrari to Raikkonen, his former teammate on the Italian team during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. But for the 45th consecutive season, Brazil will have a local Formula One driver, as Massa has since signed a three-year deal through 2016 with the now-decadent Williams team, which has seen better days with Brazilian pilots such as Senna, Piquet and Rubens Barrichello. Massa will replace the Venezuelan driver, Pastor Maldonado, who is rumoured to be swooping into Raikkonen’s vacated spot at Lotus.
Rain, sweat, and beer
Sebastian Vettel is following in the footsteps of his compatriot, seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, to become one of the most frequent winners in the sport’s history. With his fourth Formula One crown already guaranteed at only 26 years of age, the youngest four-time champion of all time returns to Interlagos in search of his second victory on the iconic race course.
But despite his dominance throughout the year and his desire to close out his 2013 campaign with an emphatic win, the German driver’s victory is far from guaranteed. Be it down to the traditionally irregular surface at Autódromo José Carlos Pace, or Sao Paulo’s erratic climate, where scorching sun and torrential rain change places with impressive speed, the Interlagos circuit is one of the most unpredictable ones on the race calendar.
No one embraces that more than the rowdy Interlagos crowd. Aided by healthy doses of ice cold beer, the exuberant fans bring the grandstands to life, especially when they witness sudden changes to the outcome of the race. Because whether the winner is Vettel, Spaniard Fernando Alonso, or Lewis Hamilton, it’s the performance – in which the supporters play a vital role – which reigns supreme. Unless, of course, the local favourite Massa takes the checkered flag – in which case, all bets are off.
Friday 22 November
10-11.30am F1 Practice 1
noon-12.35pm Porsche Cup Practice
2-3.30pm F1 Practice 2
3.55-4.30pm Porsche Challenge Practice
Saturday 23 November
11am-noon F1 Practice 3
2-3pm F1 Qualifying
3.30-4.05pm Porsche Cup Qualifying
4.35-5.10pm Porsche Challenge Qualifying
Sunday 24 November
9.15-9.50am Porsche Challenge Race
10.15-10.50am Porsche Cup Race
12.30pm F1 Drivers' Parade
2pm 42nd Brazilian F1 Grand Prix