Daniel Ricciardo secured his eighth visit to the podium last weekend in the United States, and he and his Infiniti Red Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel will be hoping for another good weekend in Brazil this weekend.
Despite it being a favourite for many drivers and spectators, Ricciardo himself admits he is not a fan of the Interlagos circuit, insisting he prefers a longer track with a more corners, although he does state that the atmosphere in Brazil is impressive.
“I know fans love Interlagos because it provides such interesting races, but it’s never been a favourite track of mine,” said Ricciardo. “It’s a short lap and ideally I like something with a few more corners. But it’s got a brilliant atmosphere and if you don’t enjoy that, you’re doing something wrong.”
Ricciardo also feels he has not got the best out of his previous visits to the track, but is hopeful of getting it right this weekend. He also insists the rain that often hits the track does not change the character of the circuit, but adds a few extra variables on top.
“I can’t honestly say what the secret is to getting a good lap at Interlagos because I’m not sure I’ve ever really nailed it! I’ve been OK but it hasn’t yet given up its secrets. I think the best approach is to not look beyond the next corner. It pays to be ultra-precise with your track positioning and your braking: you have to concentrate on the turn that you’re in, rather than thinking too far ahead because for most of the lap the corners are individual events rather than part of a sequence.
“Obviously the time of year we go to Brazil and the location means that there’s a really good chance of a wet race. At some venues that’s a real game-changer but at Interlagos the character of the track doesn’t change in the wet – it poses all the same challenges but with a few added variables thrown in.”
Speaking to Autosport, Ricciardo admitted he needs to work on his starts, having lost places from his grid position on a few occasions during 2014.
“If I look back at Toro Rosso, yes starts were average and I don’t think I’ve had too many blinders,” said Ricciardo. “In the World Series [by Renault], actually they were really good but Formula 1 has got the best of me so far.
“The start is not so straightforward, the procedures, so it’s hard to get 100 per cent right from the driver side as well. But you are normally in that 90 per cent window, which is good enough. Even last week, I felt it was more my fault but the team was still saying we can do this better.
“So it’s a combined thing at the moment, which we are trying to get on top of. I’m not coming into a weekend thinking we’re going to lose places off the start. Obviously, it has been a trend more often than not, but we will keep working at it and get things right.”
Team-mate Vettel has good memories of Interlagos, although his race in 2012 almost saw him lose the championship after a first lap spin involving Bruno Senna, but a fight back through the field saw him score enough points to beat Fernando Alonso to the title.
“In Sao Paulo I have taken part in races which we will always remember, for different reasons,” said Vettel. “Like in 2009, when we almost took the title in the last race of the season. In the end it wasn’t enough and Jenson Button became world champion. I was very disappointed, but it was also an important experience for me. On the positive side we knew that we fought until the end and gave everything we could.
“2010 was my first year on the Sao Paulo podium: a truly unforgettable race and thinking about Brazil 2012, I spun on the first lap and found myself at the back of the field. Suddenly the title seemed so far away. I worked myself back up through the field position by position and at the end it was unbelievable: we were World Champions again. In 2013, the title was already secured, but as it was my ninth win in a row, I will always remember this race.”
Vettel admits you have to be careful and patient when tackling the Senna-S at the beginning of the lap, especially at the start with the track being as tight as it is, but feels it is the best opportunity on the circuit to overtake.
“In Sao Paulo we drive anti-clockwise and the track has severe bumps,” said Vettel. “One of the best chances to overtake is the first chicane, the Senna-S. You have to be careful here, especially at the start as it’s very tight. The left-right-left combination looks a bit like a screwdriver and you are going downhill, so you have to be patient with the steering.”