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 26 October 2014

  2. Video of the Day: McLaren's first world title 05:00

    Video of the Day: McLaren's first world title

    Forty years ago on October 6, 1974, Emerson Fittipaldi secured McLaren's first-ever Formula 1 world title at the United...

    F1
  3. Saturday 25 October 2014

  4. Marussia also set to miss United States GP 10:48

    Marussia also set to miss United States GP

    Marussia is set to join Caterham in missing next weekend's United States Grand Prix after Formula 1 supremo Bernie...

    F1
  5. Ricciardo: Austin best of the new circuits 10:21

    Ricciardo: Austin best of the new circuits

    Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo believes that the Circuit of the Americas, the venue for next weekend's United States Grand...

    F1
  6. 08:02

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday at Sepang

    MotoGP
  7. Márquez storms to 13th pole in Malaysia 07:59

    Márquez storms to 13th pole in Malaysia

    World Champion Marc Márquez set the fastest ever MotoGP lap of Sepang as he stormed to a record-breaking 13th pole position...

    MotoGP
  8. Video of the Day: Button on road safety 05:12

    Video of the Day: Button on road safety

    McLaren driver Jenson Button lists the components necessary to be safe on the road.

    F1
  9. Friday 24 October 2014

  10. Caterham F1 set to miss next two races 18:01

    Caterham F1 set to miss next two races

    Caterham looks set to skip the next two Formula 1 races after Bernie Ecclestone gave the squad special dispensation for the...

    F1
  11. Video: Behind the scenes at Force India 16:34

    Video: Behind the scenes at Force India

    Take a closer look at the inner workings of Force India's factory at Silverstone in this behind the scenes video, featuring...

    F1
  12. 15:59

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  13. Grosjean 'very close' to new Lotus deal 15:57

    Grosjean 'very close' to new Lotus deal

    Lotus is just "a few details" away from signing a fresh agreement with Romain Grosjean, according to Deputy Team Principal...

    F1
  14. Caterham handed over to administrators 12:10

    Caterham handed over to administrators

    The Caterham Formula 1 team's management has decided to step back and hand over to administrators, in the wake of a public...

    F1
  15. Video: Mercedes duo in engineering race 09:41

    Video: Mercedes duo in engineering race

    Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg take part in a different kind of battle.

    F1
  16. 09:39

    Latest MotoGP photos: Friday at Sepang

    MotoGP
  17. Pedrosa tops first day at Sepang 09:38

    Pedrosa tops first day at Sepang

    Dani Pedrosa set the standard on the first day of practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang. The Repsol Honda rider...

    MotoGP
  18. F3 champion Ocon completes Lotus test 07:28

    F3 champion Ocon completes Lotus test

    Formula 3 champion Esteban Ocon has completed his maiden Formula 1 test with Lotus after receiving two days of running in...

    F1
  19. Video of the Day: Pedrosa's Sepang highlight 05:03

    Video of the Day: Pedrosa's Sepang highlight

    Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa picks his fondest Malaysian Grand Prix memory ahead of this year's event.

    MotoGP
  20. Nissany hails 'amazing' F1 test debut 04:16

    Nissany hails 'amazing' F1 test debut

    Roy Nissany described his first experience of Formula 1 machinery as "amazing" after enjoying a day of testing with the...

    F1
  21. Thursday 23 October 2014

  22. Caterham buyer refutes Fernandes claims 19:39

    Caterham buyer refutes Fernandes claims

    Caterham buyer Engavest "strongly refutes allegations" made by Tony Fernandes and Caterham Group CEO Graham Macdonald,...

    F1
  23. Fernandes blames Caterham F1 buyer 15:58

    Fernandes blames Caterham F1 buyer

    Tony Fernandes says the Caterham F1 team's buyer is fully responsible for the ongoing problems at Leafield, claiming that it...

    F1
  24. Ramon Aurin to be Pedrosa's new crew chief 15:00

    Ramon Aurin to be Pedrosa's new crew chief

    Ramon Aurin will replace Mike Leitner as Dani Pedrosa's Race Engineer next season. The Repsol Honda rider confirmed...

    MotoGP
  25. Buyer says Fernandes still owns Caterham F1 13:21

    Buyer says Fernandes still owns Caterham F1

    The consortium that purchased Caterham F1 at the end of June has insisted that Tony Fernandes did not transfer the relevant...

    F1
  26. Caterham F1 staff locked out of factory 11:54

    Caterham F1 staff locked out of factory

    Further doubt has been cast over Caterham's ability to contest the remainder of the 2014 Formula 1 season after staff...

    F1
  27. MotoGP reveals 25-bike entry list for 2015 10:55

    MotoGP reveals 25-bike entry list for 2015

    The International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) has published a provisional entry list for the 2015 MotoGP season, with the...

    MotoGP
  28. Fong completes first F1 test in Valencia 10:13

    Fong completes first F1 test in Valencia

    Adderly Fong completed his maiden Formula 1 test on Wednesday, getting behind the wheel of Sauber's two-year-old C31 in...

    F1
  29. Massa on Austin Fans' Forum line-up 09:43

    Massa on Austin Fans' Forum line-up

    Felipe Massa, Sergio Pérez and Esteban Gutiérrez have been confirmed on the line-up for the upcoming Austin Fans' F...

    F1
  30. Video of the Day: Racing without a driver 05:08

    Video of the Day: Racing without a driver

    A driverless Audi RS 7 was recently sent out to tackle the Hockenheim circuit. Find out how it fared.

    Misc
  31. Félix da Costa to make FE debut in Malaysia 04:47

    Félix da Costa to make FE debut in Malaysia

    Amlin Aguri has confirmed that António Félix da Costa will partner Katherine Legge for the second round of the Formula E s...

    Formula E
  32. Wednesday 22 October 2014

  33. Caterham F1 bosses threaten to quit 19:37

    Caterham F1 bosses threaten to quit

    Caterham's new bosses have warned that they could be forced to step away from the F1 team, claiming that Tony Fernandes...

    F1
  34. Haas: First five years revolve around survival 17:06

    Haas: First five years revolve around survival

    Gene Haas is under no illusions about the task his Formula 1 team faces when it joins the grid, stating that he will be...

    F1
  35. Background: The Toro Rosso candidates 15:57

    Background: The Toro Rosso candidates

    New Toro Rosso recruit Max Verstappen will become the youngest driver in F1 history when he takes to the grid aged 17 next...

    F1
  36. Video: Hamilton's Stars & Cars invitation 15:12

    Video: Hamilton's Stars & Cars invitation

    Mercedes-Benz will stage the once annual 'Stars & Cars' event at its Stuttgart museum on November 29. Lewis Hamilton, who...

    F1
  37. Sam Michael set to leave McLaren 13:15

    Sam Michael set to leave McLaren

    McLaren Sporting Director Sam Michael is to leave the team at the end of the season. A McLaren spokesperson has confirmed...

    F1
  38. Lotus expects to keep Grosjean for 2015 11:12

    Lotus expects to keep Grosjean for 2015

    Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez says he expects to retain Romain Grosjean for the 2015 season, despite admitting that the...

    F1
  39. 09:43

    Photos: Márquez, Pedrosa visit Indonesia

    MotoGP
  40. Pérez on brink of new Force India deal 09:34

    Pérez on brink of new Force India deal

    Sergio Pérez says he is likely to sign a fresh Force India deal "in the next week", a move that would complete the outfit's...

    F1
  41. Video of the Day: Wolff on F1 title success 05:15

    Video of the Day: Wolff on F1 title success

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff discusses the brand's maiden Formula 1 Constructors' success.

    F1
  42. Tuesday 21 October 2014

  43. Silverstone senior executives suspended 13:55

    Silverstone senior executives suspended

    The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) has taken "a closer role" in the day-to-day running of Silverstone following the...

    F1
  44. Caterham insists team not threatened 12:25

    Caterham insists team not threatened

    Caterham has dismissed media reports suggesting that Caterham Sports Limited (CSL) being placed into administration will...

    F1
  45. Lotus mourns death of Total chief 11:08

    Lotus mourns death of Total chief

    Lotus says it has been left "shocked" and "deeply saddened" by the death of Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and CEO of team...

    F1
  46. Spa to fight Nissan's use of Eau Rouge name 09:50

    Spa to fight Nissan's use of Eau Rouge name

    The Spa-Francorchamps circuit says it will contest an application from car manufacturer Nissan to trademark "Eau...

    F1
more news