Forget all the other permutations. If Nico Rosberg crosses the line in first place he will be crowned world champion on Sunday. The German, who is 19 points clear of Lewis Hamilton with only 50 remaining, has good form in these parts. A winner here last year, and in 2014, while he also finished ahead of Hamilton in their first term together as Mercedes team-mates. Indeed Interlagos has not been a happy hunting ground for Hamilton.
The Briton may have won his maiden championship here in 2008 - after he dramatically passed Timo Glock on the final corner of the final lap to finish fifth and beat Felipe Massa to the title by just one point - but he also lost the championship here too in 2007. He has finished on the podium in only three of his nine outings in Brazil, and is yet to trouble the top step. But Hamilton will know that only victory will be enough if he is to take the title tussle to the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi.
While Hamilton’s championship battle with Rosberg will take centre stage, Sebastian Vettel will lead the supporting cast as he is thrust into the spotlight for the first time following his foul-mouthed tirade during the Mexican Grand Prix. Vettel escaped any punishment from the sport’s governing body despite telling race director Charlie Whiting to “f*** off” during a series of expletive-laden radio messages as he battled Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for position in the closing stages of the last race. While the Ferrari driver apologised in writing to both Whiting and FIA president Jean Todt, many paddock observers believe the four-time champion got off lightly.
Jenson Button hosted a dinner for media in Sao Paulo last night. The annual tradition may prove to be the “Last Supper” of sorts, with Button not racing in F1 next season, and major doubts growing as to whether he will return in 2018. One driver who will certainly start his last Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday is Massa. The home favourite, who came so close to winning the title with Ferrari back in 2008, is retiring from the sport at the end of the season. “It will be emotional racing there for the final time on such an amazing track,” Massa said. “I will do everything I can for my people and for Brazil in my last race at home.”
Another piece of the driver market jigsaw is set to fall into place with Kevin Magnussen on the brink of signing for Haas. The Dane’s switch came as good news to his team-mate Jolyon Palmer. Following Renault’s decision to sign Nico Hulkenberg for 2017, Palmer, the 25-year-old British rookie, had been fighting Magnussen for the one remaining seat at the team next term. But with Magnussen now out of the picture, Palmer has been retained by Renault for 2017. “I’m over the moon to be racing with Renault Sport Formula One Team for a second season and I can’t wait to reward the team’s faith in me on track,” Palmer said last night.
Ross Brawn, the engineering mastermind behind Michael Schumacher’s record-breaking seven titles, has expressed his interest in returning to Formula One. Brawn left Mercedes in 2013, and has not been in the paddock since. But the 61-year-old Englishman has held talks with the sport’s new owners Liberty Media, and is open to a managerial role within the new regime. “I could certainly be attracted to a role in that capacity,” Brawn told Sky Sports. “But there are so many things that need to be resolved first.”