Even though the Brazilian Grand Prix was always traditionally one of the opening rounds of the season, it’s become a firm favourite as one of the last rounds since it was moved to the end of the calendar for the 2004 season.
Sadly in F1 money talks, and Abu Dhabi seems to have become the new location for the last race of the season, which is great if you like small crowds, no history and uninspiring circuit layouts.
Here are five reasons why we think Brazil should go back to being the last race of the year:
Championship deciders are already exciting enough, but when you add a bit of rain into the mix they can become absolute nailbiters, and Interlagos is famous for a few drops of moisture. Who can forget the drama it added at the end of the 2008 race, or how insane the 2012 finale – one of the best races of all time – was from start to finish? Even back when it was at the start of the season rain was often a factor, like when David Coulthard won in 2001, or the insanity of the 2003 race which lead to Giancarlo Fisichella’s Jordan winning. It can even have an effect in qualifying, like in 2010 when Nico Hulkenberg took a shock pole for Williams.
The track itself
Interlagos is a fantastic circuit layout that’s exciting to watch, punishes mistakes and produces great racing even without the aid of the weather, or DRS. Juan-Pablo Montoya announced himself to Formula 1 with a ballsy move on Michael Schumacher in 2001, and the 2006 race saw Schumacher charge through the field after a puncture with some terrific overtakes into the Senna S. When Button clinched the title in 2009 he had to charge through from 14th on the grid in the race where Toyota newcomer Kamui Kobayashi made a name for himself.
The fans are awesome
The Brazilian GP first became a World Championship event in 1973, largely down to the success of Emerson Fittipaldi, and since then the Brazilian fans have pretty much always had someone to cheer for: Carlos Pace (after whom Interlagos is now named), Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, Rubens Barrichello and more recently, Felipe Massa.
This has always ensured a large and animated crowd, but even without a top-line Brazilian driver the circuits location in one of the world most populous cities is likely to draw people in – a good crowd adds atmosphere, and can make even an average race become memorable.
Would Massa’s last second defeat in 2008 have been as emotional if it was at Abu Dhabi, and would Mark Webber removing his helmet in his last race in 2013 have carried as much weight? Probably not. Fans are one of the most important parts of any sport, and giving one of the most F1-bonkers nations in the world the last race of the season only seems like a fair way to give something back.
Formula 1 has been going to Brazil for over 40 years and although the (now defunct) Jacarepagua circuit hosted some races in the 1980s, the majority have been at Interlagos. Drivers race on the same bits of road Fittipaldi won the first Grand Prix back in 1973, and where Senna took two emotional home victories in 1991 and 1993.
Even though it’s only been at the end of the season for 12 years, it’s already been the scene of some utterly thrilling championship showdowns. Kimi Raikkonen beat the odds in 2007 to win the title by just one point from Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Massa was champion for 30 seconds in 2008 before Hamilton passed Timo Glock on the last corner. Sebastian Vettel got involved in a collision on the first lap in 2012 and had to fight through the field with a damaged car to beat Alonso. And those aren’t even the only years drivers have celebrated championship wins in Brazil.
Abu Dhabi sucks
Of course, none of this would be so bad if the last race was somewhere like Suzuka instead, or even one of the better modern circuits like COTA. But no. It’s at Yas Marina, a track which vies with Sochi and Baku for the title of worst circuit on the calendar. The layout is awful and cars struggle to overtake, even with the aid of DRS, as Alonso and Webber found out in 2010.
There’s so much runoff area that track limits spend far too much time being an issue and there are enough clumsy chicanes to make Monza’s Rettifilo look like a masterstroke of circuit design. But hey, at least the pit lane exit goes through a tunnel and the race goes from day to night time, right?
Thankfully Abu Dhabi has only been home to a championship decider twice – in 2010 when Vettel took the title after Vitaly Petrov’s Renault held up Alonso and Webber, and in 2014 when Hamilton took his second championship, beating Nico Rosberg. As if people didn’t hate Abu Dhabi enough the race that year was also inexplicably worth double points, though thankfully it didn’t have a major effect on anything.
At least it has a kick-ass rollercoaster.
Unfortunately the 2017 calendar also has Abu Dhabi down as the season finale. Let’s just hope that someone, somewhere, eventually sees sense and puts a proper venue like Brazil at the end of the year instead.