Column: The importance of Brazil for its home drivers

Column: The importance of Brazil for its home drivers

24 November 2011 – A home Grand Prix holds major importance to anyone who races in Formula 1, with supporters filling the grandstands in their thousands to cheer on their local heroes. However, this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace means so much more for three men on the current grid.

Ferrari employee Felipe Massa, Renault's Bruno Senna and experienced Williams driver Rubens Barrichello all have points to prove, and with only the first of those men confirmed in the sport for 2012, the latter two are effectively fighting for their survival.

GPUpdate.net analyses the aforementioned pilots, takes a brief look at their respective 2011 performances so far and, crucially, divulges what they have done in the past to keep their names on Formula 1’s illustrious timing screens…


Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari: 153 races, 572 points

The 30-year-old has gone through a challenging phase at Ferrari ever since returning from his serious crash at the Hungaroring in 2009, being somewhat overshadowed by now team-mate and two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso. But we all know what he is capable of under the correct circumstances, with him finishing just one point behind Lewis Hamilton during the McLaren man’s title-winning season.

Team President Luca di Montezemolo has quite boldly explained that “he'll have to prove himself next season” if he is to earn an extension at Maranello, and that upward trend must start in his home country of Brazil. The last race of the season plays such a major role in terms of a driver’s mindset over the seemingly endless winter break, but it is also crucial for the team's overall approach inside the factory.

Massa simply cannot let Alonso head towards the festive period with an overriding psychological advantage, so he must dig deep and produce one of his finest drives if he is to reassure people of his irrefutable potential. This world-class pace can be proven by a flick through some Grands Prix of old, a selection of which he contested alongside none other than seven-time Champion Michael Schumacher.

Some defendants would jump to his year as overall runner-up if wanting to prove his speed, but we need not go that far. One of the hardest ever campaigns for the Scuderia came in 2009, and Felipe was the man leading its charge until a terrifying and season-ending accident. Prior to his crash in Hungary, the Paulista had amassed more than double the points of former title winner Kimi Räikkönen from the first nine races, a driver who needs no introduction.

This example, plus his largely impressive title assault in 2008, begins to show us that the struggles of 2010 and 2011 are not a true representation of his driving abilities. Adding even more to the quality of Felipe’s CV, two of his finest victories were earned alongside Michael Schumacher. The second of those triumphs came at the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix, and a move towards that kind of performance on Sunday afternoon would be the ultimate remedy for his current difficulties.

If Felipe can then go on to consistently unlock the pace that Alonso is currently finding in Ferrari’s package, he may do enough to secure a more long-term stay at the team. And there is no reason why this cannot occur, with the seasons above proving that he can more than adequately cope with the finest talent in the field sharing his garage.


Bruno Senna, Lotus Renault GP: 25 races, 2 points

This weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix will be crucial for Bruno’s future in the sport, with a logjam of drivers queuing up to drive at Lotus Renault GP in 2012. Having been drafted in to replace Nick Heidfeld from Spa-Francorchamps onwards, the former GP2 front-runner’s performances can be best described as steady.

With Robert Kubica recently announcing that he will not be returning at the beginning of next year, one would presume that there is an opportunity for the Brazilian to secure his full-time seat. However, with Vitaly Petrov’s place at Renault seemingly confirmed and Romain Grosjean sitting ‘at the top’ of team boss Eric Boullier’s list for the now vacant slot, Bruno has to deliver a strong drive.

The nephew of late triple World Champion Ayrton clearly has potential, proven by both his short stint this year, but also when he first entered the sport in 2010. His maiden F1 outing came for HRT in Bahrain last season. Despite a relatively slow start, in which he was outpaced by team-mate Karun Chandhok, Bruno upped his game and helped the team to secure its joint-best result (14th) at the Korean Grand Prix.

Taking a look at his most recent results in more detail show that there is potential to be extracted, with the Brazilian being able to comfortably adapt to the team’s car over his seven-race stint to date. An introductory weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, which included a stunning effort in qualifying, ultimately resulted in a solid top 15 position after an unfortunate first-lap clash, before going on to secure his first ever points finish at Monza just a fortnight later.

However, a string of slightly less encouraging results since the Italian event have tainted the impressive start that Bruno was able to make, with Petrov on the other side of the garage scoring the team's only points (a 9th place finish at the Japanese Grand Prix) during the final and ultimately challenging flyaway races of the season.

His career is moving towards its prime stage now, the 28-year-old needing to remain in the sport to avoid its vicious circle of eliminating driver talent. Thus, he must end on a high note if he is to confirm his place at the top of Boullier’s list for 2012, with Interlagos his final chance. A strong top ten finish could just make the difference when the Enstone squad makes its final decision, but only time will tell.


Rubens Barrichello, Williams F1: 325 races, 658 points

If Rubens were to bow out of F1 unknowingly in his home country this weekend, it would be one of the harshest exits in the history of the sport. He has admitted to enduring the worst season of his career, but we cannot forget his past achievements and underlying pace. Yet to know his fate for 2012, the 11-time Grand Prix winner is adamant that more success can follow if given the opportunity to drive a stronger car.

With names such as Räikkönen and Adrian Sutil supposedly vying for the second seat at the Grove-based squad, Rubens must convert high emotions into another one of his characteristically voracious drives at Interlagos.

Having failed to conjure up more than four points finishes from a total of 18 races in 2011, we saw a spark of those above mentioned attributes at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi just under a fortnight ago, with an aggressive and overtake-infested Sunday afternoon almost earning the reward of a top ten finish.

If we take a glance at the history books, we can begin to construe that this year is an unfortunate blip. Rubens has been a part of the grid for a mammoth total of 19 seasons, and has consistently shown us why he should remain there. Although the Brazilian’s 2011 drives have appeared under par, partly due to the FW33’s lack of raw pace and partly because of team-mate Pastor Maldonado’s well-timed surges of speed, we only have to look back one campaign to see the height of his talents.

Rubens scored points in ten of the 19 races last year, his personal best result coming at the Valencia Street Circuit. Picture the scene; Rubens has the fifth fastest car in the field and creeps into the final phase of qualifying. 24 hours later, he ends up just one spot away from tasting champagne on the podium.

Many continue to rave about his then team-mate Nico Hülkenberg, and although the German GP2 graduate was going through the motions of his rookie season in the top echelon of motorsport, he was given an extreme lesson in how to get the most out of the squad's solid if not unspectacular machinery.

Barrichello’s prowess can of course be demonstrated with his victories for Ferrari back in the team's hay day, including that magical triumph at a drizzly Hockenheim in 2000, but the point I’m trying to make is that more of the same can still be achieved. Every Grand Prix driver knows when enough is enough, but Rubens hasn't reached that point and proved just a couple of years back for Brawn GP that he can still fight for victories. It would quite simply be a crying shame for his career to end in this manner.

As previously mentioned, the São Paulo man doesn’t have the equipment at his disposal to deliver a miracle result on Sunday, but more of his Yas Marina attitude could well do the trick if he is to sign on the dotted line with Sir Frank Williams again.


GPUpdate.net's Mike Seymour on Thursday
Twitter: @MikeSeymourF1

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Monday 26 June 2017

  2. Video of the Day: Ecclestone, Briatore on F1 05:36

    Video of the Day: Ecclestone, Briatore on F1

    Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore take part in a fan Q&A session at the Baku City Circuit.

    F1
  3. 03:32

    Championship standings after Azerbaijan

    F1
  4. Sunday 25 June 2017

  5. Stewards: Hamilton drove 'correctly' at restart 21:59

    Stewards: Hamilton drove 'correctly' at restart

    Stewards at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix have determined that Lewis Hamilton did not brake test Sebastian Vettel prior to the…

    F1
  6. King excluded for tyre pressure infringement 21:21

    King excluded for tyre pressure infringement

    MP Motorsport driver Jordan King has been excluded from the results of the Formula 2 Sprint Race in Baku. King classified in…

    F2
  7. Dixon holds off Newgarden at Road America 20:37

    Dixon holds off Newgarden at Road America

    Scott Dixon held off a charging Josef Newgarden to win his first race of 2017 at Road America on Sunday. He had taken the lead…

    Indy
  8. Pérez: SFI was in position to take win 20:25

    Pérez: SFI was in position to take win

    Force India's Sergio Pérez believes he would have been in a position to triumph at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, had he not…

    F1
  9. 18:38

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Sunday in Baku

    F1
  10. Bottas 'never gave up' on recovery drive 18:36

    Bottas 'never gave up' on recovery drive

    Valtteri Bottas says his recovery from the back of the field to second position in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix showed the…

    F1
  11. Alonso: Podium, perhaps victory possible 17:47

    Alonso: Podium, perhaps victory possible

    Fernando Alonso reckons he could have won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with a more competitive car, as a dramatic afternoon…

    F1
  12. Stroll stunned by maiden Formula 1 podium 17:42

    Stroll stunned by maiden Formula 1 podium

    Williams rookie Lance Stroll expressed bewilderment as he captured his maiden Formula 1 podium finish during a wild Azerbaijan…

    F1
  13. Vettel: Hamilton should have got penalty 17:11

    Vettel: Hamilton should have got penalty

    Sebastian Vettel heaped criticism on title rival Lewis Hamilton and stewards at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, believing the Briton…

    F1
  14. Hamilton: Vettel has 'disgraced himself' 17:03

    Hamilton: Vettel has 'disgraced himself'

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton believes title rival Sebastian Vettel "disgraced himself" with his conduct at the Azerbaijan…

    F1
  15. 'Giggling' Ricciardo stunned by Baku win 16:48

    'Giggling' Ricciardo stunned by Baku win

    Daniel Ricciardo admitted he was "giggling like a schoolboy" on the cool-down lap after he triumphed at a crazy Azerbaijan Grand…

    F1
  16. 16:16

    In full: Azerbaijan Grand Prix race results

    F1
  17. Ricciardo wins chaotic Azerbaijan GP 16:15

    Ricciardo wins chaotic Azerbaijan GP

    Daniel Ricciardo claimed his and Red Bull's first victory of the season in an action-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which…

    F1
  18. 13:34

    Follow the Azerbaijan Grand Prix live!

    F1
  19. 13:02

    Starting grid for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

    F1
  20. Rossi ends win drought in Assen thriller 12:44

    Rossi ends win drought in Assen thriller

    Yamaha's Valentino Rossi captured his first MotoGP victory in over a year as he fended off Pramac rival Danilo Petrucci during a…

    MotoGP
  21. 12:26

    Latest Formula 2 photos: Sunday at Baku

    F2
  22. Nato takes Baku win after Leclerc penalty 12:25

    Nato takes Baku win after Leclerc penalty

    Norman Nato claimed Arden's first victory since 2012 as title leader Charles Leclerc was denied a Baku double victory due to a…

    F2
  23. 11:30

    Starting grid for the Dutch Grand Prix

    MotoGP
  24. Hamilton: Ferrari will 'be there' in race 10:16

    Hamilton: Ferrari will 'be there' in race

    Lewis Hamilton expects rival Ferrari to pose a challenge in race spec, despite Mercedes' sizeable one-lap advantage at the…

    F1
  25. Grosjean getting 'no feedback' from tyres 09:12

    Grosjean getting 'no feedback' from tyres

    Romain Grosjean says he is braced for a long race at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after struggling for pace throughout the weekend…

    F1
  26. Morbidelli seals MotoGP deal with Marc VDS 08:35

    Morbidelli seals MotoGP deal with Marc VDS

    Moto2 championship leader Franco Morbidelli will step up to the premier class with Marc VDS in 2018, the team has confirmed…

    MotoGP
  27. Zarco targets podium from maiden pole 08:06

    Zarco targets podium from maiden pole

    Johann Zarco says a podium finish is his goal for the Dutch Grand Prix, having captured his maiden premier class pole position…

    MotoGP
  28. Overview: Formula 1 qualifying battles 07:34

    Overview: Formula 1 qualifying battles

    As often highlighted: a Formula 1 driver's main reference point is their team-mate. Although race results and the final…

    F1
  29. Video of the Day: Ferrari's local greetings 05:32

    Video of the Day: Ferrari's local greetings

    Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen attempt a local message to fans from Azerbaijan.

    F1
  30. 01:46

    IndyCar photos: Qualifying at Road America

    Indy
  31. Castroneves claims 50th career pole 01:45

    Castroneves claims 50th career pole

    Hélio Castroneves captured the 50th pole of his long IndyCar career on Saturday in qualifying at Road America. The Brazilian…

    Indy
  32. Saturday 24 June 2017

  33. Video: Bizarre WTCC crash into fire truck 17:44

    Video: Bizarre WTCC crash into fire truck

    Tom Coronel crashes into a fire truck at the Portuguese round of the World Touring Car Championship.

    Misc
  34. Rowland demoted to seventh after penalty 17:06

    Rowland demoted to seventh after penalty

    DAMS driver Oliver Rowland has been handed a time penalty after he failed to slow sufficiently for yellow flags during the…

    F2
  35. 17:02

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Saturday in Baku

    F1
  36. Stroll: Set-up key to improved Baku display 16:50

    Stroll: Set-up key to improved Baku display

    Williams rookie Lance Stroll says that reverting to an older set-up is one of the main reasons behind his so far confident…

    F1
  37. Alonso: Rivals think we're on slow-down laps 16:49

    Alonso: Rivals think we're on slow-down laps

    Fernando Alonso believes McLaren-Honda's speed deficit is so pronounced that his rivals think he is on a slow lap when he is…

    F1
  38. Verstappen: P3 possible without problems 16:03

    Verstappen: P3 possible without problems

    Red Bull driver Max Verstappen reckons technical glitches cost him third on the grid for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, describing a…

    F1
  39. Vettel: 'No excuses' over worst 2017 Q3 15:51

    Vettel: 'No excuses' over worst 2017 Q3

    Championship leader Sebastian Vettel accepts there are "no excuses" over his worst qualifying result of the campaign, though…

    F1
  40. Hamilton: Last gasp effort 'all or nothing' 15:32

    Hamilton: Last gasp effort 'all or nothing'

    Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton described his pole position lap as an "all or nothing" effort as he overhauled team-mate Valtteri…

    F1
  41. 15:15

    In full: Azerbaijan GP qualifying results

    F1
  42. Hamilton beats Bottas to Azerbaijan pole 15:14

    Hamilton beats Bottas to Azerbaijan pole

    Lewis Hamilton delivered another stunning qualifying performance to claim pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, ahead of…

    F1
  43. 14:00

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday at Assen

    MotoGP
more news