Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘Track Profile Specialist’ Alistair Hunter
This will be the final race of the 2013 Formula One season, and for some drivers, it might just be the last one of their careers. Hopefully it’ll be good!
The track was created as a result of a suburban development between two reservoirs near Sao Paulo, and the financial misfortune of the developers, whose goal was to turn it into houses. As the motor racing scene grew, the Automobile Club of Brazil took advantage of the land and turned it into what would be one of the most famous circuits on the Formula One calendar.
The first Grand Prix was held at the track in 1972, which was won by Carlos Reutemann, before the track hosted five consecutive World Championship Brazilian Grands Prix between 1973 and 1977. The race disappeared to Rio de Janeiro for one year, and then the hometown of Nelson Piquet became the sole host of the race from 1981 to 1989 after the local government would not invest into the Interlagos circuit.
The Brazilian Grand Prix has been held at the Interlagos track (renamed as the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace from 1985) ever since, albeit on a smaller 4.3 kilometre circuit rather than the original circuit, which was almost eight kilometres long and is still visible from aerial photos of the circuit.
Today, there are talks of improving it by building a new pitlane complex between turns 3 and 4, but nothing has come of that just yet. In any case, it is good that such a fantastic circuit has been actively attempting to ensure its long term future on the calendar.
The circuit starts with a tight downhill S bend, before going into a high speed curve and straight that makes up the first DRS zone on the track, one of two places where drivers can get up to a top speed of around 315 kilometres per hour (the other being the final straight). Following this, the track curves round as the tight, twisty second sector begins.
The third sector is effectively an opportunity for the drivers to accelerate as much as possible out of turn 12, which is always fun to see, and does provide a good overtaking opportunity going into the end of the DRS zone and turn 1.
The cars are on full throttle for around 70% of the lap, and will be looking at making 42 gear changes over the 4.3 kilometre high downforce circuit. The lap record at the circuit was set by Juan Pablo Montoya for Williams in the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel is probably going to win. I mean, it’s just a guess, but still…
McLaren have won the most editions of the Brazilian Grand Prix, and to be honest, their chances of getting a first race victory of the season will probably rely on the circuit living up to its reputation of holding wet and exciting racing.
Interestingly, the only drivers on the grid to have won the race on multiple occasions are Mark Webber and Felipe Massa, and I suspect many F1 fans out there will want one of them to repeat that success once again.
A lap with Mark Webber
Pirelli and the Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos)
The Brazilian Grand Prix is also an opportunity for the teams to try out the latest-specification 2014 prototype tyres during Friday’s free practice sessions, in preparation for next season, which features a raft of regulation changes. The new engine characteristics of the 2014 cars will have an important effect on the tyres. Each car will have two sets of next year’s tyres to use in FP1 and FP2, as allowed by the current regulations. These will feature the 2014 construction and profile, with the 2014 medium compound.
Paul Hembery: “We’ve chosen the hard and medium tyres for Brazil to deal with the different demands of the famous Interlagos circuit, where we always receive a fantastic welcome from the amazingly enthusiastic fans.
There are a number of things to look out for in Brazil: despite being resurfaced a few years back the track is always quite bumpy, which makes it hard for the tyres to find traction and increases the physical demands on the drivers.
Just like last year, we’ll be giving all the teams the opportunity to test next year’s tyres during Friday free practice, given the fundamental changes in the technical regulations for 2014. Brazil is actually Pirelli’s biggest market, so we’re all really looking forward to getting back there, for a race that marks the end of a technical era.”
Jean Alesi: “Interlagos is a circuit where the driver really feels involved, and while that sounds illogical, there are some circuits where you basically drive from corner to corner, whereas at Interlagos it’s a real experience that takes you over.
Even though the track has been resurfaced a few times, it’s still quite bumpy, with big compressions, and because it’s anti-clockwise it feels very physical to drive. I love the feeling and the atmosphere at Interlagos: the fans are absolutely fantastic, so it’s a great place to go racing.
Obviously for Pirelli this is a very important race because of the Brazilian market and this has always been the case: in my era I remember that Nelson Piquet owned a Pirelli tyre distributor in Brazil and was involved in promotional work to underline the importance of having the right tyres. The weather is always very changeable, so you have to be prepared for everything. The key to Interlagos is finding the right rhythm: if you manage this then you can minimise the tyre wear and have a good performance. I’ve been on the podium there in the past, but it’s important to find a good feeling immediately.”
The circuit from a tyre point of view
There is a big emphasis on combined traction: the transition when drivers go from braking to putting the power down. Interlagos is usually light on brakes, so conserving momentum is important.
Set-up for Interlagos tends to be a compromise: there’s a long uphill straight towards the start-finish line, which puts the emphasis on speed and power (a challenge for the engines due to the altitude of Interlagos as well) but the more twisty infield section requires more downforce. The final sector of the lap is the most crucial one for the overall time.
Technical tyre notes
The different surface variations mean that generating optimal grip and downforce is vital, particularly as there are a number of different cambers on the corners as well. Turn 14 – the slowest corner of the track – is a good example of some of the technical challenges that Interlagos poses for the tyres. The drivers brake hard while heading uphill and then turning into the corner, before managing wheelspin carefully as they exit the turn.
Interlagos is the second-shortest lap of the year after Monaco, featuring bumpy asphalt and several elevation changes. Rain showers are common at the Brazilian Grand Prix, adding to the challenge of a circuit that is well-known for being physically as well as mechanically demanding.
McLaren’s Jenson Button won the race last year, which was held in mixed weather conditions, with a two-stop strategy. Key to his success was his ability to remain on the P Zero slick tyres even when it was raining. The mixed conditions meant that the strategies were extremely varied, with some drivers stopping four times.
A Lap with Pirelli
Brembo and the Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos)
This is a very “driven” track with long, fast turns that translate into not-so-demanding braking sections. Of the track’s 7 braking sections, none are particularly difficult for the braking system which has plenty of time to cool down despite the fact that the drivers have a foot on the brake pedal for about 13% of the time.
* Turn 01 is considered the most demanding for the braking system.
1980 – The final race on the original Interlagos track saw Gilles Villeneuve take the lead after the start, but due to a lack of pace with his Ferrari in comparison to his competitors, he was overtaken by three of his competitors by the end of the second lap. John-Pierre Jabouille led the race, while Didier Pironi, Jacques Laffite and Rene Arnoux gave chase, before Pironi retired with a skirt problem, Laffite had an electrical problem and Jabouille had a turbo failure, handing the lead to Arnoux.
1991 – Notable for Ayrton Senna suffering gearbox problems, leading him to have to drive around without third, fourth and fifth gears. With the Brazilian trying his hardest and taking corners in sixth gear, he managed to hold of Riccardo Patrese to take the victory, an act that would leave him so exhausted that he would have to be lifted from his car.
1993 – Alain Prost seemed to have the title race under control, but despite not being affected by a big accident on the first lap, he spun off and hit Christian Fittipaldi as the rain started to fall. This brought out a safety car that led to Damon Hill’s lead over Senna being wiped out, and the Brazilian took advantage to overtake the Brit and take both victory and the lead in the world championship.
2003 – David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello were involved in a battle for the lead as torrential rain kept falling on the circuit. The Brazilian driver spun off, before Coulthard and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen pitted, putting Giancarlo Fisichella in the lead for the Jordan team, despite starting the race in last place. Webber crashed into the wall, and then Alonso was not able to avoid the debris, leading to a red flag. Eventually the stewards awarded the race victory to Raikkonen as he had led on lap 53, but a court decision said that the result should be taken from lap 54, the lap after the McLaren driver pitted.
2008 – Lewis Hamilton dramatically won the Formula One world championship on the final lap of the final race of the season at Interlagos. Needing to finish in fifth place to have any chance of becoming champion while Felipe Massa led the race, Sebastian Vettel overtook the British driver to take fifth place, but on the final lap Hamilton got past Timo Glock – who had the misfortune of staying on dry tyres – in order to win the championship.
There have been thirty Formula One drivers from Brazil; of these, six of them have won races, and three have won championships. If I asked people to name a famous Brazilian F1 driver, the majority of people would say Ayrton Senna, simply because he is regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time. As all of you are probably aware of his story, I’ll just briefly summarise it: he won 41 times, won three drivers championships, holds the records for most consecutive pole positions and most consecutive front row starts, and most wins with every lap led. He was one of the most respected drivers in Formula One, and I genuinely don’t have the words to describe just how good he was.
However, it is always important to look to the future, and while Felipe Massa’s career is slowly winding down, one of the hottest new Brazilian talents is Felipe Nasr. Currently competing in GP2, he finished fourth this season, and despite not winning any races, he was very consistent and scored several valuable points. He also won the 2009 Formula BMW Europe series and the 2011 British Formula Three championship, and there were even some talks about him securing a seat in Formula One for next year.
This week, Formula One welcomes the domestic Porsche Cup and Porsche Challenge series to their race weekend. Currently, the Porsche Cup standings are led by ex-F1 driver Ricardo Rosset, who is currently thirteen points clear of Ricardo Bautista in second place, with three races to go (one this weekend, and then two on the seventh of December).
Rosset took part in Formula One between 1996 and 1998, starting 33 races for the Footwork, Lola and Tyrell teams, although in his final two seasons he was unfortunate enough to race for a team that pulled out after one round in 1997, and then to have a relationship with his team in 1998 that sounded worse than the one that Pastor Maldonado seems to be experiencing today.
In the Challenge class, Daniel Schneider currently leads the championship by 25 points from his nearest rival Rodolfo Ometto. Schneider has won six races in comparison to Ometto’s two, and despite them both visiting the podium the same number of times this year, the second place in the championship that the former got last year seems to have given him the experience to perform even better this year.
|2011||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|
|2010||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2009||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|
|2005||Juan Pablo Montoya||McLaren-Mercedes|
|2004||Juan Pablo Montoya||Williams-BMW|