Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix Preview: Tyres, DRS, Weather, Session Times
The Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix takes place this Sunday. It will be the 19th and last race of the year.
The venue will be the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Sao Paulo, also known as Interlagos. This beautiful old circuit (in two main forms) has hosted the Brazilian Grand Prix 30 times and has been a fixture on the calendar every year since 1990.
Alain Prost, with six, has the most wins in Brazil—though only one was at this track. Of the current drivers, Felipe Massa and Mark Webber have the most victories, with two apiece.
So if you're hoping for a bit of variety to end the season, Interlagos might just be the place to provide it. In recent years, the track has developed a habit of producing less-likely winners.
In the 12 races since 2000, only four have been won by that season's champion.
And to bump up the unpredictability stakes further, it might rain, too.
There's very little left to play for. Third place looks like the best battle, with Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber separated by just six points.
Webber has by far the better car, but Hamilton has a race win. The Australian needs to score seven more points than his rival to take the position.
Elsewhere, Pastor Maldonado has lost his proud record of having scored every single one of Williams' points. The team looked far more competitive in Austin, so Valtteri Bottas will be aiming to overhaul Esteban Gutierrez to claim the title of top-scoring rookie.
The current standings (with love to Formula1.com for the beautiful table) are:
|1||Sebastian Vettel||German||Red Bull Racing-Renault||372|
|5||Mark Webber||Australian||Red Bull Racing-Renault||181|
|10||Paul di Resta||British||Force India-Mercedes||48|
|13||Adrian Sutil||German||Force India-Mercedes||29|
|21||Giedo van der Garde||Dutch||Caterham-Renault||0|
In the constructors' standings, the fight for second between Mercedes and Ferrari is the highlight. But the Italian team don't have a particularly good car at the moment and could even lose third to Lotus.
At the other end, Marussia (well, Jules Bianchi's Marussia) had the edge on Caterham in Austin. Caterham have more 14th-place finishes, so they need to beat Marussia and have a car finish higher than 13th to jump ahead.
Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace
The official name of this circuit is a tribute to Brazilian (and Paulista) racing driver Jose Carlos Pace (professionally he dropped the Jose). Pace's sole F1 win came in 1975 on the old Interlagos layout.
Following his death in an air crash in 1977, the track was renamed in his honour.
But for whatever reason, the circuit's original name, Interlagos, has lived on. It means "between lakes" and the track is indeed situated in a neighbourhood between two substantial reservoirs.
Interlagos held the Brazilian Grand Prix seven times in the 1970s and 1980s, and was redesigned for its return to the calendar in 1990. An aerial view of the circuit still shows much of the original layout.
One of an ever-shrinking number of "classic" circuits F1 still visits, this place is truly unique. Undulating and scenic, every corner has a story to tell.
Turns 1, 2 and 3
A lap begins on the pit straight, heading uphill. The track levels out, then starts to drop downhill as the drivers brake for Turn 1. This left-hander is part one of the Senna S, a chicane truly worthy of the name.
It seems to take an age to reach the apex as the slope steepens and the drivers drop all the way down into second, then accelerate out still heading downhill. This is a tough corner to get exactly right—and a great spot for overtaking.
Turn 2 is taken with a bit of a lift, the drivers feathering the throttle only slightly. Back ends often look loose here as the downhill slope levels out.
The left-hand Turn 3 (Curva do Sol) is a flat-out acceleration zone in the dry; in the wet, it's a very tricky beast. It leads out on to the back straight (which also has a name, Reta Oposta).
Turns 4 and 5
At the end of the straight, the drivers brake late for the left-hand Turn 4, Descida do Lago (roughly, Lake Descent—there's a small lake beyond the run-off area). It's medium-speed and another decent passing location.
The track drops steeply downhill after the apex, starting to level out through the flat-out left of Turn 5.
Turns 6, 7 and 8
A short straight follows. The track is unusually narrow by F1 standards here, as it dips and begins to rise.
Turn 6 (Ferradura) is the first part of an uphill right-hander on the fast side of medium-speed. Turn 7 (Laranjinha) is the second part of the corner
Almost straight away it's braking for Turn 8, a very tight right-hander. The drivers take a lot of kerb on the inside (sometimes too much, if you're someone who respects the circuit boundaries) before heading downhill again.
Turns 9 and 10
Turn 9 (Pinheirinho) is a slow, wide left-hand hairpin at the foot of a hill. It's downhill on the entry and until the middle of the corner, then uphill on the way out.
A short uphill straight follows before braking again for Turn 10 (Pico de Pato, duck's bill in English), a tight right-hand hairpin and the slowest corner on the circuit. The track drops slightly as the drivers turn in, rises a little for a few metres, then drops away again.
Turns 11 and 12
It's downhill again (don't elevation changes make a difference?) towards and through the flat-out left-hander of Turn 11 (Mergulho, literally "diving," a wonderfully appropriate name).
Then it's back uphill towards the final real corner, the tricky and extremely important left-hander of Turn 12 (Juncao, meaning "junction"). It's easy to get this one a bit wrong, which can affect the driver all the way down the long pit straight which follows.
Watching the cars exit Mergulho, hit the floor of the valley and shoot back up the slope towards Juncao is one of my favourite sights of the year.
Turns 13, 14 and 15
The real corners are out of the way, but the Interlagos pit straight is a strange and magnificent old thing with three flat-out left-handers along its length.
It's uphill to start with out of Juncao and through Turn 13. The track then levels out as it sweeps through Turn 14 (Subida do Boxes, "up to the pits").
There's a slight downhill section through Turn 15 (Arquibancadas, which appropriately means "bleachers" or "grandstands"), then it's uphill again to the finish line.
The pit lane entry is on the inside of Turn 15 and the exit finally emerges on the straight between Turns 3 and 4.
Tyres and DRS
Pirelli are bringing the white-marked medium and orange-marked hard compound tyres to Interlagos.
This is the hardest combination available and the same pairing Pirelli brought last year. During that wet-dry race, the most laps completed on a set of mediums was 38, by Fernando Alonso before he changed them for intermediates.
The race is 71 laps in length so he did more than half the distance on them—but this year's compounds are slightly softer than in 2012 and the track temperature was unusually low last year.
Another one-stop race is possible for some teams, but two might be better for most.
Also available to the teams for the two Friday practice sessions only will be two sets of prototype 2014-spec medium compound tyres.
Interlagos is a circuit which needs DRS a little less than most, but there are still two DRS zones for this year's race.
The first zone's detection point will be between Turns 1 and 2 in the Senna S. The activation point will be just after the exit of Turn 3 and the zone runs the length of the back straight.
The second zone has a detection point early on the pit straight just after Turn 13 and the activation point is just before Turn 15. It ends with braking for Turn 1.
Sao Paulo has a humid subtropical climate and is famed for its unpredictable weather. Last year's race saw mixed conditions and this year's might, too.
A chance of rain is forecast for Friday and Saturday. Heavy showers could show up on Sunday, too, but the outlook may and probably will change as we get closer to the weekend.
As always, the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend will consist of three free practice sessions, qualifying and the race.
The session times are as follows:
All times are given in Sao Paulo local time. Formula1.com has a handy one-click tool to convert them to your own timezone.
Enjoy the weekend!