Toyota - Ralf Schumacher (#11), Jarno Trulli (#12):

Ralf Schumacher will make the last of his 54 grand prix outings for Toyota in this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix, as the German gets set to move onto pastures new next year at the end of a frustrating 2007.

Though the F1 veteran registered a pole position and 45 points in his debut season for the Japanese marque back in 2005, and a further 20 last year, the present campaign has yielded just five, courtesy of top-eight finishes in Australia, Canada and Hungary as team-mate Jarno Trulli has by-and-large had the better of him. Schumacher is determined to add a fourth points-paying finish to that tally in Interlagos.

"I am coming to the end of my time at Toyota after three seasons," the 32-year-old acknowledged. "It has been an enjoyable and interesting time in my career, even if I would like to have had better results. It has been a hard season for me and the team, but I am really motivated to get a good result in Brazil so we can end on a high note.

"I enjoy racing at Interlagos, but it is a very demanding circuit. For the drivers it is a challenge because of the bumps, but from a technical side it is interesting as it is important to have mechanical grip in the tight infield, particularly from turn eight to turn eleven, and there is a long flat-out section through the final corners and onto the main straight. We will work hard to find the best set-up to deal with this, as well as the bumps, when practice starts on Friday. After two troubled races in Japan and China, I hope we can bounce back in Brazil."

Trulli has enjoyed a more successful season than his team-mate, though still one that has fallen some way below expectations. The Italian has qualified inside the top ten on all-but two occasions this year, but Toyota's inferior race pace has seen results on Sunday afternoons rather more thin on the ground, something he stresses he is keen to rectify in the final race of the campaign.

"I enjoy the challenge of racing at Interlagos," he argued, "so I am looking forward to this race. It is one of the trickiest tracks in Formula 1, with an enjoyable mix of high and low-speed corners. There are other factors to consider as well, for example the track is anti-clockwise so it puts extra strain on your neck, although I have trained for this so it will not be a problem. And then there are the bumps, which make life difficult with set-up, particularly on a Friday.

"It's been a really hard few races for me and the team, so I am keen to end the season with an improved result before we focus all our energies on 2008. We have the potential to score points, but we have to push hard and not make any mistakes."

"We enjoy going to Interlagos," added Toyota's senior general chassis manager Pascal Vasselon, "because in Brazil there just seem to be more fans than virtually anywhere else - they have a true passion for motorsport. The circuit itself is unique in that it is probably the only track where suspension settings are so important. Normally the main performance factors on an F1 car are aerodynamics and tyre usage. At Interlagos it is still about tyre usage, but suspension settings are clearly a major performance factor due to the bumpy nature of the track. You have to find a way to keep your wheels on the ground, so set-up parameters that are secondary everywhere else become key in Brazil.

"An interesting thing about going to S?o Paulo in 2007 is the tyre choice. Bridgestone has proposed the two softest compounds - the Monaco compounds. In terms of tyre severity, though, Interlagos is much harder than Monaco, so one of the challenges will be tyre management and we expect the track to be tough on the softer tyre in particular."

Red Bull Racing - David Coulthard (#14), Mark Webber (#15):

A late-season charge has seen Red Bull Racing close to within just four points of Williams for fourth place in the constructors' title chase, and with just one round now left in which to depose the former world champions, the Milton Keynes-based squad is heading to Brazil with all guns blazing.

David Coulthard has finished in the points in both of the last two races, and the team has notched up 18 points from the second half of the season, compared to just six from a reliability-stricken first half. With the momentum on its side, Red Bull knows it really is a case of now or never.

"Engine power is critical at this circuit," stressed Fabrice Lom, RBR principal engineer for trackside engine support, "because of the long main straight. But the circuit is also at altitude, which costs the engines around seven per cent of their power and makes life easier for the pistons. The other important area to work on is driveability - smooth power delivery through the infield can bring real benefits in terms of maintaining a stable car balance, and thus in lap time.

"We have missed a number of opportunities to score points - we're still behind Williams in the championship, and really we should be in front. Both drivers will have new engines in Brazil though, and a brand new engine is always a little more powerful than a V8 doing its second event; every little bit extra is welcome under the current rules."

Williams - Nico Rosberg (#16), Kazuki Nakajima (#17):

Williams enters the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend under pressure from a resurgent Red Bull Racing in the constructors' title chase, following a number of impressive qualifying performances from Nico Rosberg but no points from the last two races in comparison to their rivals' six.

Rosberg has been one of the stars of the 2007 campaign, and currently sits ninth in the drivers' standings with 15 points. A strong result in S?o Paolo will be enough to preserve that position at the end of his sophomore campaign in the top flight, and he is adamant he will be giving it his all.

"Interlagos is a great circuit," the 22-year-old enthused, "and I am looking forward to it. It's a cool track, with a variety of corners and surface undulations. The past two races have been difficult, so I hope to finish the season well and to hold on to my present position in the drivers' championship.

"S?o Paulo is also a place where you can have some fun in the evenings, so I would imagine it's going to be a good weekend. It's fantastic for Formula 1 to have a three-way battle for the championship going into the last race of the season, which is not a situation that happens very often. Personally, I hope Lewis manages to win because he deserves it."

There will be a different face across the other side of the Williams garage this weekend, following Alex Wurz's decision to step down from race-driving at the end of the Chinese Grand Prix. Erstwhile test-driver and GP2 front-runner Kazuki Nakajima has stepped into the breach, and is relishing the challenge ahead of him.

"I'm obviously feeling really excited about my first Formula 1 race," asserted the son of former grand prix star Satoru. "I've never driven at Interlagos before, so I've been doing lots of preparation work in the team's simulator at Grove. I've also ramped up my training in the gym to help me cope with the pressures on my neck because it's an anti-clockwise track.

"It looks like it's going to rain over the weekend, so the weather is going to make the whole process quite tricky. I'm trying not to put any pressure on myself though. I'm going to take it at my own pace, work through each session step-by-step and, above all, just enjoy it."

With six victories, eight pole positions and ten fastest laps from 29 races in Brazil, Williams has a strong history in the country, but neither of the team's cars has succeeded in completing a racing lap around Interlagos over the past two seasons, with 2006 a particular disaster after Rosberg and then team-mate Mark Webber ran into each other, prompting an early bath for both. They will no doubt be hoping history does not repeat itself this time around.

"Interlagos is a well laid-out track," commented technical director Sam Michael. "It has a lot of gradient changes over the lap and two long straights which are crucial for overtaking. The performance of the car in the corners that precede the straights is the most important consideration when it comes to car set-up.

"The grid line-up is traditionally tight due to the low fuel penalty and short lap time. Coupled with a long pit-lane, the strategy is a close call between a one and a two-stop strategy, so we will see a mix of both on race day. Bridgestone are bringing the soft and super-soft tyres to the race, but we may not get to use them as the forecast is currently predicting rain all weekend.

"As this is the last race of the 2007 season, we will be pushing hard to claim points in the constructors' championship. We have had two races in a row where we haven't scored points due to various circumstances, but we are aiming to change that in Brazil.

"Alex Wurz has retired and we thank him again for all his hard work in developing the FW29 and contributing to the constructors' points for Williams this year. He is a great guy to work with and we wish him well for the future."

Scuderia Toro Rosso - Vitantonio Liuzzi (#18), Sebastian Vettel (#19):

Following a disastrous weekend in Japan, when what had looked like being the squad's first podium finish - indeed first points of the 2007 campaign - disintegrated in front of their eyes the moment new boy Sebastian Vettel clattered into the back of Mark Webber's sister Red Bull Racing machine, Scuderia Toro Rosso headed to China a week later under something of a cloud. It left the land of the rising sun practically walking on air.

Vettel may have made a rookie error in Fuji, but he more than made up for it in Shanghai with a supremely mature drive that belied his 20 years to clinch fourth spot amongst some exalted company - the best result of both his and STR's fledgling Formula 1 careers. To make it a near-perfect day, Vitantonio Liuzzi also figured strongly two places back in sixth - thereby compensating for his own Japanese disappointment, after he was given a time penalty for passing Adrian Sutil under yellow flags that ultimately dropped the Italian out of eighth place.

The final team to get off the mark in 2007, now STR has done so it has done so in some considerable style, and a new seamless-shift gearbox brought in for Magny-Cours has seen a decided upturn in performance, to the extent that Vettel qualified inside the top ten in Japan and both drivers only narrowly missed out on a similar showing the following weekend.

Now in with a small shout of depriving an underperforming Toyota of sixth spot in the constructors' championship - what appeared almost unthinkable back at the start of the year - who's to say what STR may achieve in Brazil?

Spyker F1 - Sakon Yamamoto (#20), Adrian Sutil (#21):

Buoyed by its first-ever point, courtesy of Adrian Sutil in Japan, Spyker heads to Brazil this weekend with renewed spirits and keen to end on a positive note as the effects of its new ownership kick in.

Sutil was overjoyed to claim his maiden points finish at Fuji, and despite never having been to Interlagos before, he will be able to rely on a small, dedicated pocket of support on account of his South American heritage, the German being half-Uruguayan on his father's side.

"It's the first time I'll be there," the F1 rookie admitted, "and I'm looking forward to seeing another new track after China. Hopefully it will be a better weekend!

"I only know the circuit from the TV. Obviously it has a really long straight and it's very bumpy, so for sure it won't be easy to set the car up. We've seen already at other tracks that our car is a better in low-downforce spec, so we will run as little as possible.

"[The year] has gone very quickly - it's amazing that already my first F1 season is over. I think after 17 races everybody needs a little break, though, and I'm looking forward to having some free time after the end of the season."

Team-mate Sakon Yamamoto was one of the unsung heroes of the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix, setting the seventh-fastest lap of the race for Super Aguri on his first appearance in S?o Paolo, and the Japanese confirmed Interlagos was one of his favourite circuits.

"I want to have a really good race there," the 25-year-old underlined. "Last year my car wasn't really great, so in that kind of situation it was an amazing result that we could be seventh-quickest in the race, and also I was second-quickest in the second sector, so I'm really looking forward to driving there again.

"I like the layout, especially sector two of course! It's very complicated - just right, left, right. As an F1 circuit it is a bit tight, but if you've got the rhythm it's really good fun.

"It's good if you have a low-downforce car there, and for sure your straight-line speed is going to be quicker. Then the problem is how you manage sector two, the twisty section, but as I said I like it and I think I can do a good job there."

Spyker struggled for much of the year before the introduction of its B-spec car towards the end of the season, boosting the team's competitiveness. Incredibly, though, the squad has led more laps than anyone except McLaren, Ferrari and Renault in 2007, thanks to chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne's inspired tyre choice for Markus Winkelhock in the wet-dry European Grand Prix at the N?rburgring back in July.

"It has obviously been a very difficult season," acknowledged Gascoyne. "We've been compromised on the development of new parts by financial circumstances. Some of the development such as the wind tunnel has taken much longer than we expected to get up and running, but we have ended the season a high, with the B-spec car scoring its first point and new owners who are very committed to moving the team forward. It's a big well done to the team for all their hard work after a difficult year. I hope we can now look forward to an improved season next year.

"I think we have made a good step forward with the B-spec. We knew it was never going to be enough to take us to the top, but we now have a lot more resources to put into development, particularly aerodynamics. We have shown very clearly that we know what we are doing and when we put parts on the car, they improve the performance as expected. Over the winter we can now get our heads down and get on with this development, and by the middle of next year I think we can expect to be truly competitive."

"If you look at the year as a whole, it has not been easy," concurred Spyker team principal and managing director Colin Kolles. "We have had many challenges and tests, but I think we can be proud of how far we have come and what we have achieved. We said this would be a year to stabilise the team, set new standards and procedures and really put down the foundations to let the team move forward over the coming seasons. I think we have achieved all of these aims.

"We set out to get a point this year and we did, but now we need to do this on-track so we can celebrate properly! Adrian did a brilliant job to get from the back of the field [in Japan], and although we did not know about the point until well after the race he thoroughly deserved a good result.

"The technical team is now working very well together and we are seeing the rewards of the investments in the B-spec. We need to have a strong finish with both cars [in Brazil] to get as much data as possible for next year. If we finish in the points it would be a good result for the winter, but let's see what the conditions are like, where we qualify and what is possible on Sunday, then I hope next year with increased resources we will be able to really challenge."

Super Aguri F1 - Takuma Sato (#22), Anthony Davidson (#23):

Super Aguri produced arguably the finest performance of its debut campaign in the top flight in last year's Brazilian Grand Prix, as both Sakon Yamamoto and Takuma Sato set top-ten fastest lap times in the season finale.

Though the Japanese squad failed to score with its four-year-old ex-Arrows chassis' in 2006, it has notched up four points in its sophomore season - until China embarrassing Honda itself by outscoring the works outfit. Though there have been no further points since Canada back in June, it has nevertheless been an encouraging rather than difficult second year.

"In general, we have been pleased with the season's performance," asserted Super Aguri head of aerodynamics Ben Wood. "We have extracted a lot of performance from this car, but in the end we cannot compete with the larger teams we are up against. It's a constant development game and if you don't develop and put parts on the car as the season progresses, you go backwards on the grid. Our race team has done an excellent job in ensuring they extract the most out of the car. We are also very proud of the fact we took our points during dry conditions and by merit earlier in the season.

"We've never had the largest aero department and we are currently a team of eleven people doing everything, so we're quite used to making the most of limited resources. However, that gets a bit difficult when you can't afford to wind tunnel test. We have not been able to put on any really serious development parts since May, so it's really hurt our on-track performance. This is one of the reasons why our situation is particularly difficult.

"The guys in the aero department have all done a fantastic job though. Each model designer, model maker and aerodynamicist has been immense in their own way. They all have different skills that blend very well together. There are no two people or jobs alike. We also thrive in having very good contact with the drawing office, race team and R&D as we all sit in the same room.

"We have a new rear wing [for Brazil] which, if it's dry, we'll be racing. We also have a few small modifications to some of the brake duct assemblies. Interlagos is a favourable downforce level for us, as are most places, and is characterised by a longish straight and several medium-speed, linked corners. I hope we can put in a showing to encourage the team going into the winter development period, after two particularly hard races in China and Japan."

TYRES:

Bridgestone's third Formula 1 World Champion is set to be crowned at the end of Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix, following in the wheeltracks of Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher, the first two drivers to clinch the title using the Japanese manufacturer's rubber.

The Aut?dromo Jos? Carlos Pace - known as Interlagos due to its location between two artificial lakes - will provide a true test for all three championship protagonists. It is the second track this season to be run in an anti-clockwise direction, and is characterised by its undulating and particularly bumpy nature. A twisty infield section, with the possibility of a dusty circuit to start the weekend, means front tyre graining is likely to be a factor.

Heavy braking and rapid acceleration out of the corners will also place demands on the tyres, with good rear traction a particular requirement for a fast lap. Bridgestone rubber has been used on the winning car in Brazil in seven grands prix since the company's entry into F1 back in 1997.

"Interlagos looks like a circuit that would be quite severe on tyres, but this is not the case as it is not actually that harsh," stated Director of Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Hirohide Hamashima. "High levels of grip are an important requirement here, especially in the infield section. Because of these grip requirements we will bring the soft and super-soft compounds, the softest tyres we have in the 2007 range. However, we expect to have less grip here than when we were in a competitive situation last year, so teams and drivers will have to work hard to find the best set-up.

"It is a track which has a lot of gradient changes, and the first turn will be a particular challenge. The corner is downhill and comes after the long straight, so identifying the correct braking point will be vital. It is very difficult and drivers often lock their front wheels here, so they will have to be careful to avoid flat-spotting their tyres. This year there is an unknown element too, as the circuit has been resurfaced."

THE TRACK:
Race Distance: 71 laps - Circuit Length: 2.693 miles (4.309km)

The anti-clockwise Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace was built in a natural bowl that has gradually been absorbed by the sprawling city of S?o Paulo. The original track, first used in 1940, twisted around itself between two lakes, hence the name Interlagos, but the new, shorter version misses out much of the old track even if it retains the original's stand-out feature - a steep start-line straight.

Frequently run on a very bumpy surface, despite regular relaying of the tarmac, the Brazilian Grand Prix invariably proves to be a true test of durability for both man and machine, heightened by the fact that the Interlagos circuit is one of the few - along with Imola and Istanbul - to run in an anti-clockwise direction. The 4.3km circuit consists of 13 medium and slow-speed corners - nine left and four right - and has a blend of long, fast straights and gradient changes.

With such a varied layout, set-up compromises are inevitable, and the challenge lies in achieving optimal aerodynamic efficiency around the lap. Interlagos is a notoriously bumpy circuit, so not only is it draining on the drivers, but the cars must have a good mechanical balance for drivability. Combined with the bumps, the track is also particularly abrasive, so harder compound tyres must be selected to ensure their survival. Engines are similarly under intense pressure in Brazil, with the long straights demanding extensive periods at full throttle and high revs, while the high altitude and thinning air saps approximately eight per cent of overall power around the lap.

For the racers, there are plenty of overtaking opportunities, but S?o Paulo also throws up its own unpredictable weather, which can cause additional problems as water drains off the hills surrounding the circuit. The atmosphere, however - come rain or shine - makes Interlagos one of the more intoxicating venues to visit, with the passionate Brazilian fans adding to the spectacle.

THE WINNER?

Who will win the 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix? That, of course, is the $64,000 question. Should Lewis Hamilton prevail, he will become the first rookie champion in Formula 1 history, but the odds are stacked against him triumphing in the race at least. On paper Ferrari's Felipe Massa would look to be the favourite, following his peerless performance in S?o Paulo last year, but should the home hero find himself in front of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen he will no doubt be asked to make way for the Finn to aid the latter's championship cause. It is at Interlagos, meanwhile, where Fernando Alonso has clinched both his championship crowns. It really is too close to call.

LAST SEASON:

Felipe Massa took a hugely popular victory in the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix, after leading from lights to chequered flag and setting a pace nobody else could live with.

The second triumph of his Formula 1 career, Massa led home Fernando Alonso, for whom the runner-up spot was more than enough to confirm his second successive world drivers' title as rival for the crown Michael Schumacher fought valiantly back from an early puncture to steal fourth place from McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen in the dying laps. In the final grand prix of his spectacular career, the German drove like a true champion and left defeated but with his head held high, as Jenson Button joined Massa and Alonso on the bottom step of the rostrum - only the Briton's third podium finish of the campaign.

Giancarlo Fisichella came home sixth to ensure Renault walked away with the constructors' laurels too, with Rubens Barrichello scoring for Honda on home turf in seventh and Pedro de la Rosa taking the final point for McLaren in eighth. There was embarrassment for Williams, however, as Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber took each other out on the opening tour - the second year in a row the team had failed to get either of its cars beyond lap one...

1. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 71 01:31:53.751
2. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +18.6
3. Jenson Button Britain Honda-Honda +19.3
4. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari +24.0
5. Kimi Raikkonen FinlandMcLaren-Mercedes +28.5
6. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Renault-Renault +30.2
7. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Honda-Honda +40.2
8. Pedro de la Rosa Spain McLaren-Mercedes +52.0

 

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