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. Wednesday 22 February 2017

  2. 19:44

    New: Follow GPUpdate on Instagram!

    F1
  3. Sauber conducts filming day in Barcelona 19:39

    Sauber conducts filming day in Barcelona

    Sauber has become the first team to run its 2017 Formula 1 challenger on-track, after the outfit conducted a filming day at the…

    F1
  4. 19:08

    Photos: Sauber C36 on track in Barcelona

    F1
  5. Video: New Sauber C36 hits the track 18:49

    Video: New Sauber C36 hits the track

    The Sauber C36-Ferrari, launched earlier this week, hits the race track for the first time in Barcelona.

    F1
  6. Williams confirms schedule for testing 16:41

    Williams confirms schedule for testing

    Williams has confirmed its driver line-up for the pair of pre-season tests at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Felipe…

    F1
  7. In photos: Formula 1 designs of 2017 16:28

    In photos: Formula 1 designs of 2017

    Formula 1's 2017 cars are gradually being presented through 'launch week', in the build up to pre-season testing in Barcelona.…

    F1
  8. Pérez dreams of maiden win with VJM10 16:12

    Pérez dreams of maiden win with VJM10

    Sergio Pérez is "dreaming" that he and Force India will be able to achieve their first victory together in 2017, following the…

    F1
  9. Mallya hits back at Abiteboul comments 15:49

    Mallya hits back at Abiteboul comments

    Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya has hit back at Renault's Cyril Abiteboul, after the Frenchman suggested lesser-resourced…

    F1
  10. Hamilton reveals helmet design winner 15:34

    Hamilton reveals helmet design winner

    Lewis Hamilton has revealed the winner of his helmet design competition. Hamilton launched the competition at the end of last…

    F1
  11. 14:22

    Gallery: Force India pulls wraps off VJM10

    F1
  12. Force India reveals VJM10 at Silverstone 14:16

    Force India reveals VJM10 at Silverstone

    Force India presented its 2017 challenger, dubbed the VJM10, during an official launch ceremony at the Silverstone circuit on…

    F1
  13. Norris joins McLaren driver programme 12:03

    Norris joins McLaren driver programme

    British racer Lando Norris has joined McLaren's Young Driver Programme. Norris, 17, claimed the Toyota Racing Series, Eurocup…

    F1
  14. Video: Hülkenberg on 2017 season 11:22

    Video: Hülkenberg on 2017 season

    Nico Hülkenberg looks ahead to the 2017 F1 season, his first with the manufacturer Renault team.

    F1
  15. Palmer: I can hit ground running in 2017 09:24

    Palmer: I can hit ground running in 2017

    Renault's Jolyon Palmer believes he can "hit the ground running" from the start of the 2017 Formula 1 season due to his greater…

    F1
  16. 09:16

    Overview: 2017 GP2 Series grid so far

    GP2
  17. Albon graduates to GP2 with ART GP 09:13

    Albon graduates to GP2 with ART GP

    Alexander Albon will make the step up to GP2 with ART Grand Prix in 2017. English-born Thai racer Albon, 20, finished…

    GP2
  18. Mercedes releases W08 teaser photos 08:09

    Mercedes releases W08 teaser photos

    Mercedes has released several teaser photographs of its new Formula 1 challenger, entitled the F1 W08 Hybrid, ahead of the World…

    F1
  19. Abiteboul: Renault 'fastest-growing team' 07:34

    Abiteboul: Renault 'fastest-growing team'

    Renault is the "fastest-growing" team in Formula 1 as it attempts to return to the front of the grid, according to the brand's…

    F1
  20. Video of the Day: F1 power units explained 05:32

    Video of the Day: F1 power units explained

    Mercedes explains how power units will be affected by Formula 1's new regulations for 2017.

    F1
  21. Tuesday 21 February 2017

  22. Bell: RS17 'first real Renault' of new era 18:09

    Bell: RS17 'first real Renault' of new era

    The RS17 is the "first real Renault" of the manufacturer's latest spell as a works Formula 1 team, after a hurried return in…

    F1
  23. Force India finalises Barcelona test line-up 16:17

    Force India finalises Barcelona test line-up

    Force India has confirmed its full driver schedule for both pre-season test sessions, with junior driver Alfonso Celis Jr. set…

    F1
  24. Prost's new Renault role 'not day-to-day' 16:08

    Prost's new Renault role 'not day-to-day'

    Alain Prost has taken on an advisory role at Renault for the 2017 season, though the four-time World Champion stressed his…

    F1
  25. Juncos to enter car for Indianapolis 500 15:57

    Juncos to enter car for Indianapolis 500

    Indy Lights team Juncos Racing will step up to IndyCar this season after pledging to run a car at the Indianapolis…

    Indy
  26. Renault junior Aitken switches to ART 15:47

    Renault junior Aitken switches to ART

    Jack Aitken will switch to ART Grand Prix for his second season in GP3, having retained his position within the Renault Sport…

    GP3
  27. 15:44

    Gallery: Renault presents RS17 in London

    F1
  28. Renault targets fifth in 2017 standings 15:36

    Renault targets fifth in 2017 standings

    Renault has set its sights on securing fifth in the 2017 championship standings, after the manufacturer the RS17, to the public…

    F1
  29. Sirotkin set for more FP1 runs with Renault 15:33

    Sirotkin set for more FP1 runs with Renault

    Sergey Sirotkin is set to increase his involvement with the Renault Formula 1 team after being named as its official reserve…

    F1
  30. Renault unveils 2017 Formula 1 challenger 15:04

    Renault unveils 2017 Formula 1 challenger

    Renault has taken the wraps off its 2017 design, the RS17, which will be raced by Nico Hülkenberg and Jolyon Palmer, as the…

    F1
  31. 14:25

    Follow Renault's 2017 car launch live!

    F1
  32. Mawson steps up to European F3 with VAR 13:10

    Mawson steps up to European F3 with VAR

    Reigning ADAC Formula 4 champion Joey Mawson will graduate to European Formula 3 with Van Amersfoort Racing in 2017. Mawson…

    F3
  33. Giovinazzi 'very likely' to test for Sauber 12:55

    Giovinazzi 'very likely' to test for Sauber

    Antonio Giovinazzi is "very likely" to get pre-season running with Sauber at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, following…

    F1
  34. Ferrari confirms Vergne no longer tester 12:33

    Ferrari confirms Vergne no longer tester

    Jean-Éric Vergne is no longer a test driver at Ferrari, the team has confirmed to GPUpdate.net. Vergne joined Ferrari's…

    F1
  35. Rossi feels he has 'a big point to prove' 12:09

    Rossi feels he has 'a big point to prove'

    Alexander Rossi feels that he has "a big point to prove" on road and street tracks through the upcoming IndyCar season, after…

    Indy
  36. Video: Hildebrand visor cam at Sonoma 10:02

    Video: Hildebrand visor cam at Sonoma

    Take a few laps around Sonoma Raceway with Ed Carpenter Racing driver J. R. Hildebrand.

    Indy
  37. Magnussen: Improving on 2016 not a given 09:26

    Magnussen: Improving on 2016 not a given

    Haas newcomer Kevin Magnussen says improving on the team's 2016 results is not a "given", in spite of its increased experience…

    F1
  38. Horner: RBR has most exciting line-up 07:16

    Horner: RBR has most exciting line-up

    Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner reckons Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen represent the most exciting driver line-up…

    F1
  39. Video of the Day: Horner on 2017 season 05:00

    Video of the Day: Horner on 2017 season

    Red Bull team boss Christian Horner looks ahead to the 2017 season and a new Formula 1 era.

    F1
  40. Monday 20 February 2017

  41. Video: Ricciardo onboard in Houston 15:42

    Video: Ricciardo onboard in Houston

    Go onboard with Daniel Ricciardo during his recent demo at ExxonMobil's HQ in Houston, Texas.

    F1
  42. 'Overtaking could be easier with 2017 cars' 13:32

    'Overtaking could be easier with 2017 cars'

    Red Bull's technical chiefs have suggested that Formula 1's new cars could create more overtaking opportunities than previous…

    F1
  43. Horner: Renault has had a 'big winter' 12:04

    Horner: Renault has had a 'big winter'

    Christian Horner is hopeful that his Red Bull team can be a "real challenger" in 2017, given the changes engine supplier Renault…

    F1
more news