The heat is on for bumpy Brazil

The heat is on for bumpy Brazil

Situated in the suburbs of São Paulo, the Interlagos circuit, Autodromo José Carlos Pace, was originally one of the longest in Formula One at nearly 8km. Interlagos has a long history of motor racing; the first races were held at the circuit in...

Situated in the suburbs of S?o Paulo, the Interlagos circuit, Autodromo Jos? Carlos Pace, was originally one of the longest in Formula One at nearly 8km. Interlagos has a long history of motor racing; the first races were held at the circuit in the 1930s on what was basically a dirt track, but it was not until the 1960s that it became a venue for international events.

The F1 championship held ten races at the track from 1973 until 1981, then the Brazilian GP moved to Rio de Janeiro. It was nine years before the race returned to a modernized, shortened track at the S?o Paulo location. Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi took wins in 1973 and '74, then local hero Jos? Carlos Pace won his first F1 victory at the circuit in 1975.

Welcome to Sao Paulo.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.
The modernization of the track involved Ayrton Senna, who worked with designers as sections of the old circuit were incorporated into a new layout. F1 recommenced in March 1990 on a 4.3km circuit and Senna took victory at Interlagos in 1991 and 1993. In recent years Mika Hakkinen was winner in 1998 and '99 and Michael Schumacher in 2000 and 2002, his wins separated by David Coulthard in 2001.

This year, three Brazilians will race in front of their home crowd: Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello, Toyota's Cristiano da Matta and Jaguar's Antonio Pizzonia, the latter two in their rookie year. A Brazilian hasn't won the race since Senna in '93 and not even a point has been scored by a native driver since Barrichello in '94.

The anti-clockwise circuit presents a physical challenge for drivers' neck muscles and the heat can be as draining as Malaysia, while the bumpy surface is something of a car breaker. There are a couple of reasonable overtaking opportunities and the combination of two very high speed straights and a complex of twisting track requires a good balance between downforce and drag.

A medium/low downforce set up is generally the norm, although the curtailment of the amount of work permitted on cars between qualifying and race will cause extra complications. Qualifying would normally be run with higher downforce so a compromise will have to be found. The high altitude of the track -- about 800 metres above sea level -- means a slight loss of engine power due to low air density.

Hard on tyres, Interlagos has been known to wear rubber practically down to slicks, which is something teams need to keep an eye on. The bumpy surface is quite abrasive and requires good grip and durability; like the previous two races, compounds will tend to be medium to soft. Michelin always seems to have the edge in the hotter climates but Bridgestone has been working hard.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Michael Schumacher.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.
Last year Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya nearly came to grief at the start: Montoya led but went wide at turn two and Schumacher sneaked through. Fighting to regain his lead, Montoya hit the back of the Ferrari and lost his front wing. Schumacher led, although Barrichello also took a turn in the lead -- but Barrichello retired from his eighth home race in a row with hydraulic failure.

The Schumacher brothers took a one-two finish, Michael and Ralf respectively, and Montoya fought his was through the field to come home fifth. Renault had a good race with Jenson Button fourth and Mika Salo scored a point for the fledgling Toyota team in sixth.

With the still hotly debated one-lap qualifying and no refueling producing some unusual grid positions, it's not easy to predict what may happen at Brazil. For the top four teams -- Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Renault -- you could be as well throwing them all up in the air and seeing where they land. Ferrari is unsettled so far, McLaren competitive but somewhat unreliable, Williams struggling with qualifying and Renault lacking the speed of the others in the race.

Then you have to throw in variables such as weather and unforeseen mistakes: Melbourne produced rain, Malaysia surprised by being dry. Juan Pablo Montoya had Australian victory between his front wheels when he spun and Michael Schumacher caused upset at Sepang with a rookie mistake at the second corner.

The midfield and back markers seem less shaken up by the unpredictability this year, no great surprises so far although Minardi has had some unlikely top ten running -- unfortunately to have it come to nothing. BAR is more competitive but unreliable, Jaguar plagued by mechanical failures. If things continue the way they have been so far this season, for the Brazilian Grand Prix we can expect the unexpected.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Minardi