2010 Brazilian Grand Prix Preview


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Round 18 - Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Interlagos

Seventeen rounds down, two to go, and what a contrast between the venues that will determine the 2010 world champion drivers and constructors. First to the undulating circuit on the outskirts of São Paulo, whose essential nature remains unchanged by the rapid development seen in F1 over the decades - still bumpy, still fast and flowing, the crowds still passionately partisan, the crumbling circuit edifices still ringing to the sound of racing engines even as time continues to take its toll.

There should never have been a racetrack here, in the narrow strip of land between the enormous Guarapiranga and Billings reservoirs. In the 1920s housing was to be built on this land, to accommodate the exponentially expanding Paulista population. Luckily for motorsport fans everywhere, the 1929 stock market crash put paid to the developers' intentions and the project was scrapped. The Autódromo de Interlagos (literally "between the lakes") came into being in 1940 and was a monster, nearly five miles in length with long straights looping endlessly back on themselves through extremely fast, wide radius curves.

In 1972 a demonstration event for F1 cars was held at Interlagos and, having been deemed a success, the venue hosted the first World Championship Brazilian Grand Prix the following year. Drivers were largely enthusiastic about the venue, despite the infamous bumps, and "Curva 2" became one of the great driving challenges of the 1970s - Jacky Ickx was, allegedly, the first man to take the curve flat-out in his Ferrari 312B2 in 1973. Many of the corner names now ring with history - Curva do Sol, Ferradura, Pinheirinho, the fast downhill Mergulho and Junção.

To the delight of the enormous crowds, local hero Emerson Fittipaldi won both the '73 and '74 events. Emerson's father Wilson had instituted the Mil Milhas sportscar races that have run at Interlagos since the 1950s. In 1975, it was, incredibly, another hometown hero who triumphed, this time Brabham's Carlos Pace, whose choice of soft compound front tyres and harder rears proved critical in securing what would be his only Grand Prix victory. In 1977 Pace died in a plane crash and is buried in the city of his birth; the racetrack was renamed in his honour in 1985. Into the second half of the decade, the national rivalry between Brazil's two largest cities manifested itself in F1, as Emerson - now consigned to the back of the grid at his brother's team - was usurped by Nelson Piquet from Rio de Janeiro. The Grand Prix moved to Rio in 1978 as a one-off, and then continuously from 1981 to 1989.

The pendulum swung back the other way in the 1980s, of course, as one Ayrton Senna da Silva - another Paulista - moved rapidly from wonderkid to race winner to championship challenger and ultimately to world champion, in the process putting Piquet in his shadow. The time had come for Interlagos to reclaim the race, and this time on a reconfigured circuit, retaining much of the character of the original but with connecting roads short-cutting the most tortuous loops and reducing the length to just over two-and-a-half miles. Senna, who had never won at Rio, led the first Interlagos race of the new era from pole position in 1990, but a collision with Satoru Nakajima necessitated a pitstop and dropped him behind his nemesis Alain Prost.

Senna's emotional first home win did come the following year, but (of course) not easily - in the closing stages, with rain intensifying, and Patrese's Williams on a charge, Ayrton's gearbox began to shed gears. Passing the pits Senna frantically gestured in a desperate bid to have the race stopped early, but somehow clung on to win by under 3 seconds. He took a second win, in even worse conditions, in 1993, a race also notable for the first modern deployment of a Safety Car. There followed a sequence of seven races up to 2000 that were all won by the eventual world champion that season.

In 2003 the Brazilian Grand Prix was held at the start of the season for the last time, and repeated cloudbursts created one of the most dramatic races of the past decade. Regulations that season obliged tyre manufacturers to bring only one type of wet tyre, and Bridgestone's selection of an intermediate that was inappropriate for the conditions necessitated a Safety Car start. Rubens Barrichello, who grew up across the road from the circuit, led for much of the way but ran out of fuel past half-distance, a miscalculation partially explained by the loss of car-to-pit telemetry. Ralph Firman's Jordan suffered a suspension failure on the main straight and, narrowly missing team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, speared Olivier Panis' Toyota. Rivers running down the bank on the outside of the turn made Curva do Sol treacherous, and Michael Schumacher was among the drivers to end their races in the tyre barrier there. Jordan had gambled on filling Fisichella's car to the brim in the hope of making it to the end without a stop, and so they did, with the race called early after enormous accidents for Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso on the main straight blocked the circuit. Confusion reigned in the aftermath of the red flag, with Kimi Raikkonen initially declared the victor in error, as the true winning car, Fisichella's humble Jordan-Cosworth, set itself on fire, perhaps by way of protest.

Interlagos presents a number of unusual challenges to the teams. The circuit, at 750m above sea level is the highest current F1 venue and the reduced density of the air has implications for both aerodynamic and engine performance. Despite ongoing resurfacing work, the circuit remains bumpier than most and its curves feature the greatest variety of camber and gradient changes. Sectors 1 and 3 of the lap are characterised by long full-throttle sections and a couple of big braking stops, while the twisting middle section places great demands on grip and traction. As such, though average downforce levels are lower than for most circuits, quite divergent aero packages can result in similar lap times overall. Average temperatures of 27 Celsius and high humidity mean a tough physical challenge for the drivers, though this will be negated if it rains - which it usually does, at some point in the weekend.

The overall finishing rate at Interlagos is below the average for this year's circuits.
The likelihood of a driver-related retirement is high.
Mechanical failures in Brazil have around the average likelihood of all current tracks.
Finally, the circuit has seen more first-lap retirements than any bar Melbourne.

The Last Five Years
200520152229 - Takuma Sato (BAR)
2006221733111 - Jenson Button (Honda)
200722145309 - Kazuki Nakajima (Williams)
200820180226 - Nico Rosberg (Williams)
2009201414314 - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
[td]Year[/td][td]Starters[/td][td]Finishers[/td][td]Retirements - Mech[/td][td]Retirements - Acc[/td][td]Lap 1 retirements[/td][td]Most places gained[/td]

Circuit Ranking (of all 18 circuits)
Finishing Rate
13th Sepang 75%
14th Interlagos 75%
15th Singapore 73%

Mechanical Failures
9th Spa 11%
=10th Interlagos 11%
=10th Shanghai 11%
12th Yas Marina 10%

Driver-related Retirements
5th Catalunya 14%
6th Interlagos 13%
7th Singapore 13%

First lap Retirements

1st Melbourne 8.5%
2nd Interlagos 7.7%
3rd Catalunya 5.8%

Only three former winners line up for this year's Brazilian Grand Prix, and two of them (Schumacher and Massa) are unlikely to repeat their previous successes. Indeed Felipe has already donated one possible home Grand Prix win to a team-mate, in 2007, and may be in contention for the same dubious honour this time around. Fernando Alonso may not have won at Interlagos, but both of his world championships were won there with second place finishes. Lewis Hamilton's many travails at the venue have also been well documented and prevented him, like his current team-mate, from progressing beyond the bottom step of the podium. Outside the title contenders, Rubens Barrichello's record is remarkably dire; conversely Robert Kubica's unexpected second for BMW Sauber last year may give him confidence.

As Mark Webber crossed the finish line at Interlagos to take victory twelve months ago, he put to rest a most extraordinary sequence - his team had failed to score a single point in Brazil in its entire history, including under previous guises as Jaguar and Stewart. Indeed, thanks to Fisichella's 2003 victory, Force India remain more successful statistically over the past decade than Red Bull. Higher than average rates of attrition, and the possibility of rain, give the opportunity for the lesser teams to shine, and this race represents the sixth anniversary of Williams' last win, and seven years since a Cosworth engine was triumphant.

Current Drivers' Records at Interlagos
Michael Schumacher15141st (4)82015
Fernando Alonso862nd (2)39117.75
Felipe Massa651st (2)29014.5
Jenson Button1073rd (1)162111.7
Rubens Barrichello1763rd (1)15827.88
Robert Kubica442nd (1)12009.25
Lewis Hamilton333rd (1)12007.67
Mark Webber841st (1)10139.5
Sebastian Vettel324th (2)101011.67
Jarno Trulli1384th (1)8418.85
Nick Heidfeld943rd (1)75011.67
Nico Rosberg424th (1)51112
Timo Glock226th (1)30013.5
Heikki Kovalainen327th (1)20112.67
Sebastien Buemi117th (1)2006
Kamui Kobayashi119th (1)00011
Vitantonio Liuzzi3311th (1)00016.33
Jaime Alguersuari1114th (1)00012
Adrian Sutil3116th (1)01114.67
Sakon Yamamoto2116th (1)00121
Lucas di Grassi0------
Nico Hulkenberg0------
Vitaly Petrov0------
Bruno Senna0------
[td]Driver[/td][td]Starts[/td][td]Finishes[/td][td]Best result[/td][td]Points[/td][td]Retirements - Mech[/td][td]Retirements - Acc[/td][td]Average grid pos.[/td]

Chassis Records at Interlagos (since 2000)
Ferrari20151st (5)94225.5
McLaren20171st (2)78305.5
Renault20142nd (3)51249.4
Williams20111st (1)32179.1
BMW Sauber18132nd (1)243210.28
Mercedes GP20143rd (1)246111.2
Force India20131st (1)196214.65
Red Bull20101st (1)154711.85
Toro Rosso20144th (1)74216.25
[td]Chassis[/td][td]Starts[/td][td]Finishes[/td][td]Best result[/td][td]Points[/td][td]Retirements - Mech[/td][td]Retirements - Acc[/td][td]Average grid pos.[/td]
Results for Renault include Benetton
Results for BMW Sauber include Sauber
Results for Mercedes GP include Honda and Brawn
Results for Force India include Jordan and Midland
Results for Red Bull include Jaguar
Results for Toro Rosso include Minardi

Engine Records at Interlagos (since 2000)
Ferrari44301st (5)110859.93
Mercedes-Benz24201st (2)83316.17
Renault24171st (1)60259.46
Cosworth28121st (1)1071014.39
[td]Engine[/td][td]Starts[/td][td]Finishes[/td][td]Best result[/td][td]Points[/td][td]Retirements - Mech[/td][td]Retirements - Acc[/td][td]Average grid pos.[/td]
Results for Ferrari include Petronas and Acer
Results for Cosworth include Ford

All ranking figures are expressed as a % of total starts.
"Retirements-Acc" are retirements where the reason has been listed as Collision, Accident or Spun Off.
Great read, i knew rubens had dreadful luck at interlagos, but thats awful! Hopefully he canbreak his duck this weekend, although tht seems unlikely...
It seems to be starting a little earlier this year, but last year it started before Daylight Savings.

So the chances of it delaying Strictly Come Dancing are unfortunately minimal! Love the Brazilian Grand Prix, the (second) least suitable track on the calendar, but one of the best.

Long live the bumps, long live the Sao Paulo weather, long live Turn 1!
fat_jez said:
Johnny Herbert is the driver's steward at Brazil.

Luckily he wasn't needed as in an BBC interview prior to the race he said he hoped Webber would win the Drivers Championship.
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