SAO PAULO Ferrari's Fernando Alonso hoped race chaos and lashings of Brazilian bad weather would be his allies in the battle to become Formula One's youngest triple world champion instead of Sebastian Vettel on Sunday.
The Spaniard will start the season-ender in seventh place, knowing he has to get on the podium to have any chance of denying Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, 25, his third successive championship.
Alonso is the same age as Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna when they became triple champions at 31, but Schumacher was born in January, Senna in March and Alonso in July, so he would just sneak in as the youngest if he wins the title.
Vettel starts fourth, behind the two McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and alongside his Australian team mate Mark Webber. The German has a 13-point lead and needs only to finish fourth.
"I know that, at least under normal conditions, we are not in with a chance of fighting for the win," said Alonso, who won both his previous titles in Brazil with Renault.
Alonso said his best hope was for Vettel, who has finished in the top three in the last six races, to retire rather than finish in the low scoring places.
"I am therefore hoping for a chaotic race... the rain could be an important factor even if, in the wet, it is riskier for everyone," he added.
Forecasts are for a wet Sunday, and possibly extremely wet, at a bowl-like anti-clockwise Interlagos track that has seen plenty of incidents in the past.
Alonso is not the only one hoping for rain, with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton starting on pole and often excelling in the rain.
With the two McLarens quickest in all three practice sessions, and both Red Bulls ahead of him, Alonso needs a miracle but said that had almost happened already by his still being in the hunt for the title with a slower car than his rivals enjoyed.
"The high point is to be sitting here, with a car that is constantly eighth (in qualifying) in the last races, but we are still talking about the world championship fight," he said when asked to look back over his season.
"This is something that is not normal, so I'm very proud of this and the achievements we have had this year.
"If we'd had a normal season, taking the points off someone similar with our cars, then you say bye bye to the championship in Monza or Singapore and have very relaxed races in the last part of the championship, as we had last year."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing Mark Pangallo)