Interlagos at just over 800 metres, the atmospheric pressure is 10% lower than at sea level and while this doesn’t sap power with a turbo engine, like it does with a normally aspirated one, it does make the Energy Recovery System work harder on the turbo side. This appeared to be an issue for Mercedes the last time it raced at altitude in Austria, the only time this year that the team failed to secure pole position.
Adding to the uncertainty this weekend is the newly resurfaced track. Teams were used to the tired old tarmac, with its low grip, but now they have to learn about a new surface and, as we saw in Sochi, that can have a very different impact on tyre performance than one expects. If it rains during Friday practice, as forecast, then teams will have no opportunity to learn how the soft and medium tyres will behave in the event that the race is dry. That would make for an extraordinary Grand Prix.
It is also the shortest lap of the season in terms of lap time, a quick lap there being under 1m 12 seconds, so the qualifying and racing have an intense quality about them. The circuit has a fast downhill sector one and final uphill sector three, with a tight infield sector in the middle.
Track length : 4.309 kilometres.
Race distance : 71 laps (305.909 kilometres).
Corners : 15 corners in total
Average speed : 210km/h. A classic circuit set in a natural bowl, in a suburb of Sao Paulo.
Aerodynamic setup : Med/High downforce.
Top speed : 323km/h (with DRS open) 311km/h without.
Full throttle : 60% of the lap time (ave/high).
Brake wear : light.
Number of braking events : 6, Time spent braking – 16% of the lap.
Total time needed for a pit stop : 20 seconds
Lap record : 1:11.473 (Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams BMW, 2004)
Rain showers are a common occurrence in Sao Paolo at this time of year and many Brazilian Grands Prix have experienced sudden showers over the years. The forecast for the weekend is for wet weather all three days, especially Saturday. Temperatures around 20 degrees centigrade and an 80% chance of rain on Sunday.
There are two DRS zones. The first has a detection point at the apex of T2, with activation 20m after T3, while the second has its activation point 30m after T13, with an activation point 60m after T15.
The pitlane exit has been realigned further to the left to provide a run-off area around the outside of T2, while the pitlane entry has been realigned to the left in order to allow the pit wall start to be moved further away from the track. Finally a low kerb has been placed on the apex of T15 in order to prevent cars from cutting the corner.
Pirelli tyre choice for Brazil: Medium (white markings) and soft (yellow markings). This combination has been the dominant selection this season and teams know these tyres very well now.
Pirelli changed the specifications from Medium and Hard to Soft and Meidum quite late on, after complaints from drivers, led by Williams’ Felipe Massa. The track has been completely resurfaced and this could have a significant effect on the outcome of the race. Teams knew the old surface well; worn and slippery as it was. Learning how the new surface interacts with the tyre is the key job for Friday practice. If that is rain affected but the race day is dry, then we will be in for a very interesting race with teams working in the dark on how the tyres will behave.
The revised pit lane entry, together with the new track surface mean that predictions are difficult, but two stops looks the most likely scenario with stops on Laps 20 and 45. However we saw in Austin that the soft was not the favoured race tyre. Overtaking at Interlagos isn’t too much of a problem, thanks to the long uphill straight leading to the Senna S. And the DRS wing certainly helps.
The chances of a Safety Car are high at 63%. The Safety Car has been used in seven of the last 11 races. It is often called into action on the first lap, as it’s a short lap with 24 cars charging into tight corners. This makes the Safety Car an important element to factor into Race Strategy planning. It encourages teams to hedge their bets and split strategies, with one car doing a conventional two-stop plan and the other on a one-stop, a plan that would benefit from a safety car deployment. This is because a safety car would close up the field reducing any time loss and if timed well, would allow a one-stopping car to effectively get a free pit stop.
Nico Rosberg no longer has the world championship in his hands; two wins in Brazil and Abu Dhabi will not be enough on their own. At some point the German needs luck to intervene in his favour and work against title rival Lewis Hamilton. Interlagos, a circuit at which anything can happen due to unpredictable weather, tight run-off areas and the high chance of a safety car, might be the venue to provide it. There have been many upsets at this race in the past and it’s a relief when a race goes to plan, especially when a championship is at stake.
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