Brazilian GP preview: time please, gentlemen

We’ll be honest – we’ve been more excited about F1 curtain-closers. Last year’s climactic three-way shootout in Abu Dhabi, for example – though ultimately a fairly dull race – brought with it the sort of nerve-shredding suspense that makes Alfred Hitchcock look like whatever idiot it was who directed the Smurfs movie. Still, even though the 2011 title fight now feels like a distant memory, there are plenty of reasons to catch Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, most of them concerning the midfield teams.

First and most poignantly, as we predicted back in July, it looks like this could be the last ever Grand Prix for perma-grinning veteran Rubens Barrichello. Still without a contract for next year, there are murmurings in the paddock that the most experienced man on the grid could call it a day unless a solid offer is made very soon – presumably from a team more worthy of his 18 years at the wheel than the currently dismal Williams outfit, with whom Rubens is languishing at 17th in the championship. But even if Christian Horner or Martin Whitmarsh come pelting across to the Williams garage this weekend and thrust a contract under Rubens’ nose (they won’t, obviously – both are sticking with their 2011 line-up for next season), we reckon the time’s right for F1’s perennial runner-up to call it a day, get himself a nice allotment and hand the drive to someone else. Here’s hoping he can at least pick up some points at his final home GP – we don’t know about you, but if the poor guy has another first lap incident and spends his last minute in an F1 car beached in a gravel trap, we may well burst into tears.

Elsewhere, there’s an intriguing battle going on between Sauber and Toro Rosso for seventh place in the constructor’s championship. It may sound like small potatoes, but consider that the difference between seventh and eighth amounts to millions of pounds to spend on next season’s car and the situation starts to look a bit more serious. Both Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari have delivered impressive drives this year, but for our money, Toro Rosso’s mighty straight-line speed ought to give them the edge through the long DRS zone (just one this weekend) and sweeping corners of Interlagos.

And at the front? Vettel. It can only be Vettel. You saw how dejected he was after retiring last time out in Abu Dhabi – from the mortified expression on that pubescent fluff-strewn face you’d think someone had just run over his mum. Okay, there’s nothing tangible left to fight for (aside from more trophies and cash, of course, and chances are Seb’s running out of storage space for both), but if we’ve learnt one thing this season, it’s that this is a man who really, really gets off on winning.

Here’s our final grid prediction of the season. Rabid disagreement is, as ever, welcome in the comments section.

1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Fernando Alonso
4. Mark Webber
5. Jenson Button
6. Felipe Massa
7. Nico Rosberg
8. Michael Schumacher
9. Vitaly Petrov
10. Adrian Sutil

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