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. Sunday 21 September 2014

  2. Video of the Day: Formula 1's Safety Car 05:03

    Video of the Day: Formula 1's Safety Car

    There has never been a Singapore Grand Prix without the appearance of Formula 1's Safety Car. Ahead of the night race,...

    F1
  3. Grosjean hits out at Renault problems 05:00

    Grosjean hits out at Renault problems

    Romain Grosjean has hit out at continual Renault problems, which he says is having a negative impact on the morale of his...

    F1
  4. Pérez sure of Force India race recovery 01:00

    Pérez sure of Force India race recovery

    Force India driver Sergio Pérez says he is sure that he can recover from a lowly grid spot and notch up a top 10 finish in...

    F1
  5. Saturday 20 September 2014

  6. Massa encouraged by Williams improvements 18:32

    Massa encouraged by Williams improvements

    Felipe Massa says he is encouraged by the progress which Williams has made since Friday's practice sessions after qualifying...

    F1
  7. 17:25

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday in Singapore

    F1
  8. Magnussen seeks help from Safety Car 17:24

    Magnussen seeks help from Safety Car

    Kevin Magnussen says he is hoping to see the Safety Car called into action during Sunday evening's Singapore Grand...

    F1
  9. Alonso hopeful of fighting for victory 17:09

    Alonso hopeful of fighting for victory

    Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso is hopeful that he will be able to challenge for victory during Sunday's Singapore Grand...

    F1
  10. Vettel reckons pole position was possible 16:42

    Vettel reckons pole position was possible

    Sebastian Vettel feels he could have had a shot at claiming pole position in Singapore with a cleaner final qualifying...

    F1
  11. Rosberg ruing late change of brakes 16:16

    Rosberg ruing late change of brakes

    Nico Rosberg was left to rue a change of brakes after Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton beat him to pole position in...

    F1
  12. Hamilton pleased to recover from early error 15:57

    Hamilton pleased to recover from early error

    Lewis Hamilton says he was pleased with his recovery after an early error threatened to ruin his final qualifying attempt in...

    F1
  13. 15:08

    Singapore GP: Qualifying results in full

    F1
  14. Hamilton pips Rosberg to Singapore pole 15:07

    Hamilton pips Rosberg to Singapore pole

    Lewis Hamilton beat Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to pole position during a tight qualifying session in Singapore, with...

    F1
  15. 13:52

    Follow qualifying for the Singapore GP!

    F1
  16. 12:16

    Singapore GP: Full Free Practice 3 results

    F1
  17. Alonso back on top in final Singapore practice 12:03

    Alonso back on top in final Singapore practice

    Fernando Alonso returned to the head of the field during final practice for the Singapore Grand Prix, putting his Ferrari...

    F1
  18. 10:55

    Follow final practice for the Singapore GP!

    F1
  19. Full radio ban delayed to ensure 'fairness' 10:31

    Full radio ban delayed to ensure 'fairness'

    The FIA backtracked on its plans to introduce a full radio clampdown in Singapore to ensure "fairness". After announcing...

    F1
  20. Video: Maldonado crashes out of practice 09:56

    Video: Maldonado crashes out of practice

    Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado suffered this heavy crash during Friday evening's second practice session in Singapore. The...

    F1
  21. Maldonado gets new chassis after crash 09:49

    Maldonado gets new chassis after crash

    Pastor Maldonado has been forced to switch to a new chassis for the remainder of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, after...

    F1
  22. 07:06

    Photos: Historic F1 action in Singapore

    F1
  23. Ravetto: Caterham already working on 2015 06:01

    Ravetto: Caterham already working on 2015

    Newly-appointed Caterham Team Principal Manfredi Ravetto insists that there are long-term plans in place at the outfit,...

    F1
  24. Video of the Day: Wind tunnel guide - Part 8 05:00

    Video of the Day: Wind tunnel guide - Part 8

    Sauber's Head of Aerodynamics, Willem Toet, concludes his talk on the science of F1 wind tunnel design.

    F1
  25. Friday 19 September 2014

  26. Ferrari reasonably competitive, says Alonso 19:49

    Ferrari reasonably competitive, says Alonso

    Fernando Alonso reckons that Ferrari put in a "reasonably competitive" performance during Friday's free practice sessions...

    F1
  27. Button sure of 'decent opportunity' for McLaren 18:39

    Button sure of 'decent opportunity' for McLaren

    Jenson Button believes that this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix presents a "decent opportunity" for McLaren as the team bids...

    F1
  28. Pirelli admits tyre gap bigger than expected 18:17

    Pirelli admits tyre gap bigger than expected

    F1 tyre supplier Pirelli admits that the time difference between its supplied compounds in Singapore has been larger than it...

    F1
  29. Vettel praises mechanics for 'massive job' 18:02

    Vettel praises mechanics for 'massive job'

    Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel has praised his mechanics for the work they completed between practice sessions in...

    F1
  30. Rosberg positive despite ruined attempt 17:37

    Rosberg positive despite ruined attempt

    Nico Rosberg was in a positive frame of mind after the opening day of practice for the Singapore Grand Prix, despite failing...

    F1
  31. Hamilton still not happy with car balance 17:15

    Hamilton still not happy with car balance

    Lewis Hamilton says he is still not comfortable with the handling of his car, despite topping Friday's combined timesheets...

    F1
  32. 16:48

    Latest F1 photos: Friday in Singapore

    F1
  33. Verstappen could get Suzuka practice outing 16:44

    Verstappen could get Suzuka practice outing

    Max Verstappen could take part in his first official Formula 1 session at the Japanese Grand Prix. The 16-year-old Dutch...

    F1
  34. 16:13

    Singapore GP: Full Free Practice 2 results

    F1
  35. Hamilton moves ahead in second practice 16:03

    Hamilton moves ahead in second practice

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton moved to the top of the times during Friday's second practice session for the Singapore Grand...

    F1
  36. 14:16

    Follow second practice for the Singapore GP!

    F1
  37. Ferrari paying tribute to Botín in Singapore 13:46

    Ferrari paying tribute to Botín in Singapore

    Ferrari is paying tribute to Emilio Botín in Singapore, following the death of the Santander Chairman. Botín, who passed a...

    F1
  38. Ecclestone wants third cars from 2015 13:22

    Ecclestone wants third cars from 2015

    Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone feels the sport should adopt three-car teams for 2015. With certain teams struggling...

    F1
  39. 12:50

    Singapore GP: Full Free Practice 1 results

    F1
  40. Alonso edges Mercedes duo in first practice 12:32

    Alonso edges Mercedes duo in first practice

    Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso set the pace during Friday evening's first free practice session for the Singapore Grand...

    F1
  41. 10:46

    Follow first practice for the Singapore GP!

    F1
  42. Radio ban revised to driver performance only 08:44

    Radio ban revised to driver performance only

    Formula 1's governing body, the FIA, has revised its proposed clampdown on pit-to-car radio and pit board messages after...

    F1
  43. Video of the Day: Hamilton's Singapore guide 05:06

    Video of the Day: Hamilton's Singapore guide

    Join Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton for a lap of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

    F1
more news