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F1 Preview 2008 - Brazilian Grand Prix.

It is perhaps entirely appropriate that the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship title showdown should take place at Interlagos, since the circuit lends itself perfectly to drama and – whatever happens – the outcome of this weekend will make grand prix history.

Lewis Hamilton stands on the precipice of being crowned the sport's youngest-ever world champion should he come out on top – and if he doesn't, then Felipe Massa will prevail, to become the first Brazilian to lift the drivers' laurels since the late, great Ayrton Senna last did so 17 years back. And he would do it in Brazil.

Either way, it will be a momentous occasion, and in a city as vibrant as is São Paulo and a setting as spectacular as is Interlagos – literally 'between the lakes' – whoever wins there is sure to be a fiesta atmosphere after the race.

Hamilton undoubtedly enters the weekend as hot favourite to seal the deal, carrying as he does a seven-point advantage over his Ferrari rival and needing to finish just fifth, regardless of where Massa takes the chequered flag. Lest we forget, however, the British star had the exact same comfort margin over Massa's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen heading into the same race this time last year – and ended up crossing the line just seventh, thereby conceding the title to the Finn by a single point.

Whether that memory will be playing on the 23-year-old's mind no one can say, but he has vowed to play it safe rather than risk going all-out for glory as he did at Fuji earlier this month – with disastrous consequences. The Lewis Hamilton in Shanghai just a week later appeared to be a very different, far more composed driver, but nerves can sometimes be telling and it will be fascinating to see what lessons have truly been learned.

That's not to say, of course, that the pressure will all be on Hamilton, as Massa has not only a seven-point deficit to overturn – a sizeable enough task in itself – but also the weight of expectation of an entire home nation upon his shoulders, willing him on to return the crown to Brazil for the first time since 1991.

The São Paulo native has insisted all the focus and pressure will be on his rival, but he would dearly love to clinch the championship at a circuit on which his hero Senna triumphed twice and where he himself prevailed two years ago. Massa would likely have won there last season too, but for having had to support Raikkonen's title bid and settle for second place.

At least this time around the 27-year-old knows he has the full backing of the Finn in his own championship challenge, and with the 2007 world champion having seemingly returned to form in recent weeks – even out-pacing Massa weekend-long in Shanghai last time out – that arguably hands Ferrari an advantage over McLaren, for whom Heikki Kovalainen has been inconsistent to say the least. The battle of the 'second drivers' in Brazil could ultimately transpire to be just as significant as that of their 'team leaders' in determining who emerges on top.

BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica, meanwhile, is aiming to defend his third place in the drivers' standings from the resurgent Raikkonen, and will need to extract every last ounce of performance out of his F1.08 if he to succeed in doing so, as the Munich and Hinwil-conceived challenger has fallen increasingly shy of the leading pace of late. There is also still a slim chance that BMW can overhaul McLaren for the runner-up spot in the final constructors' rankings, should Kubica and team-mate Nick Heidfeld rack up the points and the Silver Arrows endure a weekend to forget.



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