[F1 2019 VIDEO FEATURE] BRAZIL GRAND PRIX: RACE PREVIEW

São Paulo plays host to Round 20 of the Formula 1 World Championship, the Brazilian metropolis the largest city in the Southern hemisphere - and a cultural melting pot with 12 million inhabitants.

It’s been a mainstay destination on the calendar… the world’s fifth-largest nation joining the World Championship in 1973.

… with the first two Championship Grands Prix held at São Paulo’s iconic Interlagos circuit won by Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi. One for Lotus, the other for McLaren on the way to his second title.

But São Paulo’s amphitheatre of speed is most closely linked with another Brazilian - the late, great Ayrton Senna.

The three-time F1 World Champion remains an icon of the sport, with his memory celebrated long and loud by his fans and compatriots.

SOUNDBITE (English) EMERSON FITTIPALDI                                                                                                                         2-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:                                                                                                                                                “I mean he was a fantastic driver, a great person. He had the passion, the love for motor race and that's great for us to have Ayrton [Senna] in our memories forever.”

2019 marks 25 years since Senna - and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger’s - passing at the San Marino Grand Prix, with the event a dark blotch in F1’s history. Two fatalities in as many days.

The rest of the world, including fellow F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, left wondering what might have been…

SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,                                                                                                                                6-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:                                                                                                                                                 “I saw him obviously racing with Michael [Schumacher], who was kind of the young gun at the time, who was also driving especially well. But as I said, I was always rooting for Ayrton [Senna]. So I do believe he would have continued on for many years and could have easily been at seven world titles perhaps. Who knows?”

Senna’s memory will live on at what is likely to be the penultimate race at Interlagos before a return to Rio de Janeiro from 2021. The yet-to-be-built Rio Motorpark in the former Olympic Deodoro region.

Rio last hosted a Grand Prix in 1989 at the stunning Jacarepaguá circuit, its 10th and final edition. The track got its first chance in 1978 before nine more between 1981 and 1989.

2019’s edition, at Interlagos, will be the 47th Brazilian Grand Prix and the memory of Senna will be ever-present… despite no local drivers.

The most successful racer in Brazil is Alain Prost, with five of his six taken in Rio. Michael Schumacher has four for the most at Interlagos. Sebastian Vettel has three, Hamilton has two.

Last year’s race was an absolute classic, with Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen crashed out of the lead by archrival Esteban Ocon. The Force India driver attempting to unlap himself - letting Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton into the lead, the win sealing the 2018 constructors’ title.

The post-race celebrating back at the squad’s base nothing short of rock star reception… high-fives all-round.

Located 30 minutes from downtown São Paulo, the 4.309 kilometre track has 15 turns, 10 left and five right - and a top speed of 340 kilometres an hour. Valtteri Bottas reset the lap record last year in his Mercedes. There are two DRS activation zones with the first between turns three and four, the other on the pit straight. There are also two DRS detection zones, one before turn two - the other after turn 13.

A classic undulating track with the spirit of Ayrton Senna ever-present, it’s time for the Brazilian Grand Prix.