Interlagos: What you need to know

So; the penultimate race is upon us. We’ve lasted this long, a couple more couldn’t hurt could they? Well; if Korea was anything to go by…Brazil might just tip us over the edge. Alonso could walk into Abu Dhabi with the points to clinch it, or the Red Bulls could return to their winning form. Or McLaren could through an expertly engineered wrench into the works. Either way; let’s get down onto the track and see what’s what.

Fact File: Brazil GP – Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Interlagos

Laps: 71
Circuit length: 4.309km (2.677miles)
Race length: 305.909km (190.067miles)
Most wins: Alain Prost (6 times)
Fastest lap: Mark Webber – 1:13.733 (2009)

The Interlagos (as it is more commonly known) circuit is one of the more interesting races in the season for many reasons. Built in the 1930s and first raced on in 1936 (first GP here was in 1973) it holds a prestigious position by being one of the last tracks of the year; meaning that there are always fireworks. A great one to watch as a first timer as it really shows you what Formula One racing is about.

Brazil GP track guide (Will Pettinger)

 Key:

1-15: Corners

Speed trap: Great place to see exactly how fast the drivers are going

‘Senna ‘S’’: Named components (you’ll often hear the commentators mention them)

Highlighted areas: Places of interest, i.e. keep your eyes peeled for action!

Layout:

One of the best for spectators as from the grandstands you can see over half the track; so if you fancy a trip to South America, wait until next November as it’s just been confirmed as the last race of 2011…good timing, no?

Currently the third shortest track in the calendar, but conversely is one of the slowest. But things haven’t always been this way; before the 1990s it was one of the longest at almost 8km, now standing at around half that.

Feedback from the drivers and their teams about this track is about how challenging it is to race on. The track itself is incredibly bumpy; this mean high tire degredation and that the drivers will have to be on high alert about managing them to ensure just the one pit stop. The other factor is the heat, you might be thankful for the glorious weather on holiday, but imagine racing around in that for 1.5 hours…less experienced drivers can suffer from fatigue and dehydration.

And with most of the races (and testing) done on tracks that run clockwise; here we switch it up and go the other way. It may not seem like a huge deal; but the driver’s bodies aren’t used to significant G-force of their left side, making it a true test of strength and endurance.

Overtaking:

A massive sticking point for most people watching modern F1 is that ‘there’s not enough overtaking nowadays’. You’ve probably heard fans have a good moan about this on occasions; and yes, they may have a point on some of the circuits. However it really depends on race day; one year the track could be a hot-bed of overtaking action and the next time…nothing. But the way Kobayashi seems to be running at the moment; it seems like anywhere is ripe for overtaking!

In Brazil we have two main places for overtaking; one is Senna’s S at the end of the pit straight, this will be where good cornering cars will have a go (namely Red Bull). The other is Descida do Lago, at the end of the Reta Oposta (back straight), keep an eye out for the McLaren boys, they’re about 5-6km/h faster than the field.

So keep an eagle eye out at these points for the action.

Why Brazil rocks:

It’s a true test is endurance and durability; a change in direction, bumpy surface and unpredictable weather ensure you’re in for a treat. A blend of medium and slow turns, long fast straights and an uphill climb back to the start make sure it’s just as hard on the pit team as well as the drivers.

Choosing the right set up on the day is a major headache for the engineers; they have to put a car on to the grid that is mechanically balanced and select tires that will last the race. To achieve the optimum aerodynamic efficiency over the lap they also have to consider the affect of full throttle on the long straights. Why? High altitude, that’s why. The thinning air drains the car of around 8% overall power over a lap.

Put another way; it costs an F1 team about £10 million to shave a second off a lap time…race in Brazil and that literally evaporates out of the engine.

5 KEY POINTS:

  • Short and slow with bumpy surface
  • Anti-clockwise
  • Two main overtaking points
  • Altitude/air quality slows the engine down
  • Big test of driver endurance and car durability

Tchau!

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