2010 Brazilian Grand Prix Preview
For the penultimate round of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) Formula One World Championship teams have arrived at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace near Sao Paulo in Brazil. As a tribute the circuit bears the name of Brazilian racing driver Carlos Pace, who was active in Formula One from 1972-1977. He was born in Sao Paulo, and tragically lost his life when he was only 32 years old in an airplane crash near Sao Paulo, the town where he was also buried. Pace was very popular in Brazil, but also in Europe where he spent his days on the classic Grand Prix circuits. In his short career he drove for Williams, Surtees and Brabham, participated in 73 races, scored one victory when he won the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1975 for Brabham, took one pole and six podium positions, and scored 58 World Championship points.
Other Brazilians who won their home Grand Prix include Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Felipe Massa. The Interlagos circuit is relatively short, has one twisty section, and one fast section, and is one of the five anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar. For drivers it is a challenging circuit, and not just physically, the car set-up is trade off between the high speed and low down force section and the slow corners which need high down force. The circuit is also about 800 meters above sea level, and due to the thinner air, engines will lose about 6-7 percent of their power, while a well functioning F-duct can be a powerful weapon on the straights.
The FIA has appointed four stewards who will make up the F1 Stewards Panel for the race in Brazil: German Gerd Ennser and Paul Gutjahr from Switzerland will represent the FIA, Felipe Giaffone it will represent the hosting country Brazil, and ex-Formula One driver Briton Johnny Herbert will represent the drivers.
The 46-year old Herbert was active in Formula One from 1989 until 2000, competed in 165 races, and raced for Benetton, Tyrrell, Lotus, Ligier, Sauber, Stewart and Jaguar. He won the British and Italian Grand Prix in 1995, and in 1999 he won the European Grand Prix. He was also FIA Stewart during the Malaysian and Turkish Grands Prix earlier this year.
Kubica: Anything can happen
Renault driver Robert Kubica predicts the race could become a lottery. "Brazil is a bit of a strange track and it's really difficult to predict how we will perform. There is a long straight out of the last corner where the F-duct will give us lots of gain and this is also where the power of the engine will be important," the Pole said. "I think that we might have a lottery with the weather because Brazil gets unsettled conditions at this time of year, so it's likely we will have some wet running, as we did in 2009. When it rains the track has very poor grip and you have to be lucky to get the perfect balance with the car."
About the ideal car set-up he said, "It's a difficult track for setting up the car because of the long straight and the uphill sections of the track. You have to choose between top speed, or running a lot of down force and gaining through the corners, so it's very difficult to balance those two things. The track has a bit of everything: low speed, high speed and it's kind of an old school circuit so there are quite a lot of places where you can gain lap time."
Alonso could wrap up the title in Brazil
Fernando Alonso could theoretically take the title in Brazil, but he is certainly not counting on that. The four other contenders, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button, are still in the race for the title. The higher he finishes, the more his chances of winning the title will increase. Before the first practice even takes place, Alonso said, "Naturally, I've got great memories of this track because it was here that I secured my two titles, in 2005 and 2006. I don't want to think about the chances of history repeating itself for a third time: I know it is theoretically possible, but that does not count for me.". And added, "We will have to try and do our utmost, making the most of all the potential we have at our disposal."
Team principal Stefano Domenicali has hinted Ferrari will go for the 'careful' approach during the last two races: "We have seen how complicated the races have been throughout the season, which means we have to be very careful." Alonso's team colleague Massa has said he will help Alonso if necessary, but once again, under the current regulations team orders are still prohibited.
The other title contenders will have to score points
Webber crashed out of the Korean Grand Prix, and is now 11 points behind the leader, and he needs to gain points on Alonso this weekend. "Ferrari will be fast here, but Alonso will be concerned about his engine situation. I can push as hard as I can and have always been strong in Brazil," the Australian said. Many Formula One pundits have suggested Red Bull should now adapt a new team strategy and Vettel should help Webber to increase his chances to win the title. Webber has no idea whether his team will change its strategy and admitted, "Up until now no one has spoken about it. Perhaps we'll talk about it at the first briefing on Thursday, or perhaps we won't."
Vettel is 25 points, or one race win, behind Webber, but is confident that he can still win the title. "There are still 50 points available in the Drivers' Championship. We will keep our heads down for the last two races. We have a very strong team and a strong car, and we know we are the quickest." Although Red Bull has the fastest car, the long straights could be a disadvantage, but on the other hand, the slow section will suit the fast accelerating Red Bull cars better. Red Bull will also introduce a few car updates in Brazil.
Hamilton is currently 21 points behind the leader, and a retirement would be a disaster. His prediction? "I know the world championship is figuring in everybody's thoughts at the moment, but I'm not thinking about it too much. I need to get a good result in Brazil to take the fight to Abu Dhabi, so that's my priority," said the Briton. "We go to Brazil knowing that we may not have the fastest car, but we'll have a decent package that should work well. Whatever happens, it's going to be a very tight battle."
Button's position in the championship is not very encouraging to say the least, even if he would win the race, it wouldn't mean he is still in contention for the title. Button has done the mathematics himself and knows his chances are slim, but he refuses to give up. "Given the points situation, I know that I face an uphill struggle to hold on to the world title, but I'll be giving it everything I've got this weekend to stay in contention. I fought hard to become the 2009 world champion, and I won't give up my title without a fight."
Pit stops and tyres
Expected pit stop schedule for Interlagos:
For 1 Stop - between laps 39-43
For 2 Stops - between laps 24-28 and 44-47
For 3 Stops - between laps 14-19, 35-39 and 52-58
Bridgestone tyre report
Bridgestone will bring the Super Soft and Medium tyre compounds to Interlagos, and the full wet and intermediate rain tyres. Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima about the circuit: "Interlagos is a wonderful, challenging circuit. Despite being the second shortest track which we visit, it has an impressive straight and many exciting corners. The turns are mainly medium and low speed meaning that mechanical grip and rear stability is important. The weather is often a big factor as it can range from very hot to very wet."
He also believes a good car set-up is of paramount importance and commented, "To maximize performance, it is essential to have good car balance through the sequence of corners leading to the uphill section and start-finish section, which in many ways is reminiscent of an oval course. Braking into the first corner is a good overtaking opportunity, but also gives drivers the risk of flat spotting their tyres so caution is advised."
The Dark Horses
Kubica, Rubens Barrichello, Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher and Kamui Kobayashi have something in common. They all have a statement to make, and although in normal circumstances they would not be fighting for a podium position or even for the victory, in rainy conditions they could become the surprise of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Barrichello has never won his home Grand Prix, in his Ferrari days he came close, but had to give up several times with technical problems. Last year he took the pole position in his Brawn-Mercedes and led the race until a late puncture ruined his changes to win.
Barrichello is optimistic ahead of the race, "Achieving a good set-up and qualifying result is important, but it's not always easy to set the car up: you need strong traction and balance. The Williams tends to suit Brazil, and I have a new engine for this race, so we shall see. From the messages I've been receiving, I know that the fans want the team to do well this weekend and we'll be pushing hard to deliver."
Kubica has scored two third places and one second place this season, but has never won a race again after his victory during the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. Kubica, who finished in second place during last year's Brazilian Grand Prix said, "I had a good result there last year, which came as a big surprise. It will be difficult to repeat it this year, but as I said the weather can play a big role at Interlagos and anything can happen there."
Rosberg has already scored three third places this year, and he is still on a mission to score his long awaited maiden victory. "The Brazilian fans are always fantastic and Interlagos is a really fun track to drive so I'm looking forward to the weekend in Sao Paulo. The combination of the tight infield and the long straight make the track layout very unique," the German said. "There are good overtaking opportunities and the weather always seems to play a part in the race weekend to make it more unpredictable."
Schumacher, with 91 victories under his belt, has been outclassed by Rosberg this season, but never underestimate the seven-times World Champion, he was close to a podium position during the rainy Korean Grand Prix. It would be a sort of personal victory for the 41-year old German returnee if he could score just one podium position this year, and he still has two chances to do it.
He is hopeful he will score another good result in Brazil: "The characteristics of the Interlagos circuit are not too far away from those of the last races so we can go to Brazil in quite a confident mood. Our fighting spirit is good and we would like to finish the season in a positive way. So I am looking forward to going to Sao Paulo and hopefully achieving another result that I can be happy with."
Exactly one year ago, Kobayashi surprised the Formula One world when he replaced the injured Timo Glock at Toyota and battled with Barrichello, Button and Hamilton. It will now be his second race in Brazil, and he has showed he can perform miracles with the relatively slow Sauber. A podium position is still on his 'to do list' for this season.
Kobayashi reflected on last year's race: "Last year I didn't expect much because I didn't know the Interlagos track and I hadn't driven an F1 car in dry conditions for eight months. In the 2009 race it was tough for my neck, especially in the last corner which is extremely long and has high G- forces. It was a difficult situation for me, but I just believed in myself and my goal was to make no mistakes and finish the race. I'm very much looking forward to my second Brazilian Grand Prix."
Unpredictable race, unpredictable weather
The Interlagos circuit is known for its unpredictable weather, and rain has been forecasted for this weekend. Kubica already said the Brazilian Grand Prix could turn into a lottery, and in the past the circuit has had several surprise winners. In 2003 Giancarlo Fisichella won the race in the pouring rain for the Jordan team, the race was red-flagged after many of the favorites had crashed out of the race including Schumacher, Alonso, Button and Webber. For Fisichella it was his first win ever, but not his last, and for Jordan it was the opposite: it was not the first race they had won, but it became the last race they ever won, as the team ceased to exist after the 2005 season.
In 2004 Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya won the race for Williams, and is to date the last race that the Williams team won in Formula One. In 2008, again in rainy conditions, Formula One witnessed the most exciting spectacle of the year unfolding on the Interlagos circuit: Massa won the race and was World Champion for about 20 seconds, only to loose the title again after Hamilton overtook Timo Glock during the last lap of the last race of the season, two corners from the finish flag, and became the youngest Formula One Champion ever.
Alonso can wrap up the title this weekend, but even if he wins the race, winning the title in Brazil also depends on the fortunes or misfortunes of his fellow title contenders. Follow all the action and the latest news on Motorsport.com.