Brazilian Grand Prix - 29/30/31 March 2002 - PREVIEW Malaysia's 16 points haul for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team marked the very first one-two lock-out for BMW in Formula One, and was a welcome reminder for WilliamsF1 of the success of the 1996 season...
Brazilian Grand Prix - 29/30/31 March 2002 - PREVIEW
Malaysia's 16 points haul for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team marked the very first one-two lock-out for BMW in Formula One, and was a welcome reminder for WilliamsF1 of the success of the 1996 season when the pairing of Villeneuve and Hill claimed no less than six one-two finishes. Six seasons further on however, a pragmatic mood dominates the team's preparations for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.
Despite strong qualifying form in Brazil last year, the team came away empty-handed and are only too aware of the challenge that the heat and undulation of the Sao Paulo circuit presents. However, with tyre, engine and chassis development showing form in Malaysia and a productive test between races at Barcelona, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team is eager to capitalise on its current form.
"I strongly believe that in Brazil we can beat Ferrari again. Last year Juan was going to win the race if Jos Verstappen hadn't run into him. And last week in Malaysia, we were even closer to Maranello's cars than the year before, therefore why shouldn't it work again in Brazil? We like the Interlagos track, even if it isn't easy to find a compromise between not being slow on the straights but quick enough through the infield. After testing in Barcelona, where we have tried out a couple of small aerodynamic changes, I am pretty confident about racing in Brazil."
Juan Pablo Montoya:
"It's a good circuit, bumpy and difficult in character. There's a very Latin atmosphere there, which I obviously enjoy very much. It's good fun. Last year I was very close to scoring my first points in Formula One, but Jos Verstappen put an early end to my chances. I hope this year I can make up for the lost opportunity, especially because last season we were stronger at Interlagos than in Malaysia. I am confident we will have a good run in Brazil. There will be probably more fans of mine out there, even if I don't really feel this Grand Prix is my home race."
Sam Michael (Chief Operations Engineer, WilliamsF1):
"Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit has been the scene of exciting driver and strategy battles over the past few years. The circuit is dominated by slow to medium speed corners and straights. There are two high speed corners but they are followed by short runs to another corner, so the gains to be had are not large. The circuit has traditionally been a bumpy one, but less so after resurfacing in recent years."
"Strategy is always interesting at Interlagos with such a long pit lane, but the circuit provides plenty of overtaking opportunities, so I am sure we will see the normal mix of one and two stop plans. After the strong showing of our chassis, engine and tyre package in Malaysia, we are confident of performing well in Brazil, but are also very aware that other teams' development can quickly catch up or get ahead. As in Malaysia, Michelin will take another step forward with tyre developments as a result of the last three weeks of testing."
Gerhard Berger (BMW Motorsport Director):
"After the one-two victory in Malaysia we are very much looking forward to Brazil. The Interlagos circuit layout suits our engine quite well; two straights, especially the uphill start/finish section, require engine power. The track has a lot of bumps that we have coped with quite well in the past. The Malaysian GP has shown that high temperatures also suit our Michelin tyres, and also our BMW engine did cope with this demanding requirement as well."
"We expect high temperatures in Brazil as well, even though there is always a chance of rain. In 2001, we performed strongly in qualifying, with Ralf on the front row for the first time. And we performed well in the race too. Juan was leading for half the race distance, but both drivers got involved in accidents. However, we have the potential to reach the podium in Interlagos, so hopefully we have a little more luck this year."
The Interlagos Circuit:
The Interlagos circuit, opened in 1940 and was an unusual configuration at this time by virtue of combining a sweeping outer section with a tight and twisty infield. The track itself is set in a natural amphitheatre, affording an excellent view of over half the circuit, which is a favourite with the passionate Brazilian race fans. The track underwent significant re-modelling in 1989/90, to provide a 2.678m/4.309km circuit, which was resurfaced in 2000 in a bid to reduce the adverse effects of the climate on the asphalt surface. One of Interlagos' peculiarities is that it is one of only two anti-clockwise tracks during the season, which requires some additional fortification of driver's neck muscles in preparation.
In 2001, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team showed strongly and qualified on the front two rows of the grid, Ralf in 2nd sharing the front row with brother Michael, and Juan Pablo starting from 4th. However, both drivers were hit from behind, Schumacher by Barrichello and Montoya by Verstappen, resulting in a frustrating pair of DNFs from a weekend that had promised so much. David Coulthard went on to win the race for McLaren, while Michael Schumacher holds the lap record at 1m14.755s, recorded in 2000. The 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix commences at 1400hrs local, 1800hrs GMT, on Sunday March 31 for 71 laps ( 190.124m/305.909km).