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Brazilian Grand Prix talking points: Max Verstappen looks to maintain form as champion Lewis Hamilton aims to end season on high

Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2017    
Source: The National

Max Verstappen has won two of the past five races in Formula One and will be confident of challenging for further wins in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Moises Castillo / AP Photo
Max Verstappen has won two of the past five races in Formula One and will be confident of challenging for further wins in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Moises Castillo / AP Photo

The penultimate round of the Formula One season, the Brazilian Grand Prix, takes place on Sunday in Sao Paulo, with the race starting at 8pm UAE time.

Ahead of proceedings starting in South America on Friday with practice, here are some talking points.

Verstappen the man on form

Max Verstappen, like most of the F1 grid, will be glad of the winter break after the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 26.

But he is also likely to be disappointed the season is ending at a point when he is the form man in the series.

For most of 2017 the Red Bull Racing driver had a miserable time, in terms of race results as a mixture of bad luck with mechanical failures and being embroiled in incidents with other cars saw him score only 68 points.

In the past four races he has beaten that tally with 80 points thanks to wins in Malaysia and Mexico and a second-place in Japan.

The impressive thing is both victories were achieved on merit, and he was close to winning Japan too as he pressured Lewis Hamilton throughout at Suzuka.

Even in the other race of the four, in the United States, after starting at the back he finished fourth, and would have been third had he not been penalised by stewards for exceeding track limits in passing Kimi Raikkonen.

The momentum is with Verstappen and he will believe he can maintain it in Brazil, a place where he wowed in the wet 12 months ago on his way to third.

If Verstappen keeps this form up at the start of next year, and Red Bull can give him a fast, and crucially reliable, package, then he is looking like a serious threat to Hamilton's bid for a fifth world title.

More success in Brazil, and then in Abu Dhabi, will only underline this point further.

Hamilton needs to get momentum back

The championship is sewn up for Hamilton already, but he will want to end the season on a high.

Not just for personal gain, but to prevent Verstappen and Vettel gaining any further confidence going into 2018.

There is no doubt that Ferrari and Red Bull Racing have closed in on Mercedes this year, and Hamilton has had to put in some of the best performances of his career to prevail.

He will be aware that luck went his way in parts in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan, and that the fact he has won the title with two races to go does not tell the full story of the closeness of this season.

The long start-finish straight, and the high-speed nature of the track, should play to Mercedes-GP's strengths and win No 10 for Hamilton of 2017, with the pressure off, should be very achievable.

Ferrari in danger of underwhelming end

In many ways Mexico summed up the second half of Sebastian Vettel's season.

Quick at times, but one error, when he broke his front wing on the rear of Hamilton's car at the start, threw away a victory opportunity.

Ferrari have had their most competitive season, in terms of genuine outright pace, for arguably a decade and yet through a mixture of unreliability and driver errors they have still fallen short of Mercedes.

Vettel has not won since Hungary in July, seven races ago, and he really needs another triumph before the end of the season to prevent it feeling like an anti-climax.

Ferrari have not won at Interlagos since 2008 so this may be a tall order, but the team and Vettel owe it to themselves to not allow this season to peter out as they have been too good for that.

Second home farewell for Massa

It will be hard for Williams driver Felipe Massa to top last year's goodbye in Brazil when he does it again on Sunday.

The Brazilian thought he was done with F1 this time last year and announced his retirement. After crashing out in the rain he was given a guard of honour by mechanics of various teams in the pitlane before, in tears, he embraced his family.

Subsequently Massa was re-signed by Williams after Valtteri Bottas joined Mercedes, but he has confirmed he will retire, and stick to it this time, after this season is over.

Massa is the last Brazilian to win his home race, doing so twice in 2006 and 2008, but a hat-trick is very unlikely.

A points finish in the top 10 would certainly be a nice send-off for him and would be the most popular result of the weekend.

 
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