F1 Preview: 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix


Sport has the ability to be an escape from politics – this happened this summer in the United Kingdom and triggered this feature I wrote at the time for NBC SportsWorld – and so it can be this weekend as well, as Formula 1 returns to action this week with the Brazilian Grand Prix for the lone South American Grand Prix on the calendar.

The battle this weekend will feature race cars, not political barbs. In Sao Paulo, there’s a chance to see real-life superheroes do their thing out on-track, going wheel-to-wheel at unfathomable speeds in pursuit of glory.

The Interlagos track is aging but legendary; many a Brazilian Grand Prix has witnessed a title won and a thrilling battle at the front of the field.

And, once again, we may well see a champion crowned for the 2016 edition of the race.

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Rosberg one win away from maiden F1 title

Nico Rosberg’s ‘one race at a time’ mentality may have been tiresome to some (this writer included), but for the first time this weekend, it can deliver him the championship. His lead may have been slashed from 33 to just 19 points in the past two races, but if Rosberg can win in Brazil on Sunday, the title is his with one race to spare.

Working in Rosberg’s favor is his track record in Brazil. The German has won the past two races at Interlagos, delivering performances that stood out in his 2014 and 2015 campaigns. They were controlled, calm and collected, soaking up the pressure applied by Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton all race long.

The first priority for Rosberg should not be winning, though. He is still in a position where one second and one third-place finish in the final two rounds would be enough for the title. While finishing the job in Brazil would be significant and sweet, in a season where he has frequently played the long game, Rosberg may want to bide his time.

Hamilton seeks inspiration from Senna to break Interlagos drought

The cards may be stacked against Lewis Hamilton, but he can take comfort in knowing he has done all he can over the past two race weekends. His wins in both Austin and Mexico were classic Lewis Hamilton, showing not a single sign of weakness and leaving the rest of the field trailing in his wake. Another two of those in Brazil and Abu Dhabi may still not be enough for the title – but he would go down with one hell of a fight.

Hamilton revealed on Thursday that he would be racing with a helmet that pays tribute to Ayrton Senna, his racing hero and an icon of F1. Senna famously won at Interlagos in 1991 with his car stuck in sixth gear – can Hamilton channel the same kind of fight on Sunday and turn the tables on Rosberg?

Sao Paulo rain to spice things up?

Something that may give Hamilton a boost heading into the weekend is the wet weather forecast. The Briton famously won his first world title in Brazil in 2008 when rain poured in the closing stages of the race, culminating with a last-lap pass on Timo Glock to get the point required to beat Felipe Massa.

Here’s what F1’s weather forecaster, UBIMET, reckons is in store this weekend:

“On Friday, the chances for a shower or thunderstorm will still be present over the city, until a southerly change in the wind will bring cooler air to Sao Paulo later during the day. The temperature will range between 23 to 25 degrees Celsius.

“Saturday will see relatively cool and cloudy conditions with a moderate chance for showers. The highs will reach 21 to 23 degrees Celsius. The southeasterly wind will be breezy at times, especially in the afternoon.

“Sunday will bring temperatures between 20 and 22 degrees Celsius and mostly cloudy conditions. Again, showers cannot be excluded with further forecast details to be provided on a daily basis.”

Hamilton will be wanting rain to hit if he is to get the turnaround in the title race he needs in Brazil.

Massa set for emotional final hurrah in Brazil

Felipe Massa’s final F1 race may not be for another two weeks, but this weekend’s race in Brazil will arguably be more poignant. At the site of his finest hour in F1, when he produced one of the most gracious reactions to a title defeat in the sport’s history in 2008, Massa will give his loyal home fans one final chance to see him in action.

F1 holds a sacred place in the heart of Brazilian sports fans, making Massa’s impending retirement hugely significant. His form may have dipped this year and Williams may not have had the same kind of fire and pace it did through 2014 and 2015, but all eyes will be on Massa this weekend to see how he fares.

The result may be uncertain, but one thing is for sure: Felipe will be a classy, dignified act as per usual.

Silly season nears its conclusion as dominoes fall

Just as IndyCar silly season is beginning to ramp up, F1’s driver market for 2017 has become much clearer. Jolyon Palmer was confirmed for another year with Renault on Wednesday, while Esteban Ocon was announced to join Force India for 2017 earlier today. The next man to move is Kevin Magnussen, who is poised to make his way over to Haas in place of Esteban Gutierrez.

With those seats filled, the next teams to make up their minds are Sauber and Manor. Sauber will most probably keep Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, the former having missed out on seats elsewhere, while Manor will be looking for a driver to partner Pascal Wehrlein. Gutierrez is perhaps the best option given his experience and F1 backing, although British youngster Jordan King and even early-season driver Rio Haryanto could come into play.

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Juan Pablo Montoya 1:11.473 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Hard/Medium/Soft
2015 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2015 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:11.282
2015 Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:14.832
DRS Zones: T15 to T1; T3 to T4

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports app 7am ET 11/11
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 11am ET 11/11
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports app 8am ET 11/12
Qualifying: NBCSN 11am ET 11/12
Race: NBCSN 10am ET 11/13 (on-board, pit lane and highlights feed on NBC Sports app)

Jett Lawrence wins Pro Motocross opener, remains perfect at Fox Raceway; Hunter wins in 250s

How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway
Align Media

PALA, California – In his 450 bike debut, Jett Lawrence scored a perfect round at Fox Raceway in Pala, California to win Pro Motocross Round 1. He posted the fastest time in both qualification sessions, won the holeshot in both motos, and scored a pair of wins to take the overall victory and the early points’ lead.

Chase Sexton stalked Jett Lawrence throughout Moto 2, but could not find his way past. – Align Media

No one seriously questioned Lawrence’s opportunity to make noise in the 450 class. Few would have been surprised to see him podium in his Pro Motocross National, but Lawrence outperformed all expectations by dominating Moto 1. He entered the weekend with zero points and his eye on 20th in the standings so he would receive an automatic invitation to the inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

He well surpassed expectations.

“It’s awesome,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “I can finally smile. I’ve been trying to stay serious and not get too excited with emotions coming up – and now I can finally let loose. The second one was a little harder, I couldn’t hear him but I’d look back and I’d still see the red bike. It was like a chess match.”

By the end of the race, Lawrence made up 30 percent of the points he needed to claim 20th and served notice that he will be one of the favorites to win the championship. He closed the gap even further in Moto 2, but the two races had entirely different storylines.

While Lawrence was able to run away from the field in the first race and win with a 10-second advantage, Honda teammate and defending Monster Energy Supercross champion Chase Sexton pressured him for the entire 30 minutes plus two laps that made up Moto 2.

Lawrence is the 16th rider to win in his first Pro Motocross race, the 10th to do so in an opener and second youngest, (behind Rick Johnson, 17 when he won at Hangtown in 1982).

Sexton was within two seconds of Lawrence for the entire moto. He rode a patient race with the realistic expectation that the 450 rookie Lawrence might make a mistake. Lawrence bounced from rut to rut in this race, but would not be forced into losing his focus.

“Toward the finish line area I had some decent lines, I thought maybe, if I could get close enough, I could make a move,” Sexton said. “I tried my hardest; I got close. I made a bit of an attempt with maybe 10 minutes to go and messed up. Jett was obviously riding really good. We were pushing the pace and it was a fun moto. It felt a little like last year.”

With his 1-1 finish and the overall victory, Lawrence remains perfect at Fox Raceway after sweeping Victory Lane in five rounds his 250 career.

Dylan Ferrandis returned to the track after suffering a concussion in the Supercross season in Round 4 in Houston. He attempted to return for the Daytona Supercross race, but another hard crash on Media Day set him on the sideline.

“Earlier this week I was pretty far from a podium position, so got together with the team and we made it happen,” Ferrandis said. “It was very hard. [Aaron Plessinger] was pushing me and I had to dig very deep.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway

In a pre-race news conference, he indicated that the best course of action was to get up to speed before he fully sent his bike into the turns. But adrenalin is a wonderful factor and once he got into the pace of the race, he held off charges from Cooper Webb in Moto 1 and Plessinger in Moto 2. Ferrandis’ 3-3 finishes in the two races earned 40 points and puts him back in the conversation to be among the top 20 in the combined SuperMotocross standings.

Plessinger and Webb each ended the day with 34 points. Plessinger won the tiebreaker for fifth overall in the standings. But it was an adventurous afternoon for Plessinger who had to overcome a pair of falls in the first Moto to finish fifth.

Round 1 of the Pro Motocross season marked the return of Webb after he suffered a Supercross series ending concussion in a heat race at Nashville.

“This was a last minute decision,” Webb said. “I sat out last summer and I didn’t want to do that again. Once I got cleared from the doctor, it was game on.”

The battle between Lawrence and Sexton gave Honda a 1-2 finish in this race for the second straight year, but perhaps most importantly, it provided a glimpse of what can be expected during the opening rounds.

I think there is more to come from Chase,” Lawrence said. “He had that crash in practice so it rung his head a bit, but I know it’s going to be a war in the outdoor season. I know there’s going to be times when I’m behind Chase and can’t get around him. It’s going to be an awesome season and I can’t wait to race my teammate.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jett wasn’t the only Lawrence to win Fox Raceway Motocross. Hunter’s win in the 250 class marked the first time in history that brothers won a Motocross National on the same day.

The reigning 250 East Supercross champion scored the overall victory with a third in Moto 1 and a victory in Moto 2. A poor start in the first race forced Lawrence to mount a charge from behind. Riding with discomfort, Lawrence was out of his rhythm early. A spirited battle with Jo Shimoda and Justin Cooper for third through fifth forced him to push through the pain of an injury suffered at the start of the week.

“The start was crucial,” Lawrence said. “I had a massive crash Monday and could barely ride press day for three laps, I was in so much pain. This one goes out to Dr. [Rey Gubernick]. He has magic hands.”

Lawrence’s strong start to Moto 2 put him in a better zone and he pulled an eight-second advantage over the second-place rider.

Haiden Deegan got a taste of the Motocross series last year, but that was all it was: a nibble.

Deegan failed to crack the top 10 in either of two starts and had some questions for himself before the race began. Deegan did not believe there were high expectations placed on him for this race, which is precisely how he described his first Supercross attempt. In that inaugural SX race, he finished fourth and was as surprised as anyone in the field.

Again: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Deegan surprised himself again by finishing second in only his third Motocross National. He finished sixth in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2, giving him a second-place finish overall.

“I’m actually a little surprised,” Deegan said. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t even be close to this. I guess we’re proving people wrong and that’s what we’ve got to do Second place in my first full season. I’m hyped.”

Deegan is closing in on his first 250 win.

Click here for 250 overall results

RJ Hampshire had to overcome a pair of falls in Moto 2 to score the final podium position in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire made a statement in Moto 1. An entirely new discipline allowed Hampshire to grab an early advantage. But then a poor start to Moto 2 provided an entirely different challenge. Two falls on Lap 1 dropped Hampshire to 39th in the running order.

“I didn’t have a great start and got mayhem in that second corner and went down,” Hampshire said. “Picked [myself] up in last and made some really good passes and then going uphill on the [backstretch], someone got out of whack – took me out and I was dead last again. I didn’t really know if I had a shot at the podium, but I was digging really deep.”

It took half of the race to get back into the points in 20th, but Hampshire kept digging. Passing riders one at a time, he climbed to 11th in Moto 2 and salvaged enough points to give him the third position overall.

Maximus Vohland made a statement of his own by holding off a determined Lawrence on the last two laps. Lawrence was able to pressure Vohland when they were slowed by a lapped rider who fell in front of the battle.

Tom Vialle was in a position to take the final overall podium spot with a solid third-place finish in the second moto. He did everything he could, but Hampshire’s determined charge from the back of the pack was capped off with a two-position advance on the final lap to slide onto the final step of the box.

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury
Cooper Webb returns to action at Pala
Caden Braswell joins Troy Lee Design
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Supercross finale