Round 18 of the 2014 Formula One World Championship brings us to São Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix, held at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace.
Interlagos is always one of the more challenging circuits in that it invariably throws in a few surprises. Historically it has been the final race of the season, which always incites unusual behaviour from the drivers. Seemingly normal procedures such as pit lane entry, for example, can often catch people out. Drivers know the regulations, however it is far from uncommon to see penalties awarded for repeated infringement of the pit lane entry boundaries, which are slightly unusual at this circuit. Beyond the men behind the wheel, however, there are plenty of unique characteristics which add to that unpredictability factor in São Paulo. The climate is highly variable, with rain often washing out the majority of running before clearing to leave an entirely dry day on the Sunday. This has produced some fascinating races over the years as teams and drivers must adapt quickly to a suddenly unfamiliar set of conditions. Elevation changes around the circuit also lead to rivers forming across the track during sustained periods of rain, which can often lead to sessions being suspended. Track temperatures too can vary significantly, reaching levels as high as 48 degrees and dropping as low as the early twenties. These shifts can occur not only from season to season but from day to day, making it tricky to predict the best set-up direction for each session.
The track has just been resurfaced almost in its entirety, which provides an unknown factor heading into the weekend that cannot be underestimated. Sochi was a case in point, with unusual tyre behaviour arising during the race in particular. The extent of this can depend on the quality of the surface, how long it has been laid down for and the materials used. The smoothness of the surface will also be a factor, with the significant bumps that have historically been a feature of this circuit potentially now negated. Grip levels too, both at the start of the weekend and as running progresses, will have an effect on how many adjustments will need to be made from run to run in order to keep up with that track evolution. These are all questions which must answered as swiftly as possible. Again, this may well bring a few surprises – particularly with a softer tyre compound allocation that traditionally seen here in the soft and medium.
Brazil often sees high quantities of overtaking manoeuvres – and not always at corners which might be expected to create such opportunities. The DRS runs into Turns One and Four are the most obvious opportunities, however is it not uncommon to see drivers making bold moves at places where it might not be imagined possible. This will be a particularly interesting factor with the freshly laid track surface for this year, as drivers explore grip levels around different parts of the circuit. The first corner also often sees a high attrition rate in terms of contact – particularly on the first lap – which again will be exaggerated by a lack of grip level understanding.
Winning in the States was just an incredible feeling. I love spending time there and it’s fantastic to see how much the sport is growing. I was just blown away by the support I had all weekend, which made the win even more special. Once I got ahead in the race there was no looking back and I still can’t quite believe the run we’ve had recently. The team are doing an incredible job. Next up, of course, we have Brazil – which is another very, very special place for me. In 2008 I needed to finish fifth or better to take the title and, until the very last corner of the last lap, I was running sixth. I passed Timo (Glock) down the inside and, as I crossed the line, I didn’t know if I’d done it or not. I honestly though I’d lost it until quite a while after the flag, when the team came over the radio to tell me I’d won the World Championship. That was an incredible emotional rollercoaster and a moment that will stay with me for my entire life. My record at Interlagos hasn’t actually been the best so far in terms of results, though, with only one podium all the way back in 2009. I’m hoping this weekend will be the one to change that.
The weekend in Austin was a tough one for me. Qualifying was obviously fantastic but I was disappointed to let the lead slip away in the race and to lose more points in the fight for the Drivers’ Championship. In the end, Lewis just did a better job on the day and now it’s up to me to make the most of these last two races and capitalise on any opportunity. It will be tough, but I’m going to give it absolutely everything I’ve got right up to the flag in Abu Dhabi. That first opportunity comes this weekend at the Brazilian Grand Prix – one of the classic races on the calendar. There is so much history there and, of course, there have been many great Brazilian drivers in Formula One. I’ve got a mixed record at this circuit but it’s one I really enjoy as it’s usually a really action-packed race. It would be great to give my title challenge a final boost with a good result before we head to the showdown in Abu Dhabi.
Source: Mercedes AMG Petronas