Just like that and we're at the final race of the season yet again. And accordingly, the heavens gave the F1 circus a very weepy and very wet reception at Interlagos. For the first time this year, it's all about the rain this race weekend. Better late than never.
While it's business as usual in the paddock, let's take the time to say goodbye to this generation of cars and, for their final race, "savor the sound of those V8 engines," as commentator Steve Slater liked to say. Send-offs are in order, too, for Mark Webber, and possibly for some other drivers like Paul di Resta and Charles Pic. Next year will come new car designs, new power units, and new faces on the grid. But before that, we'll drop this line a final time: on to our predictions.
1. The 2014 Williams pair will outqualify their current teammates. We're talking about Felipe Massa, who has a pretty good record in Interlagos, and Valtteri Bottas, whose career-best qualifying result of P3 was achieved in Canada this year, in mixed conditions.
2. Sebastian Vettel and Max Chilton will register new entries in the record books. From extreme ends of the grid at that. Seb has his sights trained on bettering his record for the most number of consecutive wins within a single season; it currently stands at eight. If he wins again on Sunday (or Monday here), he'll also equal his childhood idol Michael Schumacher's unprecedented tally of 13 victories within a single season. Schumacher accomplished the feat in 2004. And in case you believe the number 13 is unlucky, we'd like to add that he never won the title again afterward.
Chilton, meanwhile, has to see the checkered flag in order to become the only driver to finish all the races in his first full season. It will also improve his record of the most number of consecutive finishes from the start of an F1 career, currently at 18.
3. At least one Toro Rosso will finish in the points. The junior Bulls have sprung surprises in the wet. It's either the cars retain decent drivability when it rains, or Dr. Helmut Marko, driving-talent scout extraordinaire (and the bane of Mark Webber's experience), has a knack for picking wet-weather mavericks.
4. In the drivers' championship, Mark Webber will finish third and Nico Hulkenberg will finish 10th. Going into the race, Hulkenberg is only one point behind Paul di Resta's top-10 standing. He should take this easily barring any first-lap mishaps or reliability issues.
Webber is currently fifth in the standings, two points behind the absent Kimi Raikkonen and six ticks behind Lewis Hamilton, who has told Sky Sports that "particularly in this car, it has been the worst year of wet running in my entire career." Which means Mr. Aussie Grit might make one final F1-related appearance yet, at the FIA year-end FIA gala for the top three finishers, before he goes endurance racing with Porsche. (Fun fact: Webber's adversary Dr. Marko won the 1971 staging of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. What was he driving? A Porsche.)
5. No more movements for second and third in the team battles. Lewis's woes aside, Mercedes has a good chance of keeping its second place in the constructors' championship. The German squad's lead is 15 points over Ferrari, so as long as the silver cars finish relatively close to the red ones, Mercedes should keep its position.
The race kicks off at midnight on Monday (November 25).
Photos from Infiniti Red Bull Racing
|BRA||Free Practice One||Free Practice Two|
|Pos||Driver (Team)||Time, +Gap (Tire)||Driver (Team)||Time, +Gap (Tire)|
|1||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:24.781 (I)||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:27.306 (I)|
|2||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:25.230, +0.449 (I)||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:27.531, +0.225 (I)|
|3||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:25.387, +0.606 (I)||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:27.592, +0.286 (I)|
|4||J. Button (McLaren)||1:25.391, +0.610 (I)||H. Kovalainen (Lotus)||1:28.129, +0.823 (I)|
|5||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:25.593, +0.812 (I)||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:28.147, +0.841 (I)|
|6||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:25.797, +1.016 (I)||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:28.405, +1.099 (I)|
|7||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:25.946, +1.165 (I)||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:28.540, +1.234 (I)|
|8||D. Kvyat (Toro Rosso)||1:26.064, +1.283 (I)||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:28.560, +1.254 (I)|
|9||H. Kovalainen (Lotus)||1:26.133, +1.352 (I)||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:28.739, +1.433 (I)|
|10||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:26.232, +1.451 (I)||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:28.891, +1.585 (I)|
|11||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:26.248, +1.467 (I)||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:28.928, +1.622 (I)|
|12||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:26.326, +1.545 (I)||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:29.049, +1.743 (W)|
|13||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:26.570, +1.789 (I)||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:29.174, +1.868 (I)|
|14||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:26.593, +1.812 (I)||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:29.717, +2.411 (I)|
|15||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:27.115, +2.334 (I)||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:29.783, +2.477 (I)|
|16||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:27.269, +2.488 (I)||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:30.425, +3.119 (I)|
|17||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:27.358, +2.577 (I)||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:30.748, +3.442 (W)|
|18||J. Calado (Force India)||1:27.436, +2.655 (I)||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:31.061, +3.755 (I)|
|19||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:28.107, +3.326 (I)||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:31.118, +3.812 (I)|
|20||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:28.199, +3.418 (I)||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:31.165, +3.859 (I)|
|21||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:30.004, +5.223 (I)||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:31.211, +3.905 (I)|
|22||R. Gonzalez (Marussia)||1:32.646, +7.865 (I)||J. Button (McLaren)||1:31.770, +4.464 (I)|