2014 Brazilian Grand Prix – Preview
Round 18 of the 2014 Formula One World Championship brings us to São Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix, held at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace.
• Driver / Senior Management Quotes
o Lewis Hamilton
o Nico Rosberg
o Toto Wolff
o Paddy Lowe
• Autódromo José Carlos Pace: The Inside Line
o In the Cockpit
o On the Pit Wall
Driver / Senior Management Quotes
Winning in the States was just an incredible feeling. I love spending time there and it’s fantastic to see how much the sport is growing. I was just blown away by the support I had all weekend, which made the win even more special. Once I got ahead in the race there was no looking back and I still can’t quite believe the run we’ve had recently. The team are doing an incredible job. Next up, of course, we have Brazil – which is another very, very special place for me. In 2008 I needed to finish fifth or better to take the title and, until the very last corner of the last lap, I was running sixth. I passed Timo (Glock) down the inside and, as I crossed the line, I didn’t know if I’d done it or not. I honestly though I’d lost it until quite a while after the flag, when the team came over the radio to tell me I’d won the World Championship. That was an incredible emotional rollercoaster and a moment that will stay with me for my entire life. My record at Interlagos hasn’t actually been the best so far in terms of results, though, with only one podium all the way back in 2009. I’m hoping this weekend will be the one to change that.
The weekend in Austin was a tough one for me. Qualifying was obviously fantastic but I was disappointed to let the lead slip away in the race and to lose more points in the fight for the Drivers’ Championship. In the end, Lewis just did a better job on the day and now it’s up to me to make the most of these last two races and capitalise on any opportunity. It will be tough, but I’m going to give it absolutely everything I’ve got right up to the flag in Abu Dhabi. That first opportunity comes this weekend at the Brazilian Grand Prix – one of the classic races on the calendar. There is so much history there and, of course, there have been many great Brazilian drivers in Formula One. I’ve got a mixed record at this circuit but it’s one I really enjoy as it’s usually a really action-packed race. It would be great to give my title challenge a final boost with a good result before we head to the showdown in Abu Dhabi.
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
What a weekend we had in America – fantastic support from the crowds, a great spectacle on the track and another top result for the Silver Arrows in a key market for Mercedes-Benz. As a child, I remember the dominant season of McLaren in 1988 – winning race after race throughout the year – so it makes me extremely proud for the team that we have now equalled that record for one-two finishes with the result in Austin. Both drivers performed superbly and it was fascinating to see how evenly matched they still are as we approach the end of a long, tough season. It is hugely satisfying to know that now only a Mercedes driver can win the Drivers’ Championship. Although this has appeared likely for some time, you can never rest easily until it is a mathematical certainty. Of course, that’s not to say that there will be any rest between now and the end of the season as the double-points race in Abu Dhabi still has the potential to overshadow a great season should reliability become a factor. Our focus is still 100% on ensuring that is not the case.
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
Another great result in Austin and a fantastic achievement to have matched the record for one-two finishes in a single season. America is an important market for Formula One and it was great to see such tremendous support for the race throughout our weekend in Texas. People came from all across the States and created a real carnival atmosphere around the city, which was encouraging to see in a country where there are so many alternatives on offer sports-wise. On track it wasn’t an entirely straightforward weekend, with various problems to deal with throughout the practice sessions. When it came down to it, though, the cars delivered strong performance so all credit to the team for their hard work. The drivers were also in very strong form – competing very evenly and separated by the smallest of margins throughout the race, which was exciting to watch. It’s clear that both are in great shape and enjoying the competition in a healthy way. Looking ahead to Brazil, the majority of the track has been resurfaced which will remain a point of great interest throughout the weekend in terms of how the tyres perform. It’s a tricky circuit at the best of times, with high altitude, significant elevation changes and a high frequency of wet conditions. Already, the weather is forecast to include thunder storms on all three running days! It’s sure to be an exciting weekend and a good prelude to the title showdown in Abu Dhabi.
Autódromo José Carlos Pace: The Inside Line
You start the lap absolutely flat out into the low-grip Turn One. The corner really falls away from you quite steeply here and it’s so easy to lock up, but you need to make sure to get a really tight exit to enable you to be flat through Turns Two and Three. Positioning is crucial to carrying good speed through these two corners, as you’re then into the first DRS straight and one of the best overtaking opportunities around the circuit at Turn Four.
You can brake really late for this corner – way after the 100m line and closer to the 50m line – so you need to take as much speed as possible on the way in. You then take a little bit of the kerb on exit and run flat out through Turn Five, all the way up to Turn Six. Again, this is a corner where you can carry so much speed on entry – trying to just clip the apex and doing the same through Turn Seven and hanging the car out wide for the entry to Turn Eight.
Along with Turn Nine, this really does require you to use absolutely all of the kerb for the best line and is really tricky to get right. Turn Ten is next, which is really low grip and just seems to last forever. There’s so little traction but you have to find it as best you can, as you’re then flat out down the hill through Turn 11, where the car is constantly trying to step out on you.
Braking into Turn 12, the final corner in effect, is tough. Your tyres are so hot from the stop / start, high braking nature of the middle sector that the rear end can fishtail into here and it’s easy to overrun the corner. You have to keep up your minimum speed, though, as the lap ends with a flat-out run up the hill and across the line, where keeping the steering as straight and smooth as possible is crucial. It’s a long run and with the DRS zone included, this is the best chance to make an overtake stick.
The unique thing about Interlagos is the altitude, which loses you a lot of engine power and also downforce compared to most other circuits as the air is so much thinner. This affects many things in terms of both the car and your procedures – for example the start performance, which always drops away at this track.
It’s an anti-clockwise track, which is quite unusual on the current calendar and puts a lot of strain on the left side of your neck, as this is not usually the side which gets the most strain. This is particularly noticeable down the start / finish straight, which is not really a straight but a continuous curve from the exit of Turn 12 all the way through Turns 13, 14 and 15.
This track is also one of the best for overtaking – particularly on that run along the straight and down into Turn One, which is a really tricky off-camber corner. You have to get this absolutely right to make the move stick, as it’s so easy to lock an inside wheel and lose your momentum through the next sequence of corners.
The weather always makes for an interesting weekend in Brazil. Coupled with the overtaking opportunities, it has often produced really exciting races for the fans sitting at home which is great.
On the Pit Wall
Mixing it Up
Interlagos is always one of the more challenging circuits in that it invariably throws in a few surprises. Historically it has been the final race of the season, which always incites unusual behaviour from the drivers. Seemingly normal procedures such as pit lane entry, for example, can often catch people out. Drivers know the regulations, however it is far from uncommon to see penalties awarded for repeated infringement of the pit lane entry boundaries, which are slightly unusual at this circuit. Beyond the men behind the wheel, however, there are plenty of unique characteristics which add to that unpredictability factor in São Paulo. The climate is highly variable, with rain often washing out the majority of running before clearing to leave an entirely dry day on the Sunday. This has produced some fascinating races over the years as teams and drivers must adapt quickly to a suddenly unfamiliar set of conditions. Elevation changes around the circuit also lead to rivers forming across the track during sustained periods of rain, which can often lead to sessions being suspended. Track temperatures too can vary significantly, reaching levels as high as 48 degrees and dropping as low as the early twenties. These shifts can occur not only from season to season but from day to day, making it tricky to predict the best set-up direction for each session.
The track has just been resurfaced almost in its entirety, which provides an unknown factor heading into the weekend that cannot be underestimated. Sochi was a case in point, with unusual tyre behaviour arising during the race in particular. The extent of this can depend on the quality of the surface, how long it has been laid down for and the materials used. The smoothness of the surface will also be a factor, with the significant bumps that have historically been a feature of this circuit potentially now negated. Grip levels too, both at the start of the weekend and as running progresses, will have an effect on how many adjustments will need to be made from run to run in order to keep up with that track evolution. These are all questions which must answered as swiftly as possible. Again, this may well bring a few surprises – particularly with a softer tyre compound allocation that traditionally seen here in the soft and medium.
The high altitude nature of the circuit’s location has always had an effect on baseline engine performance. Electrical power, however, is not affected – making the Hybrid element of the Power Unit all the more potent at this circuit. Factor in a short lap – just a 4.309km in length – and again the influence of electrical power efficiency becomes increasingly prominent. The final sector in particular, with the long climb up to the start-finish straight, will be an area for which the driver must ensure they have saved sufficient Hybrid power to optimise their speed. Too little electrical energy at this point would leave a car highly vulnerable to attack, which should lead to some fascinating battles, lap after lap, as cars pass and re-pass each other along the two DRS straights.
Brazil often sees high quantities of overtaking manoeuvres – and not always at corners which might be expected to create such opportunities. The DRS runs into Turns One and Four are the most obvious opportunities, however is it not uncommon to see drivers making bold moves at places where it might not be imagined possible. This will be a particularly interesting factor with the freshly laid track surface for this year, as drivers explore grip levels around different parts of the circuit. The first corner also often sees a high attrition rate in terms of contact – particularly on the first lap – which again will be exaggerated by a lack of grip level understanding.
With the Constructors’ Championship wrapped up, the majority of teams will now be firmly looking ahead to 2015. Of course, with much at stake in the Drivers’ Championship and a number of inter-team battles still to be decided, this is not universally the case. However, fundamentally it is unlikely that many teams will be bringing anything significantly different to the table at this stage of the season. On top of that, as we enter the final stages of a long, demanding year, human fatigue will inevitably become a factor. Brazil is always a weekend where people start to show signs of being physically run down – and the drivers are no exception. It has been a long season and, with Championships and even careers on the line at this point, there will be an extra strain on bodies and minds that are already feeling the effects of a gruelling calendar.