After a successful race in the rather new Circuit of the Americas, F1 heads to one of its classic tracks, Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace for the Brazilian Grand Prix. The world championship is more exciting than ever; Lewis Hamilton extended his leadership over his teammate Nico Rosberg but nothing is said yet. Heavy rain is expected for the whole weekend so we are in front of very decisive days.
Current situation in the drivers standings
If before past weekend Lewis was 17 points ahead his German rival, his win in Texas increases that difference to 24 points. Daniel Ricciardo secured third position with another podium and surpassed the barrier of 200 points. Valtteri Bottas extended a bit the difference with his direct competitors, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, both with 149 points now. Jenson Button mantains his seventh position even though he didn’t score any points in the last race. Felipe Massa, Nico Hülkenberg and the rookie Kevin Magnussen complete the top 10.
A bit of history
Interlagos has held the Brazilian Grand Prix since 1972. The first championship race was a year later, and the venue was won by Emerson Fittipaldi, the local driver. In 1980, security changes had to be made; the surface of the track was too bumpy and the circuit had inadequate barriers. F1 moved to Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio de Janeiro and it didn’t come back to Interlagos until 1990, thanks in part to another local driver, Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian GP has stayed there ever since. The layout has remained almost exactly the same since that year.
The circuit has provided some dramatic races over the years. In 2014, Brazilian GP may not have the last word in the battle between Lewis and Nico, but it can play a big role in it. In 2008, Felipe Massa almost won the Driver's World Championship when he finished the Brazilian Grand Prix as winner, but after he finished, Lewis Hamilton overtook Timo Glock and was crowned World Champion. In 2012, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were title contenders until last race in Interlagos. The Spaniard needed to score 12 more points than the German to win the championship. Vettel was fourth in qualy and Alonso seventh so it looked good for Sebastian until in the first lap he spun and fell to the back of the pack. He charged his way through and by lap number 8 he was already eighth. It was one of the most exciting races in recent times and it came to a conclusion with Vettel winning his third championship by just 2 points over Alonso.
The circuit is one of the shortest in the calendar, with just 4.309 km, but also one of the most demanding. The high altitude, 800m above the sea, makes the engines produce less power. It also affects the downforce grip so teams will have to run with high downforce and cope with the mechanical grip in order to have a good equilibrium.
It has 15 corners and a lot of topography. This year the track has been resurfaced since it was too bumpy. The first sector is the fastest one, with long straights and high speed corners. Drivers will get to 315 km/h at the start/finish straight and they will reduce until 105-160 km/h in the first two corners, a fast sequence called “Senna’s S”, first to the left and then to the right. They are considered extremely difficult because both of them have a different angle, a different radius, a different length, a different inclination (inward or outward) and a different shape (besides the terrain goes down and then up again). The first DRS detection point is in the apex of the turn number 2. After it, there is a round-shaped large-radius left-turn and the second long straight called “Reta Oposta”, where the DRS activation point is located. Drivers will get out of turn number 3 at 280 km/h and accelerate again until 315 km/h. Sector number two, the most curvy and slow one, starts at the end of the straight. Speed decreases to 160 km/h when they go through corner number 4, a 90 degrees corner to the left. Here, drivers will press the accelerator pedal again and take a very fast corner number 5 to the left. These pair of corners are downhill and they lead to a straight where drivers fill go almost full power and again a fast corner with two radius to the right.
This is followed by a slow and difficult section, with tight turns and elevation changes. Corners number 6 and 7, downhill and the slowest point of the circuit, are followed by a sequence of linked curves; first, a quite tight one to the right and a long closed to the left before getting to the number 10, a near hairpin to the right passed at 80 km/h. Then, there is an open fast constant radius corner to the left, a short straight where the sector number 3 starts, and a 90 degrees corner to the left taken at 125 km/h. After the corner number 12, there comes a very fast part; corner number 13 to the left, done at 220 km/h and where the second DRS detection point is, corner number 14, uphill and done at 280 km/h, very demanding for the engine. After a straight, corner number 15 already at 300 km/h to take the “Tribunas” straight with the second DRS activation point. The series of left turns from the exit of corner number 12 all the way to Senna's S is typically taken at full throttle and treated as a long straight. This section is known as one of the longest full-throttle stretches on the Formula 1 calendar, and thus demanding of the engine's reliability at sustained high RPM and torque.
The races are therefore very tough on the car, and also physically tough on the drivers, especially since the circuit is anti-clockwise, where the centrifugal forces in the many hard left turns push the drivers' necks to the right, instead of left as in the majority of circuits on the F1 calendar.
Pirelli is bringing soft and medium tyre compounds to Interlagos. Paul Hembery explained why: "Brazil is one of the most important markets for Pirelli, so it is a pleasure to reconnect with our friends and fans. Because of the succession of curves, most taken at high speed, the circuit layout constitutes real challenge for our tires”.
As former driver Jean Alesi said, “I've raced twelve times at Interlagos: it is a circuit I really love. It is extremely challenging for the driver: he is always in a curve or accelerating with the wheels turned. Always leaning as he drives, and over time, this takes its toll on a physical level. It is also one of the few tracks to be raced anti-clockwise: this is particularly significant in terms of fatigue, especially for the neck. Although this factor was more critical in the past, when the Brazilian race was run at the beginning of the season and therefore with less focused preparation for the track compared to the training which the drivers can rely on racing it at the end of the championship. I know that this year there is talk of new asphalt. I have experienced this in the past, but at the end of the day, it is still a circuit with an extremely undulating surface. Even with new asphalt, the tendency at Interlagos is for it to be very slippery on the Friday; then session after session, the basic characteristic of the Brazilian asphalt begins to emerge, and it ends up being quite abrasive. “
Alain Prost is the driver with most victories at the Brazilian GP, but just one of them was in Interlagos. Carlos Reutemann and Michael Schumacher are the most successful drivers in this track, with four winner trophies each. From the current drivers, just four of them have secured a victory here: Kimi Räikkönen, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel. Only the Brazilian and the German have repeated, having won 2 times.
The lap record is hold by Juan Pablo Montoya since 2004, with a 1.11:473.
Race local times
FP1 Friday 7 10.00h
FP2 Friday 7 14.00h
FP3 Saturday 8 11.00h
Qualifying Saturday 8 14.00h
Race Sunday 9 14.00h