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F1 Preview: 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix

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While Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes may have already captured both Formula 1 titles for 2017, the final two races of the year are far from being dead rubbers as attention quickly turns to next season.

Nico Rosberg proved with his charge to the 2016 F1 title just how important the late-season races can be to build momentum, having won the final three rounds in 2015 as Mercedes teammate Hamilton took his eye off the boil.

Hamilton will be eager to avoid making the same mistakes this time around, particularly with stiffer competition in the form of both Ferrari and Red Bull as they plot their assault on both championships in 2018.

Here are the key talking points heading into this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Hamilton looks to tighten up, finish strongly

Lewis Hamilton’s misfortune played a big role in his title defeat to Nico Rosberg in 2016, but there is a decent argument for his distractions off-track, the extended celebrations of a third title win and the subsequent downturn in form on-track being a key factor in swinging momentum in his teammate’s favor.

Rosberg convincingly won the last three races of the year in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi to set himself up well for a title assault in 2016, continuing the good form through the early part of the year.

Hamilton may be currently facing a “storm” back in his native Britain over leaked tax details, but he stressed his focus is on finishing the season strongly even with a fourth world title sewn up.

Ferrari and Red Bull have been strong in recent races, meaning Hamilton is unlikely to have things all his own way in Brazil. A victory would unquestionably be a solid way to answer his critics and send out an early warning shot to his rivals in the 2018 title race.

Can Verstappen continue his simply lovely run?

Max Verstappen had a rotten middle part of the season, suffering a number of retirements due to technical issues on his car and on-track incidents that denied him the chance to fight at the front of the pack on a regular basis.

But things have since turned around. Two wins in the last four races and a second-place finish in Japan have given Verstappen a huge amount of momentum, with his dominant victory in Mexico arguably making him the man to beat in Brazil this weekend.

Verstappen has quipped over team radio about things being “simply lovely”, and they definitely are right now. The Red Bull RB13 car is stronger than ever, giving the team the chance to finish on a high.

One year on from his star display in the rain, you can be sure that Verstappen has plenty in the tank still to produce another headline performance and fight for victory again.

Ferrari bids to prove pace after setbacks

Ferrari’s collapse over the Asian flyaways caused its capitulation in the title race, with the lack of reliability robbing us not only of a closer fight for the championship, but also in the races themselves.

Ferrari’s pace looked very, very strong in Malaysia, Japan and Mexico, yet various incidents and reliability issues meant we never got the chance to see just how the team’s SF70H car stacked up against Mercedes and Red Bull’s runners.

Vettel may have lost the championship, but he still has second place to protect from Valtteri Bottas, who is 15 points adrift in the second Mercedes. A strong end to the year will be crucial to ensure he doesn’t finish third in a two-horse race.

Farewell Felipe

Just as it was 12 months ago, the Brazilian Grand Prix is being talked up as Felipe Massa’s final F1 appearance on home soil – only this time, it definitely will be.

Massa’s surprise return this year has offered him another chance to delight the home crowd at Interlagos, but this time around it will be a farewell after confirming last week he would be retiring at the end of the season.

Massa’s form is such that a strong result to sign off on may only be a finish as high as seventh or eighth, yet you can be sure the Williams driver will be giving his all to impress at the track he grew up on and came to taste success at in F1.

Another certainty is the grace and gratitude that will flow both ways between Massa and the fans in Brazil, as seen last year after he crashed out and emotionally walked back up the pit lane draped in a national flag.

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Juan Pablo Montoya 1:11.473 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft/Soft/Medium
2016 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:10.736
2016 Fastest Lap: Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:25.305
DRS Zones: T15 to T1, T3 to T4

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”