PREVIEW: 2019 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix – Autódromo José Carlos Pace

by Sudha Sundararaj

The twentieth and penultimate round of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will take place at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo, Brazil this weekend. This is the forty-seventh running of the Brazilian Grand Prix overall and the thirty-seventh race hosted at this circuit. The other races were held at the Jacarepagua circuit in Rio de Janeiro (1978, 1981 to 1989).

The original track built in the 1930s was 8-kilometers long with a lot of elevation changes and built between two lakes. Hence the original name of the circuit – Autodromo de Interlagos.

The circuit was renamed in 1985 after José Carlos Pace who died in a fatal plane crash in 1977. Pace was the winner of the 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix. Pace was part of an illustrious group of Brazilian drivers who have adorned Formula 1 through the years.

The inaugural Brazilian Grand Prix was held in 1973 and was won by Emerson Fittipaldi, the first Brazilian World Champion. The original circuit with its very bumpy and abrasive surface and inadequate embankments was deemed unsafe during the 1970s.

Based on safety concerns, the race was shifted to the race track in Rio in 1981. The race returned to the Interlagos circuit in 1990 with a redesigned 4.3 kilometers circuit and there has been an uninterrupted run of races since then.

This race held in São Paulo has a special place on the Formula 1 calendar as the home town of the much loved Ayrton Senna. The passionate and vocal fans and the vibrant carnival atmosphere of Brazil creates a great atmosphere at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The crowds have reserved their loudest cheers for their famous countryman like world champions Emerson Fittipaldi (1972, 1974), Nelson Piquet (1981, 1983, 1987), Ayrton Senna (1988, 1990, 1991) and Grand Prix winners Rubens Barrichello, Felipe Massa and Carlos Pace.

What happened at the 2019 United States Grand Prix?

Valtteri Bottas secured a brilliant win at the 2019 United States Grand Prix, ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton clinched his sixth world championship and now sits just one title away from equaling Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles.

Max Verstappen joined the two Mercedes drivers on the podium. Charles Leclerc finished in fourth position ahead of Alexander Albon in fifth position.

The two Renault drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg, finished in sixth position and ninth positions respectively.

Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz clinched seventh and eighth positions to give McLaren a creditable double-points finish in the race. Sergio Pérez secured tenth position to clinch a solitary point for his team.

With two races remaining, both constructors’ and drivers’ titles have been decided for the season. The Mercedes team clinched a historic double title win for the sixth consecutive year.

What happened at the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix?

Hamilton scored an unlikely win at the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix. The Briton won when the race leader Verstappen and Esteban Ocon clashed with each other as Ocon was in the process of unlapping himself.

Verstappen eventually finished in second position. The incident led to ugly scenes between the two drivers after the race. Kimi Räikkönen finished in third position.

Ricciardo just missed the podium after he nearly caught the Finn on the final lap. Bottas finished in fifth position just ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

Leclerc, Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen and Pérez completed the top 10 positions.

The Circuit

The 4.309 km Interlagos circuit with 15 corners (5 right-hand and 10 left-hand corners) and two long straights is one of the faster tracks on the Formula 1 calendar with an average speed of over 215 km/h.

The modern track still features the sharp elevation changes of the natural terrain, extremely bumpy surfaces and the rarefied air of São Paulo which is 1000m above sea level. The anti-clockwise circuit with a number of left-hand corners puts extreme pressure on the drivers’ necks.

The track also has one of the shortest laps in terms of distance, increasing the intensity of racing and closing the gaps between cars a little more. Interlagos demands a medium to high downforce setup and maximum aerodynamic efficiency of the cars.

The cars are on full throttle 62% of the time and the fuel consumption is low. The brake-wear is low with heavy loads placed on the engines because of the altitude. The track will offer low grip when the weekend starts and improve as the track rubbers in as the weekend progresses.

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones

Sector 1 from Turn 1 to Turn 3 starts with the short start-finish straight leading to the  tight left-right chicane at the Senna S (Turns 1 and 2) with a downhill drop. This is a good overtaking spot which leads to the left-hand corner at Turn 3 (Curva do Sol) which leads to a fast and short straight.

Sector 2 from Turn 4 to Turn 11 has many twisty corners and has a bumpy surface. It starts with a fast straight leading to the tight left-hand corner (Turn 4), leading to the fast Turns 5 to 9. The sector ends with a hairpin (Turn 10) and a left-hand corner at Turn 11.

Sector 3 from Turn 12 to Turn 15 starts with the left-hand corner at Turn 12. This is followed by sweeping left-hand corners from Turn 13 to Turn 15. The sector ends with the start-finish straight. The entire section has flat-out high speed corners and is mostly uphill.

There are two DRS zones this year at this circuit with reasonable overtaking opportunities. The first DRS detection point is at the apex of Turn 2 with the first DRS activation point is after Turn 3. The second DRS detection point is after Turn 13 and second DRS activation point is before Turn 15. The pole sitter has won only four times in the last eleven races at the Brazilian GP.

Tyre Strategy

The white-striped hard tyres (C1), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C2) and the red-striped soft tyres (C3) nominated for this race is from the hardest range of compounds of the Pirelli tyres.

The drivers have chosen eight or more sets of the soft compound tyres (C3) in the thirteen sets allocated to them.  Red Bull Racing and Ferrari drivers have chosen ten sets of the soft compound tyres. The Mercedes drivers have chosen eight sets of the soft compound tyres.

In 2018, the winner Hamilton had a one-stop strategy, but there was a mix of strategies among the top 10 drivers.

Rain is forecast for Friday and Saturday with no rain expected for race day. A sprinkling of rain leads to a very interesting race and unexpected results at this track.

Credit: Pirelli Media

What should we look out for this year?

Mercedes has clinched their sixth consecutive constructors’ and drivers’ championship in the hybrid-engine era. With the title races over, the leading teams will move on to working on the 2020 cars and even trialling some concepts and parts in the last two races.

The midfield team battles for positions will continue and will be of interest at the last two races. The position in which teams finish determines the money that will accrue to them at the end of the season and hence important to the smaller teams.

In the drivers’ championship, the battle for third position will continue between Leclerc, Verstappen and Vettel. The bragging rights for finishing ‘best of the rest’ will continue between Albon, Sainz and Gasly.

Hamilton (381 points) has now won the drivers’ championship from team-mate Bottas (314 pts). Leclerc (249 points) is in third position with a fourteen-point lead over Verstappen (235 points). Vettel (230 points) is now in fifth position and rounds off the top 5 positions in the drivers’ championship.

Mercedes (695 points) has won the constructors’ championship. Ferrari (479 points) has sealed second position now. Red Bull Racing (366 points) will finish in third position. McLaren (121 points) has retained its fourth position. Renault (83 points) is in fifth position in the constructors’ championship.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 15 November

14:00 GMT / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
18:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 16 November

15:00 GMT / 12:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
18:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 17 November

17:10 GMT / 14:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

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