Preview: F1 ready for Brazilian Grand Prix
The title has been decided in Lewis Hamilton’s favour but there’s still a Grand Prix to be won. It’s time for a samba in Sao Paolo – Motorsport Week previews the Brazilian Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship.
Having held a non-championship event in 1972 the seven-kilometre Interlagos Circuit joined the roster in 1973 and for several decades Brazil held a position as one of the opening rounds of the series.
For 1978, and from 1981 to 1989, the event moved to the Jacarepagua Circuit in Rio de Janeiro, but from 1990 it returned to Interlagos, albeit on a shortened layout.
Interlagos moved to the back end of the calendar in 2004 – where it has remained since – meaning it has witnessed several crucial title moments.
Fernando Alonso (2005, 2006), Kimi Raikkonen (2007) and Jenson Button (2009) secured championships on Brazilian territory.
But the two that stand out are surely Lewis Hamilton’s last-corner decider in the rain in 2008, and Sebastian Vettel’s third title success four years later, following a rollercoaster race.
The presence of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit has meant Interlagos has in recent years taken up a spot as the penultimate round of the campaign.
Interlagos – or to give it its full name, Autódromo José Carlos Pace, used to be a seven-kilometre adventure, the name derived from the lakes that surround the venue.
It was truncated to a four-kilometre layout in 1990, incorporating key sections from the previous circuit, and it has remained largely unchanged since that redesign.
The anti-clockwise circuit is composed of largely medium- and high-speed corners, with wide kerbs and heavily cambered corners.
The lap begins with a plunge through the long-radius Senna S, a left-right descent that opens out into the Curva do Sol, an easy acceleration zone in the dry but a tricky corner in the wet.
A blast along Reta Oposta leads into the double left of Descida do Lago, a sharp 90-degree left followed by a 45-degree left, which begins the tricky middle sector of the lap.
The double radius Ferradura/Laranjinha complex is followed by a series of undulating turns – Pinheirinho, Bico do Pato, Mergulho – that act as a test of a car’s handling and a driver’s confidence.
The heavily-kerbed Juncao turn leads onto the full-throttle section through Subida dos Boxes and Arquibancadas that eventually leads back to the start/finish straight, the long left-hander meaning drivers come almost 180 degrees on the pit ‘straight’.
“The track itself is one of my favourites because you have all type of corners,” says Force India’s Esteban Ocon.
“You need a good car in the high-speed sections – a car you can trust – but at the same time you need a car that doesn’t slide around in the low-speed corners. This is very important, especially not to compromise the final part of the lap.”
What happened in 2017?
Lewis Hamilton arrived at Interlagos fresh from being crowned World Champion for a fourth time – but squandered his chances by crashing at Laranjinha on his first push lap in Q1.
That left him at the back, but he ran an updated Mercedes engine thereafter and surged to fourth place at the finish, falling just short of overhauling Kimi Raikkonen.
Valtteri Bottas took pole position but the fast-starting Sebastian Vettel grabbed the lead into the Senna S, and their respective places were preserved through to the chequered flag.
Vettel’s victory was his third at Interlagos, having previously triumphed during his 2010 and 2013 title-winning campaigns.
That moved him above a large group of drivers on two wins, though still behind four-time victor Michael Schumacher and six-time winner Alain Prost.
Of the current grid only Raikkonen and Hamilton have tasted success in the country.
Raikkonen’s 2007 win sealed him the world title while Hamilton dominated the rain-affected 2016 race for his sole win at the venue which, statistically, is one of the weakest for the Briton.
Five drivers on the 2018 grid have clocked pole position at the track.
Vettel (2011, 2013) and Hamilton (2012, 2016) are on two, while Alonso (2005), Nico Hulkenberg (2010) and Valtteri Bottas (2017) have all led qualifying once.
They are a long way behind record-holder and home hero Ayrton Senna, on six.
Hamilton heads to Interlagos mathematically assured of the Drivers’ title, having established a 66-point advantage over Vettel with only 50 up for grabs.
The Constructors’ race remains open, with Mercedes 55 clear of Ferrari and 86 still to play for.
If it departs Interlagos 43 clear it will seal a fifth successive Constructors’ crown – meaning Ferrari must outscore it by 12 to keep the fight alive until Abu Dhabi.
Tyre supplier Pirelli has nominated the Supersoft, (red) Soft (yellow) and Medium (white) compounds.
Either the Soft or Medium tyres must be run for one stint of the 71-lap Grand Prix, assuming dry conditions prevail, while one set of Supersofts must be cast aside for use only in Q3.
There will be two DRS zones: one located on the pit straight and another placed on the Reta Oposta.
Five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro will act as the driver steward.
Nicholas Latifi (Force India) and 2019 racers Lando Norris (McLaren) and Antonio Giovinazzi (Sauber) will be in action in FP1.
Friday: Cloudy, 24°c
Saturday: Cloudy, 27°c
Sunday: Cloudy, 29°c
Friday 9 November
FP1: 11:00 – 11:30
FP2: 15:00 – 16:30
Saturday 10 November
FP3: 12:00 – 13:00
Qualifying: 15:00 – 16:00
Sunday 11 November
Race: 15:10 (71 laps or two hours)
Yas Marina will host the final round of the season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, from November 23 to 25