Start, Interlagos, 2013

Brazil loses its chance to decide the title – but this track can still thrill

2014 Brazilian Grand Prix preview

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Over the last ten years, Interlagos has staged some of the most incredible championship-deciding moments in F1 history.

But that won’t be the case this year. This is partly because it is no longer holding the season finale, and also because its replacement, Abu Dhabi, is worth double points.

While the consequences of this rules change were clear to many before the season began, others are only just beginning to appreciate the strange situations which could play out thanks to ‘double points’. For example, each driver could have one win and one retirement in the next two races, but depending when and where they happen either of them could win the championship.

However the Brazilian Grand Prix will determine which Mercedes driver will hold the advantage heading into the final race of the season. The year-long duel between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has become somewhat one-sided during this second half of the season, with Hamilton taking five consecutive victories. But at this stage of the season, just one incident or failure for either driver could well decide the destination of the drivers’ title.

As a regular host of the final round of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix has been the stage for some of the most spectacular and memorable races of the modern era. All of the current champions on the grid – Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Button and Vettel – have secured at least one title in Brazil, often in dramatic circumstances.

The fast, flowing layout and long straights of the Interlagos circuit coupled with the ever-present threat of rain means that races are rarely dull around this 4.3km circuit. There are plenty of overtaking opportunities around the track, but there is no such thing as an easy pass around here, especially into the deceptively tight first corner.

Formula One first raced at Interlagos in the early seventies on a daunting, near-8km layout. That was curtailed when F1 returned to the track in 1990, but this year the track has seen its greatest overhaul since then.

Happily, although the track has been resurfaced, its layout has been largely untouched. However the pit entrance – a significant danger spot and a focus of controversy last year – has been relocated further up the main straight in an attempt to lower the risk of drivers hitting the tyre wall that separates the track from the pit lane. A Tarmac escape road has also been added to the inside of Bico de Pato (turn ten).

Interlagos circuit information

Lap length4.309km (2.677 miles)
Distance71 laps (305.9km/190.1 miles)
Lap record*1’11.473 (Juan Pablo Montoya, 2004)
Fastest lap1’09.822 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)
TyresMedium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Interlagos track data in full

As one of the few anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar, the Brazilian Grand Prix is often one of the most physically demanding races for drivers. But with the reduced downforce levels of the 2014 cars likely to reduce corner speeds, this year’s race could prove slightly less of a challenge.

Following criticism that their compound choice for this weekend was too conservative, Pirelli have instead opted to use the soft and medium tyres on the new Interlagos tarmac. But with early forecasts predicting rain at some point during the weekend, the dry weather compound choices may prove a moot point.

For the second consecutive weekend, only 18 cars will attempt to qualify for a grand prix with Caterham and Marussia both absent once more. After a rumoured boycott by some of the smaller teams in Austin did not materialise, politics and financial inequality are likely to dominate discussions in the paddock again in Sao Paulo.

Brazilian Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

After a win-less season so far, Sebastian Vettel returns to the circuit where he claimed his most recent victory at the end of last year. With no grid penalties to concern him this weekend, a podium finish must be his target – team mate Daniel Ricciardo scored his eighth after leapfrogging both Williams drivers to third place in Austin.

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2014After five consecutive victories, Hamilton arrives in Brazil knowing that only a retirement on Sunday and a win for his team mate would see him lose his 24-point championship lead heading into the final round.

While Hamilton can afford to settle for second place in both races knowing that the title would still be his, it’s unlikely that the championship leader will approach this weekend any differently. The Brazilian Grand Prix is one of only two events on the current calendar he has never won, and it’s a track he has a special fondness for as the home of his hero Ayrton Senna, and the place where he won the world championship in 2008.

Realistically, Rosberg is now relying on misfortune for his team mate to help him overcome a substantial championship deficit. A retirement for Rosberg on Sunday may not count him out of contention, but he knows he cannot afford any mistakes or setbacks if he is to retain any realistic chance of snatching this world title from Hamilton.

Ferrari

After a tough race in Austin, it will take two very strong results for Ferrari to take back third place from Williams. That does not look likely after Fernando Alonso’s best efforts were not enough to beat the two Williams or Ricciardo home last weekend.

Kimi Raikkonen will be hoping that his weekend isn’t characterised by severe understeer problems like he experienced in the US that left him out of the points and a lap down.

Lotus

Austin provided some very valuable points for Lotus and Pastor Maldonado after a miserable season so far, despite receiving two five-second penalties during the race.

Romain Grosjean’s chance of a result was ruined by a forceful move from Jean-Eric Vergne in the latter stages. But he is optimistic the team can sustain its upswing in form.

“[Interlagos] really suits my driving style so I’m really looking forward to it,” he saud. “Certainly, the E22 is getting more enjoyable to drive and the soft and medium Pirelli tyres – particularly the softs – seemed to work well for us in Texas so there’s good potential.”

McLaren

McLaren’s improved performance in the second half of the season has seen them jump Force India – and they even have Alonso concerned about the security of Ferrari’s fourth place. with the double points finale looming. But Jenson Button will be anxious to avoid further tyre wear troubles like those which ruined his race in Austin this weekend.

With neither of McLaren’s drivers confirmed for next season, Kevin Magnussen needs to deliver two strong performances to maximise his chances of retaining his seat for 2015. The Interlagos circuit is new to him, however.

Force India

Any slim chance Force India had of challenging McLaren for fifth place in the constructors’ championship almost certainly disappeared in Austin after Sergio Perez crashed into Adrain Sutil’s Sauber on lap one and Nico Hulkenberg was halted by power unit problems soon after.

Thanks to his first-lap antics, Perez will be hit with a seven-place grid penalty this weekend, which will likely see him start around the rear of the field.

Luckily for the team, Hulkenberg has an excellent record around Interlagos, having taken a shock pole position here in 2010 and led 30 laps during the dramatic 2012 race before tangling with Hamilton. The team will be looking for more good things from the German in Brazil after some difficult races.

Daniel Juncadella will receive his third first practice run of the season on Friday, in place of Perez.

Sauber

Sauber’s most promising weekend of the season so far in Austin went unrewarded after Adrian Sutil was forced out on the opening lap through no fault of his own. But despite the disappointment, Sutil is confident that the team might be able to challenge for that elusive first point this weekend.

“I think we can hope for points here,” says Sutil. “However, it will not be easy.”

Toro Rosso

Vergne continues to race aggressively as he seeks to secure a place on the 2015 grid, but his late move on Grosjean into turn one in Austin saw him pick up a five second post-race penalty.

Felipe Massa, Williams, Circuit of the Americas, 2014In a troubling echo of Perez’s 2012 campaign after his move to McLaren was confirmed, Daniil Kvyat hasn’t scored a point since his Red Bull promtion was announced. However he has prior F1 experience at Interlagos, having made an appearance in Friday practice here last season.

Williams

Despite a strong performance by both drivers in the United States secured Williams their best points haul since Monza, the team were disappointed to lose out on another podium after being out raced by Ricciardo and Red Bull.

Felipe Massa will be eyeing a return to the rostrum at home this weekend, but says Williams need to make more of the opportunities they get.

“We did a good job [in Austin], but not a perfect job,” he said, “and when you’re fighting with a top team you need to do a perfect job in whatever situation.”

2014 driver form

DriverG avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel7.244.862814/17Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo5.293.731815/17Form guide
Lewis Hamilton4.471.431314/17Form guide
Nico Rosberg1.761.871415/17Form guide
Fernando Alonso6.355.132915/17Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen9.479.2541316/17Form guide
Romain Grosjean14.7112.4581711/17Form guide
Pastor Maldonado17.8813.8391812/17Form guide
Jenson Button8.827.8831716/17Form guide
Kevin Magnussen8.889.3121416/17Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg10.827.8051215/17Form guide
Sergio Perez11.768.5431113/16Form guide
Adrian Sutil14.8814.40112110/17Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez16.1815.27122011/17Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne11.7110.1761312/17Form guide
Daniil Kvyat11.1811.6291513/17Form guide
Felipe Massa7.948.0731514/17Form guide
Valtteri Bottas6.535.4421116/17Form guide
Jules Bianchi17.8015.9292012/15Form guide
Max Chilton19.5016.15131913/16Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi18.9315.7813199/14Form guide
Marcus Ericsson20.1917.09112011/16Form guide
Andre Lotterer21.000/1Form guide

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Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Williams/LAT

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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52 comments on “Brazil loses its chance to decide the title – but this track can still thrill”

  1. No matter how exciting the race on sunday is, it won’t be half as exciting knowing that it won’t really count towards the championship. I just hope there are no reliability issues from either Mercedes side until the end of the year.

    1. Although you are correct the weighting of Brazil is less than that of Abu Dhabi, I don’t see it fair to say it won’t really count. The outcome of Brazil could may well have drastic implications of where each driver must finish in Abu Dhabi in order to secure the championship.

      1. Not really. An Abu Dhabi DNF for Hamilton is about the only thing that can salvage Rosberg’s bid.

        1. You are wrong. A DNF in Brazil puts Rosberg one point ahead of Hamilton.

          1. …Which HAM would overturn at the final round.

            Abu Dhabi is Rosberg’s only prayer is because it’s the only situation that Hamilton can’t recover from, for the simple reason that the season is over.

    2. Mercedes should change both their engines for Brazil.

      Clean and equal slate; take the hit in starting from back of grid on a track where passing
      is possible, but remove the chance of either driver being disadvantaged due to being the only replacement, or worse engine letting go in the last sheikh-doube-fake-race.

      Let them both race through the field.

      1. I was thinking about this as well. If Vettel could finish 7th at Austin, there’s no reason both Mercedes couldn’t end up at the podium by starting from the pitlane. It’s not like the team has anything to lose anymore – they’ve already won both the constructors and drivers championship. They could both go into Abu Double with a much newer engine and decrease any chance of retiring.

      2. Who would leave the pits first? Not equal.

  2. Here goes hoping we will see a good Vettel vs Ricciardo fight for 3rd!

    1. Why 3rd? Bottas and Alonso might have something to say about that.

      1. @kingshark, The more the better! A 4-way battle would be awesome. Im assuming here that the mercs are 1 & 2, which seems probable. Also I think Redbull will be quicker than Williams and Alonso.

        1. I find it interesting how some people refer to teams by their names (Redbull, Williams, etc), and when it comes to Ferrari they refer to them as Alonso.

          1. Its not like Raikkonen has accomplished anything this year.

          2. I can understand that. “Ferrari” means a car that could be anywhere from 5th to dead last. “Alonso” means the car that will be fifth.

          3. I am looking forward to see what Raikkonen can come up with in 2015 after Alonso leaves Ferrari. Hopefully he can make the car dance to his times rather than Seb’s and do some great races. I am missing him at the front of the pack.

        2. @me4me A long time ago Webber in the Jaguar was fastest in S1 and S2 but lost a full .7s in the third sector. Williams might just have enough power to make it impossible for Red Bull to come near them.

  3. The curbs at Interlagos are excellent and a key component to a timed lap. Some, like the apex curb of T8, can be fully used, whereas as others, such as the apex curb of Junção and the exit curb of Descida do Lago, must be avoided. The variety in height and texture is both a sign of the track’s age and also a key part of its exhaustively termed “old school” character. I do hope the modernization that is planned has no effect on the track itself, because as it is I think it is absolutely tremendous and to drive Interlagos (having done track days all over the world) remains part of my bucket-list.

    1. The track had been resurfaced for this race. I think it affects kerbs, too.

      1. @f1re Since curbs have to be dug up, it is unlikely they have been replaced during a simple annual resurface. In the past decade more mobile curbing technology has been used at non-permanent tracks like Singapore, Monaco and Sochi, but Interlagos is too “old-school” for that, so curb replacement would be a major project.

  4. This is one of my favourite tracks, if not my outright favourite. It’s a pity it has been displaced as the season finale by Abu Double, but nevertheless I love watching F1 cars race here.

    It always has the ability to be a classic race, and hopefully a titanic duel with Rosberg and Hamilton will happen on Sunday or an unlikely challenge from the Williams duo. I hope at the very least Hamilton will be challenged for the race win in some form!

  5. it will be amazing if hamilton retires and rosberg wins, it would make abu dhabi a winner takes all race! and it would make the 50 points rule useless

    1. Very good point. That would be fantastic

    2. I’m personally hoping for a Rosberg DNF in Abu Dhabi. Then it’s 3 retirements each (and Abu Double would similarly be meaningless).

    3. @andresg91 What if ROS retires in Abu Dhabi and HAM dinishes 10th(yes, there’s a tinychance of that but still)?

      1. there would be 25 points of difference, it would be pretty much the same

  6. I know its a slim chance but the championship could be decided this weekend if the pressure gets too much and a Mercedes driver rams the other off and is excluded from the championship. Well it is still silly season.

    1. No…. even if Lewis was excluded, Rosberg and Ricciardo would have to battle it out….. :)

      1. ROS getting excluded?

  7. I have the sense that double-points, ironically, now really puts more pressure on Hamilton. There are only two possible finishing positions for an MB. So Hamilton, despite winning 5 races on the trot, and with 5 already in his pocket, amazingly must extend this streak to a figure of 7 in a row and a season figure of 12 to put away a guy with only 5 wins! Hamilton has to join Schumacher and Vettel in these incredible stats to secure the trophy. And if he finishes 2nd in Brazil and his lead falls to 17, he will have to know that even some epic race-from-the-back performance like Germany or Hungary could see him lose if he finishes 3rd at the finale. And if he ends up without any points in Brazil, then Rosberg has the upper hand if he wins.

    Rosberg, on the other hand now lacks moral backing as a legitimate champion hopeful, his arithmetic is nominally pretty grim, and now no one really expects him to beat Hamilton in a fair fight. He can meet his newly lowered expectations and still stay in it.

    And the thing about Brazil, it’s fast, it’s short, it’s tight, it pours rain at any time. There is lots of grass/mud, rather than tarmac, waiting for you if you goof. Passing back markers can be extremely fraught in the infield. The pit lane is very slow compared to a lap so a flat or wing damage can see you lapped very easily. An SC period is a high probability, potentially sending you to the back. So Hamilton will really want to win this, but he also has to be super careful.

    1. Hamilton can finish 3rd at Brazil and 2nd in Abu Dhabi, and still win (on most first places, since they’d be tied) the championship.

      If he wins Brazil, he can finish as low as 5th in Abu Dhabi and still take the championship.

      Really, based on performance of the W05, and Hamilton, the odds are in his favor, as long as there’s no mechanical failure.

  8. I wish that Abu Dhabi gets taken off the calendar. It’s such a dull, uninteresting, boring, typical Tilkedrome. The only good thing is the scenery. Why does it have to be the last race? Brazil would have been a TRILLION times better as the final race than Abu Crappy.

    1. 50,000,000 good reasons for Bernie.

    2. Fudge Ahmed (@)
      6th November 2014, 6:41

      It’s good for the fans who attend though. Modern, futuristic with some great viewing angles for the cars, multiple screens all over the tracl, top class facilities etc you have to appreciate things from something other than the TV audience sometimes.

      Ill be watching it from a yacht this year. :)

      But fully agreed that it shouldn’t be the finale, that belongs to Brazil and that Bernie should be deposed for this ghastly double points rule.

  9. zak misiuda (@)
    5th November 2014, 21:08

    “Felipe Massa’s first visit to Interlagos as a Williams driver is possibly his best chance of a home podium appearance since he won here in 2008.”
    Massa finished third in 2012 http://www.formula1.com/results/season/2012/883/

  10. I’m desperate for Hamilton to be crowned and put this season to bed. I don’t care for artificially extending the fight for the championship – if he’s 25 points ahead after Brazil he’s champion.

    1. My point of view also.

      1. Although I am not desperate for Hamilton to be WDC, any driver ahead by more than a full race score after the penultimate race must be the WDC as far as I am concerned.

  11. didn’t massa finish 3rd in 2012?

  12. I don’t why but I have this strange feeling that we’re going to see the DNF from Rosberg this weekend and DNF from Hamilton in Abu Dhabi. So Rosberg would win the title by 1 point… this would be hilarious and sad at the same time. I recon that would be the end of the Formula 1 with many fans just turning their attention to the other series.
    Even now I already stopped reading the news and rarely come to this website. Mainly because most of the news are so depressing and there is so much politics. I am a kind of fan who only cares about the racing and that’s why I have already switched my attention to series like V8 Supercars even though I am not an Aussie.

  13. Why is everyone so eager to see lewis suffer a DNF?

    1. Not me though, in my eye Lewis is the 2014 WDC and I’m not his fan. He earned it by merit not luck. I like Nico though but his race craft is far from Lewis as we all know obviously, period.

    2. I don’t think these are personal grudges against Lewis Hamilton, rather a desire to see the double points situation shown for the farce it is in explicit tangible terms i.e. if LH wins in Brazil and DNFs in Abu Dhabi and loses the WDC having won 11 races to Rosberg’s 4 or 5

  14. Question is how many cars are going to start from the pit lane.

    1. Everyone bar Vettel and Kyvat. Just to prove how ill thoughout the regulations are. Hope it doesn’t happen for the spectacle but it may make the FIA and Bernie think a little harder about rule changes. Some of the sharpest minds work in F1 and some of the dullest.

  15. This is the only season I’ve ever wanted the championship NOT to go to the last race.

  16. Brazil should’ve been the last race. Anyway, it’s a heart attack effect for the last two races as it’s Hamilton’s championship to lose should there be another dnf for Lewis, that is if Nico does not dnf at all. Rightfully the WDC belongs to Lewis but as Rosberg points out a championship is a championship despite the double points ruling. Generally people will remember the WDC and forget the double points stupidity. Abu is an eye candy track with not so exciting races so far.

    1. But do you really think that’s true? That ‘a championship is a championship’ no matter how it’s awarded? This isn’t like Keke’s year where basically everyone had a topsy-turvy year and he eked out the percentages. In 2014 there has been a clear number one and a clear number two – it’s a travesty that Rosberg is still in the hunt just because of arbitrary double-points.

      If they were giving out double points at any of the TEN races that Hamilton has won this year, he’d already be champion.

  17. I’m sick of the mercs and lewis constantly mouthing off about his positive energy nonsense, so I’m hoping for Rosberg victory and a hamilton retirement in time for double Dhabi

  18. I hope somebody waves the flag at Abu Dhabi just before the 75% mark………

    1. Hahaha, great idea.

Comments are closed.