Formula 1 heads to South America for the penultimate round of the 2018 season and to one of the most historic races on the calendar, the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo.
While Lewis Hamilton might have secured his fifth world championship last time out in Mexico, the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, or Interlagos as its better known, is a circuit fans around the world adore with a true old-school feel and a layout that provides some of the best racing seen all year.
With the pressure largely off, albeit with the constructors’ title still up for grabs, it also means Ferrari and Mercedes will be going all out for victory meaning a fierce and exciting battle is very much on the cards.
About the race
Much like Mexico, Brazil is one big party with some of the most passionate fans anywhere in the world following their favourites religiously.
The country has also produced multiple world champions including Nelson Piquet and Emmerson Fittipaldi although neither rise to the same level of fame as Brazilian idol Ayrton Senna.
His nephew Bruno followed two decades later as did a plethora of drivers including Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa to name the most successful but this year marks the first time since 1969 that no Brazilian has lined up on the grid.
As for the Interlagos circuit, it dates back to 1990 in its current form but the first race was held in Sao Paulo 18 years earlier on a much longer version of the track F1 uses today which ran around both sides of the lake which gives the venue its name.
The character of the circuit remained, however, with a design of two halves featuring long straights at the start and end of the lap and a technical middle sector making set-up a compromise between top speed and grip.
Turns 1, 2 and 3 at the Senna ‘S’ is where the old track was cut and went down into the infield section but has since become one of the great overtaking places in F1.
Juan Pablo Montoya and David Coulthard notably passed Michael Schumacher there in 2001, while Jenson Button produced several sublime moves en route to securing the 2009 title.
Several other championships have been won in Brazil including five straight between 2005-2009 with Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton the victors.
The most recent came in another dramatic race in 2012 when Sebastian Vettel came through the field after spinning on Lap 1 to deny Alonso a third world title in wet conditions.
And the unpredictable weather is just another factor that makes the Brazilian GP so popular.
Giancarlo Fisichella’s win in 2003 and Max Verstappen’s wet-weather masterclass in 2016 are two that stand out, but it’s the 2008 race that is most fondly remembered as a late downpour first appeared to have given Massa the world title only for Hamilton to snatch it back in the famous ‘Is that Glock?!’ moment on the final lap.
Last year, however, it was bright sunshine and a fast start for Vettel, passing Valtteri Bottas into Turn 1, that proved decisive as the German took victory, with Hamilton making his way through the field to fourth after crashing out in qualifying.
Here are our picks for this weekend.
Top driver picks:
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari ($28.6m)
With championship talk over and after two strong performances in Austin and Mexico, maybe, just maybe Brazil is where Vettel ends his win drought which dates back to Spa in August.
Ferrari should also have the pace advantage over Mercedes with their engine seemingly back ahead in terms of performance although tyre wear could be an issue with graining and blisters quite common at Interlagos.
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes ($24.9m)
A strange choice many of you are thinking but once a title is secure it is often the case that Hamilton’s teammates suddenly start out-performing him in following races with Brazil 2017 a perfect example.
Bottas is also owed a victory this season and with no more need to play the ‘wingman’, it really wouldn’t be surprising to see the Finn win on Sunday.
Esteban Ocon, Force India ($9.6m)
Last year this race actually saw Ocon’s only retirement in 2017 and his first in F1 as he crashed out on Lap 1 but right now, Force India is the most consistent midfield team and the Frenchman more often than not is the driver leading that charge.
Main rivals Renault are likely to slip down after recent results and Haas are also struggling in the closing races making Ocon or teammate Sergio Perez a must have in your fantasy team.
Worst driver picks:
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull ($19.1m)
The Australian simply can’t catch a break right now after his eighth retirement of the year in Mexico as he looked set for a podium finish.
Combine that with Red Bull, who are unlikely to repeat their Mexico heroics despite Sao Paulo being the second highest F1 city in terms of altitude and P6 is probably the best Ricciardo can hope for.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren ($9.8m)
Much like Ricciardo, Alonso’s F1 career is winding down in disappointing circumstances with two consecutive retirements as a result of Lap 1 contact.
McLaren have historically gone well at Interlagos which may work in their favour, although it’s tough to see anything other than another weekend struggling towards the back of the grid.
Top team pick
Ferrari ($30.9m): Looking set to end the year as the fastest team on the grid, having Ferrari on your team is a no-brainer particularly after scoring 73 fantasy points in Mexico alone.