In 36 races held so far on the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, the pole setter won the race only 15 times (41.6 percent). The importance of the first place on the grid is relatively negligible.
But not if Ferrari team manager Mattia Binotto is true to his opinion. The Italian has Max Verstappen and Red Bull on his radar as the chief threat.
“Usually the pole setter is also the favourite and the most dangerous driver in the race, so we consider Verstappen to be our main opponent in tomorrow’s race,” says the Italian after qualifying.
“We’re all within a few tenths of a second, everyone’s going to be very strong.”
Sebastian Vettel will probably be his only trump card starting 2nd, Leclerc’s chances are less significant after a grid penalty put the Ferrari driver back in 14th.
Vettel has won twice from second place on the grid in Brazil: 2010 and 2017 and only once in from pole in 2013. A good omen for his 100th Grand Prix in red? Vettel will race on a used soft, while Leclerc starts on mediums.
“For Vettel it was more important for us to have a fresh medium available in the race tomorrow. After all, that’s the most important thing. We wanted to keep all options open.” Binotto also admits that Ferrari “doesn’t have an alternative strategy in mind”.
The tyre wear in Interlagos on the hardest compounds (C1 to C3) was not a big issue on Saturday, but could play a role on Sunday. For the teams, it is important to note that the track temperature could rise to over 50 degrees Celsius, which would be significantly warmer than at the weekend so far.
“The track has changed significantly compared to yesterday. But also this morning the conditions changed. The drivers felt better in qualifying than yesterday and the feeling will continue to develop tomorrow as well”. says Binotto.
“The overheating of the tyres could become an issue. But we won’t know until tomorrow.” The SF90 tends to be a tyre devourer and is less gentle with the Pirelli tyres than Mercedes or Red Bull.
“In the past few races we’ve suffered from the tyre degradation,
“[On Friday] We wanted to find the right balance, also with a lot of fuel on board, in order to prepare ourselves optimally for the race and qualifying.”
Long-run analysis of Formula 1 puts the Scuderia behind the other teams, as much as 0.4 seconds behind per lap were behind Mercedes. The silver arrows are known for their gentle tyre management, nevertheless Binotto doesn’t want to give up yet: “It’s difficult to make predictions now”.