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An element of luck: Why Brazilian GP this weekend could be decisive

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An element of luck: Why Brazilian GP this weekend could be decisive
Nov 6, 2014, 1:40 PM

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.

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.

Heavy rain is forecast for the weekend and after the tragedy of Jules Bianchi crashing in the rain in Suzuka, it’s likely that Race Control will be inclined to deploy the safety car in difficult situations.

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.

Another factor is the altitude, 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.

Strategy wise, there is also the factor of a new pit lane entry, which could add up to two seconds to the time it takes to make a stop.

Another hazard is the start; it’s a short run from pole to Turn One of just 190 metres and we have seen situations like 2012 where champion elect Sebastian Vettel was put off his stride by his team-mate triggering a sequence of events which led to him facing the wrong way as the field streamed past on the opening lap.

So, despite falling 24 points behind, Rosberg should not abandon hope that lady luck will smile on him this weekend.

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.

FIA

Track characteristics

Interlagos – 4.309 kilometres. Race distance - 71 laps = 305.909 kilometres. 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

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Russian Grand Prix - Race Day - Sochi, Russia

Form Guide

The Brazilian Grand Prix is the 18th round of 19 in the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship.

Last year’s race was dominated by Red Bull, which has won here in four of the last five years. The infield section, which makes up Sector 2 was always the key to that, with Red Bull’s aerodynamic efficiency to the fore.

Lewis Hamilton is the form man at the moment having taken his 10th win of the season and the fifth in a row in Austin. He has never won in Brazil.

Sebastian Vettel won in 2010 and 2013. Felipe Massa won the race for Ferrari in 2006 and 2008. Jenson Button won the crazy 2012 race, while Kimi Raikkonen won in 2007. Raikkonen, Button, Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton have all clinched world titles at this event.

Weather Forecast

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.

Mercedes Strategist James Vowles

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

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.

There are high energy loads through the high-speed corners and the energy going into the tyres is largely from the series of left-hand corners before the final straight. The tyres get plenty of rest on the two long straights.

The limiting factor on this track is the rear tyre, with the stop-start traction events in the series of corners in the middle part of the lap and the last corner onto the uphill final straight.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

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.

Safety Car Brazil

Chance of a Safety Car

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.

Start US GP

Recent start performance

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.

As far as 2014 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows. Please note that where a driver has been eliminated on first lap this has been noted and removed from the sample as it skews the table. So this is intended as a guide of trends, rather than a definitive list.

Net gained positions




26 Gutierrez







25 Hulkenberg 





22 Maldonado


17 Ericsson

14 Kobayashi




13 Chilton


12 Raikkonen, Massa 

 



8 Alonso, Bianchi






7 Hamilton,

6 Bottas, 

Sutil, Button
, Magnussen, Vettel

4 Lotterer, Perez

Net lost positions




17 Vergne,



 Ricciardo

6 Grosjean



5 Kvyat



4 Rosberg 






 



Melbourne Notes: Kobayashi, Massa eliminated in a first corner accident; Perez, Gutierrez pitted at the end of Lap 1; Bianchi, Grosjean started from pit lane.





Malaysia Notes: Perez started from pit lane, Bianchi pitted at the end of lap 1 

Bahrain notes: Vergne pitted at the end of lap 1 after contact





China Notes: Sutil lost power at start and dropped 8 places, retiring soon after. 





Monaco notes: Maldonado did not start, Ericsson started from pit lane, Perez crashed Lap 1.





Canada Notes: Gutierrez started from pit lane; Bianchi and Chilton crashed lap 1; Ericsson pitted lap 1





Austria Notes: Grosjean started from pit lane





GB Notes: Raikkonen and Massa eliminated in 1st lap accident




Germany notes: Massa eliminated in 1st lap accident, Magnussen and Ricciardo dropped back as a result




Hungary Notes: Hamilton, Magnussen, Kvyat started from pit lane



Belgium Notes: Grosjean and Bianchi collided on lap one, Kobayashi absent and replaced by Lotterer.



Italy Notes: Ericsson started from pit lane.



Singapore notes: Kobayashi did not start; Rosberg started from pit lane



Japan notes: Race started behind Safety Car.


Russia: Rosberg and Massa pitted at the end of Lap 1

United States notes: Vettel started from pit lane; Sutil and Perez crashed on Lap 1

Pit stop F1

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and there have been some amazing performances; we have seen tyre stops carried out in just over two seconds this year.

The league table below shows order of the pit crews based on their best total time in the pit lane in the recent United States Grand Prix

McLaren: 23.546

Red Bull: 23.799

Lotus 23.802

Ferrari: 23.872

Williams: 24.151

Toro Rosso: 24.189

Mercedes: 24.244

Sauber: 24.726

Force India: 33.427

The UBS Strategy Briefing is prepared by JA on F1, with input and data from several F1 teams, from JA on F1 technical adviser Dominic Harlow and from Pirelli.

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