The Autódromo José Carlos Pace, aka Interlagos, home of the Brazilian Grand Prix and the site of so many F1 Championship deciders in recent years. For all its numerous faults, this is a fitting venue to crown a champion. It has speed and energy, roaring down from the passionate crowd and bouncing off a hillside circuit that offers something few other venues offer in the modern era: genuine overtaking opportunities. Things happen in Sao Paolo.
The racing weekend began with Fernando Alonso the surprise leader of the Drivers’ Championship. But five men were still in with a chance of the crown...
“I think it’s fairly open still. Obviously minor chances for a few of them, not as it was at the last race. I’ve said before that I think Alonso was running on the outside and coming strongly. The best car is still Red Bull and if everything goes to plan, I think Red Bull should win the race but Ferrari has always been quite strong here as has McLaren, so I think it’s fantastic that we have such a fight.”
Rubens Barrichello – Williams
Attention was centred on the will they/won’t they issue of team orders at Red Bull
“I think we’re in a slightly unique situation among the teams in that we have two drivers that genuinely are in contention. Mark’s within 11 points and the closest contender to Fernando
Christian Horner – team principal, Red Bull Racing
Red Bull hit the ground running, first and second in both Friday practice sessions and mindful a repeat of that in the race would see them clinch the Constructors’ title. The outside world isn’t so interested, but in the paddock it’s the one that counts.
"For the team, the Constructors’ is where they’re measured against their peers in the pitlane so from a team point of view the constructors is the one held most closely to people’s hearts.”
And then the rains came for Saturday which threw up a surprising – though entirely meritorious – maiden pole for Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg
'It was very easy to make a mistake but that lap was spot on and enough for pole position. I know these guys are fighting for the championships, so I don’t want to cause any trouble but I also have to look for my own performance. The best thing is to do a good start and drive off from them but I think if it is dry it is not going to happen."
Nico Hulkenberg – Williams
Sebastian Vettel was right beside him, with Mark Webber behind, Lewis Hamilton fourth and Fernando Alonso fifth. Jenson Button all-but ended his faint chances by qualifying 11th.
“Generally I am happy with qualifying. It could have been anything this afternoon. Tomorrow is a long race. We should have a good race car.”
Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing
“I’m happy too. It could easily have been 17th today, couldn’t it? Congratulations to Nico, very good lap, I must say. He made all of us look pretty average today. If you’d asked me after Q2 if I would have been happy with third, maybe not so but after the session… It was a very, very tricky session on slicks, and I’m in a good position to start the race.”
Mark Webber – Red Bull Racing
“I think we've got good race pace and good end-of-straight speed; so, yes, I think we're in a good position. We're definitely still in the world championship fight.”
Lewis Hamilton – McLaren
“It could have been worse.”
Fernando Alonso – Ferrari
"Let's put it this way: my aim is to have some fun tomorrow!"
Jenson Button – McLaren
The day was to get worse for Jenson, who would escape an attempted armed robbery on his way out of the track.
“You hear about it happening over the years, but until you are actually involved you don't know how it feels. It is a pretty scary situation, because initially you don't believe it is happening. It is quite strange and also I don't think we were the only people who had it yesterday. The Sauber mechanics, from what I hear, got held up and actually had to stop and give away everything. They had a pretty horrible ordeal so I feel sorry for those guys.”
Race day came and the Red Bulls got a dream start: Vettel in front at the first corner, with Webber up into second at Turn Five. Behind them Hulkenberg kept the other Championship contenders bottled up.
“I think he got a good start, I just had a bit better one and then he was trying to squeeze me down the inside. There was hardly any space left. I was just praying there was no debris as it was not really the racing line I had to use. But it was obviously the key to enter the first corner first and then build a gap in the first stint.”
“I lined Nico up and was waiting for him to brake for Turn Four. I thought ‘hmm, that’s going to be a bit deep, I don’t know if you’re going to hit the apex’ and thank God he didn’t and that opened up my race a bit more."
…as had been the case in Korea, Hamilton made a small error and Alonso pounced to take the place.
“We knew that overtaking was going to be very, very difficult with the top speed of the McLaren but we were lucky to overtake him on the first couple of laps and then our race was much easier from that point.”
Fernando Alonso – Ferrari
Alonso and Hamilton finally got past Hülkenberg, though the Red Bulls were off in the distance. After uneventful pitstops, Webber began to reel in Vettel though his charge was hampered by an overheating engine, before a late safety car ended any chance of a grandstand finish.
“It’s never nice when they have to ask you to manage something. I’m not in the best position to answer all your questions in terms of what it was, but it was right on the edge apparently, but we got it home.”
Vettel led over the line from Webber, which meant Red Bull Racing clinched the Constructors’ World Championship.
“I remember my first trip to [the factory at] Milton Keynes. It was 2005, I had just got my drivers’ licence and I drove to England. I looked around with sparks in my eyes. Comparing where it was then to how it is now, there has been massive progress. It’s not always about investing money; it’s about time, patience and a lot of passion.”
'To have achieved what we have is very much a dream come true' – Christian Horner
“Today’s all about the team, and I want to thank everyone that’s been involved, both the people here and everyone back at base. We’ve got some soldiers back there like you wouldn’t believe, those guys and girls do an incredible job for us.”
“It is unbelievable. To see the joy on the faces of so many guys, who have put so much time in. All the all-nighters, all the hours and hours of work - not just here but back in Milton Keynes. What has gone into this year, I don't think there is a more dedicated and committed team in the pit lane. To have achieved what we have is very much a dream come true.”
Behind them Alonso was third, Hamilton fourth and the drive of the day from Jenson Button saw him relinquish his title after scrambling up to fifth.
“All things considered, I am pleased with this result. We have only lost three points to our closest rival and, given how things turned out yesterday in qualifying, it went well: if this morning, I had been told it would finish like this, I would have happily signed for it! I want to congratulate Red Bull and Renault for the Constructors' title: to reach the top in just a few years is a great achievement.”
“I pushed as hard as I could on every lap today, but this was a tough race for me. I actually feel quite lucky to have finished where I did.”
“From where I started, I couldn't have done any better, so it feels good to have finished fifth.”
The party will be shorter than usual. The teams are on their way to Abu Dhabi, for the season finale where the Drivers’ title will be decided. Alonso leads Webber by eight points and Vettel by 15. Button is out, Hamilton needs divine intervention but Alonso, Vettel and Webber will all believe they can be 2010 World Champion.
“We face eight crucial days. We know what we have to do and we will prepare everything with the maximum attention to detail: each one of us knows we have to give a hundred percent at our specific tasks and, maybe even a little bit more.”
Stefano Domenicalli – Team principal, Ferrari
“It’s all to play for in Abu Dhabi.”