Formula One returns to Brazil, and there’s an extra twist as the F1 Sprint format makes its third and final outing of the year.
We’re looking ahead to round 19 of the 2021 F1 season, in the midst of the final tripleheader. Brazil is home to some of Formula One’s greatest legends, like multiple world champions Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.
Overtaking: Overtaking is difficult at Interlagos, and is compounded by the short run to Turn One and a tight first sector. In 2019, there were 35 overtakes during the race (excluding the first lap and Safety Car restarts). DRS is usually crucial for making an overtake, with the run from Turn 15 to Turn One often the best point to make a move.
Weather: Interlagos is no stranger to heavy rain. Max Verstappen in 2016 sprins to mind. Currently, the forecast for rain sits around 40% for both Friday and Saturday. Friday’s practise and qualifying day is expected to be cloudy, with a slight drizzle possible. Saturdays practise and sprint could see some sunny spells, but mostly clouds, with a moderate chance of showers from noon. No rain is expected for race day, as the temperature is expected to rise slightly up to 21 degrees.
Sprint Race: Following successful first tests at Silverstone and Monza, this weekend will see the return of the sprint format. Qualifying on Friday for a short Sprint on Saturday, with the finishing order of the latter event setting the grid for the Grand Prix itself. In both Silverstone and Monza, the pole-sitter failed to convert their starting position into a win. We all remember the Verstappen-Hamilton collision in Silverstone, which saw pole-sitter Verstappen out of the race. And of course, the Monza incident involving pole-sitter Verstappen and Hamilton which resulted in a DNF for both.
What to look out for
Strategy: Starting from the front row has proven important at Interlagos. In the last 20 races run on this track layout, 16 have been won from the front row – eight from P1 and eight from P2. Combined with the overtaking difficulties at the Brazilian Grand Prix, strategy will once again play a major part. In 2019, one- and two-stop strategies proved closely matched, and were affected by two late Safety Cars. But in 2018, a one-stop strategy ultimately prevailed. Pirelli has allocated the C2, C3 and C4 tyre for the 11th time this year.
Safety Cars: In the past five years in Brazil, we’re seen nine Safety Car. Of course, six of those are accounted for in the 2016 race. However, Safety Cars seem quite common at Interlagos.
The title fight: Verstappen now leads Hamilton by 19 points. With the sprint format this weekend, there are additional points up for grabs to make or break the championship fight. After the dominating performance in Mexico, Verstappen arrives at Interlagos as the favourite to take pole position. Mercedes have had good results in Brazil, but Red Bull have grown stronger at Interlagos in recent years. While it’s nowhere near as high as Mexico City, Interlagos is still over 800m above sea level and the altitude should suit Red Bull and Honda slightly more than Mercedes.
The track: 15 corners from start to finish over the course of 4.3 km per lap. A lap of Interlagos is a true test of a driver’s strength, as the anti-clockwise circuit and left-hand corners stress the neck muscles. Maximising a lap of Interlagos stars at Turn 12 on the previous lap. A good exit of the low-speed corner is crucial as Turns 13 to 15 are all about high speed and setting up the next lap. Drivers want to exit the final corner at maximum speed, fly down the main straight to Turn One, before the circuit heads downhill into the Senna S at entry speeds of 220km/h. Turns Four and Five are taken at a high average speed, before elevation changes, grassy run-off, and plenty of g-force pressure the neck as Turns Six to 10 are quick and provide little overtaking but test the set-up of the car. The higher-speed Turn 11 is then followed by the downhill run to Turn 12 with a critical breaking point. Once clear, drivers are already preparing for the next lap through the long gradual bend of Turns 13, 14 and 15.
What the teams have to say
Sergio Perez:“It felt great! To have everyone up there with me in Foro Sol for the podium, people who have been with me since day one, was incredible. It was an emotional moment for my whole family, they are a big part of what I do every weekend on the racetrack and I am very pleased that we got the result for them too. It was a pretty intense week, it was hard to keep the focus and not be distracted by the people and intensity of the moment. It was such an extreme race on Sunday and the whole weekend was similar. It went very well and I am very happy with the Team result, that Red Bull Racing Honda won in my country and that I got the podium. It was a great result in my home country but ultimately, we have to move on straight away and shift the focus in a triple header. We go to Brazil next and as a Team we have to keep pushing hard because we are in such a strong position as the season starts to close. We are one point away from leading the Constructors Championship but ultimately none of that matters in this moment, what matters is the final standings, which is why we’ll keep pushing until this season is done.It is another opportunity and another chance to improve for the Team and me. This season has shown how quickly things can change so we need to make sure those changes are only positive for us this week. I have had three podiums in a row and feel like it’s all down to getting to know the car better so I will take that momentum to Brazil and hope to build on it.”
Max Verstappen:“It felt really good to win in Mexico. As a Team it almost couldn’t have gone any better for us, it was great to have Checo up there with me and that’s what we want, we have to keep on pushing. I really didn’t expect qualifying to go how it did but I always knew the car would be good in the race. We had a pace advantage and I was able to manage it to the end of the race. Heading to Brazil, it’s difficult to say how competitive we are going to be. In 2019 we won the race but it was a close battle all the way through and I expect something very similar again this year. Let’s see what the weather forecast is going to be because that can impact the performance quite a bit. It’s also a sprint race this weekend; I tend to do well in the sprint race but then get bad race results so let’s try and turn it around.It would mean a lot to the Team to win, we of course work for both Championships so to get those points today was amazing. Checo has been on fire for the past few races. For now, we are taking it race by race and we just need to keep pushing.”
Lewis Hamilton:“I think people underappreciate just how well we’ve done considering the pace they’ve had since day one. The struggles we had in testing before the season, then just skimming by and winning the first race and then we had a couple of races where… I just don’t think they optimised and probably made more mistakes than they would have liked to. I think we’ve done a pretty good job. But at the end of the day we’ve not been as fast as them most of the time. I think we’ve done as good as we could, we’re pushing this weekend to see if we can squeeze any more out the car. Last time here they were incredibly strong so we’re anticipating they’ll be very hard to beat this weekend.”
Lando Norris: “I’m excited to be racing in Brazil after missing out last year because of the pandemic. Interlagos is an iconic circuit with a rich history in F1. The atmosphere there is unique thanks to the passionate fans that make it a fun place to race.
“Hopefully we can take our learnings from Mexico into this weekend and improve as a team. We’ve got four more races left on the calendar so every session counts. Sprint qualifying has shown that there are plenty of opportunities to make good progress across the weekend. We need to keep our heads down and hit the ground running on Friday.”
Daniel Ricciardo: “I’m looking forward to heading back to Brazil for another sprint weekend, these weekends have been kind to us so far this year, so we’ll head into the weekend with positivity. After the result last weekend, where we had a disappointing result, we can only really look forward. Luckily we have the opportunity to fight back almost immediately with this triple-header of races.
“I didn’t take home any points in Mexico, but the outcome could’ve been very different if we’d just had a few more centimetres, which proves we have the car to fight for good positions and decent points. There’s definitely some optimism coming off the back of last weekend. My focus is now on scoring points in a few days’ time, so we’ll keep at it. The team is hungry, determined and we’ll keep on going right to the final lap of the season.”
Charles Leclerc:“We expect McLaren to be strong, if anything a bit stronger than us here. We really have to focus on ourselves, have to do everything perfect until the end of the season, but it’s true we are also in a good time for the team. We’ve progressed quite well in the last five, six races which is good and we [closed] back the distance which there was between McLaren and us so it’s looking good…”
Carlos Sainz:“Our numbers say so, that’s why Charles I guess mentioned it, because we have our simulations and our expectations from the sims and due to track characteristics and all that we put them something like half a tenth ahead of us – not much more than that. Now… it could be a tenth here or a tenth there, up or down. It should be tight, that’s for sure, and I think it makes it more exciting and obviously with the podium of Gasly in 2019 [in Brazil], AlphaTauri should also be in the mix. It’s so tight that I think it’s going to be a great battle until the end of the year. ”
Sebastian Vettel:“We come into Brazil off the back of a run of points scores, so we want to keep the momentum going. We’ll be racing in the Sprint format again, which might make things more unpredictable. But the goal doesn’t change, and we’ll be looking for a productive Friday and Saturday before aiming for more points on Sunday.”
Lance Stroll:“I’m putting the last race weekend behind me and focusing on extracting the maximum from our car in Brazil. I’m looking forward to racing in the Sprint format once again, it’ll be interesting to see how it can shake up the field. Interlagos is an exciting track, it’s a short lap with gradient changes throughout that will undoubtedly showcase some great on-track battles.”
Pierre Gasly: “My third fourth-place finish of the season and the team now equal fifth on points in the Constructors’ Championship. Mexico really was a very strong weekend, with the whole team working very hard to achieve this result, with only the two Red Bulls and Lewis in front of me. We were immediately on the pace from Friday and then best of the rest behind the four drivers from the top two teams in Qualifying. Also good for the team is the fact Yuki is growing in confidence and he was a great help, giving me a tow in Qualifying. Everyone is now very motivated about getting fifth in the Constructors’ and the result last Sunday is a real motivation to keep pushing hard in Brazil, another track that I think can suit us.
The last time we went to Brazil was in 2019 when I finished second. It was my very first F1 podium and a really big moment for me, especially given the way it happened with the sprint to the line with Lewis from the last corner. I am looking forward to reliving all those very nice memories and it’s going to be cool to go back there having been on the podium before. The track keeps you very busy, it’s anti-clockwise and even the straights are not really straight. You’re always having something to do in the cockpit, while the track itself is very technical and I really enjoy it. It’s not easy for the car and Power Unit there, so it will be a challenge.”
Yuki Tsunoda: “Even though I didn’t even finish the first lap of the Mexican GP, I feel my performance up until Sunday was one of my best of the season. For the third race in a row I made it to Q3, I had good pace all weekend long and generally felt confident in the car. My first visit to Mexico didn’t disappoint, it was such an amazing experience, the fans are so passionate, and it was so great to see.
Now we are in Sao Paulo, Brazil and it’s another first for me. Apart from the fact I’ve never driven the Brazil track, there will be the added factor of the Sprint Qualifying format, which means I only get one hour of free practice to learn this new track before going into Qualifying. But we have done this a couple of times now, I am getting more experienced and confident in my car, so I know what to expect and how best to deal with it. “
Fernando Alonso:“Interlagos is a great track. Its history in Formula 1 is rich and the fans there know Formula 1 very well. There is always some drama in Brazil and so we have to be prepared for that.”
Esteban Ocon:“The atmosphere is incredibly special as Brazilian fans are very passionate for Formula 1 and you can feel the legacy of Ayrton Senna there. It’s been a couple of years since I raced in Brazil and I’ve always enjoyed racing there.”
Nicholas Latifi: “Autódromo José Carlos Pace is one of the tracks I’ve been looking forward to this year, as I haven’t raced there as a Formula One driver; my experience at the track is limited to an FP1 session with the team in 2019. It is one of the shorter tracks on the calendar and also a very technical one. The in-field section is quite tight and twisty with a mix of cambers, so that makes it a challenge for the car and the driver, especially if we get mixed weather conditions which is quite common for Interlagos. We’ll also have the Sprint Qualifying format for the final time this year, which should make for some interesting racing and a good show for the fans.”
George Russell:“Interlagos is another circuit that we unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to visit in 2020, so I am really excited to go back there this year. It is a very old school track with plenty of character and lots of undulation. We also have the Sprint Qualifying format returning which holds some different challenges to the usual race weekends, so all in all I’m very excited.”
Kimi Raikkonen:“I was pleased with our performance in Mexico and I hope we can be on a similar level in Interlagos. Last week’s race was not that eventful for me, but we got points so I am happy with the outcome: in the end, the result was good so I don’t care if I was on my own for most of the afternoon. Interlagos is a place that holds some very good memories for me: it’s where I won the world championship in 2007 so to race here one last time is going to be nice. Of course, once I am in the car I don’t think about these things, but it’s nice to be back here after missing out when the race was cancelled last year.”
Antonio Giovinazzi:“Some races are good, some are bad but I try to look at the positives: we showed good pace as a team in Mexico and I am confident it will be the same here. We have been fighting for the top ten in every race lately and I am determined to bring home the points this weekend. Brazil is where I had my best ever result, in 2019, and it’d be nice to add another good race to this record: what I can guarantee is that I will keep giving everything I have in every race, every lap, every corner.”
Mick Schumacher:“I haven’t personally been to Brazil before, so it’s going to be a first for me. I have driven the track on the simulator though and it was fun – I enjoyed it. Hopefully it will be the same experience when I go there this weekend. “I think that sprint events are interesting. They are different, but probably for Brazil it’s going to be all about figuring out, as quick as you can for FP1, what you need for qualifying. The good thing is in brazil the track is very short, so you’ll have the opportunity to do a lot of laps and maybe come into the pits and change things, in terms of set-up or approach to corners.”
Nikita Mazepin:“I remember watching the wet race in Brazil in 2016. It was a crazy one to watch and crazy class the drivers have shown. “I like sprint events. The issue with them is that you get very little time to adjust to the circuit and having not been to Brazil, it will be a big challenge for me. However, you can’t change it, it’s the same for everybody and I’m going to give it my best. ”
Headline Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 | LAT Images
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