Reports

Brazilian F1 Grand Prix

2016 BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX – PREVIEW

CIRCUIT STATS
2015 winner Nico Rosberg, 71 laps, 1:31:09.090s
2015 pole position Nico Rosberg,1m11.282s
2015 fastest lap Lewis Hamilton, 1m14.832s (lap 51)
Name Autódromo José Carlos Pace
First race 1973
Circuit length 4.309km/2.677 miles (3rd shortest of the season)
Distance to Turn One 190m/0.118 miles (longest of the season: Mexico, 800m/0.497 miles)
Longest straight 650m/0.404 miles, on the approach to the Turn One
Top speed 325km/h/202mph, on the approach to Turn One
Pitlane length 380m/0.236 miles, estimated time loss 21s
Full throttle 60 per cent
DRS zones Two, on the approach to Turns One and Four
Key corner Turn 12, Junção. A third-gear left-hander that’s taken at 130km/h (81mph). It’s crucial to get the power down cleanly because the long, uphill drag to the finish-line follows, at the end of which is one of the best overtaking points on the lap
Fastest corner 257km/h (160mph), Turn Five
Slowest corner 72km/h (45mph), Turn 10
Major changes for 2016 None, except for maintenance work
Fuel consumption 1.49kg per lap, which is low
ERS demands High. There are several places around the lap where ERS deployment is crucial, but there are only two heavy braking zones in which to regain energy under braking
Brake wear Low. There are six braking zones around the lap, but only two of them are heavy. Just 15 per cent of the lap is spent braking
Gear changes 42 per lap/2,982 per race
CIRCUIT FACTS
History lesson There have been two iterations of the Interlagos circuit. When it first hosted the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1973, it was a 7.960km/4.946-mile roller-coaster ride around the side of the natural bowl in which the track is located. It was shortened and modernised following a $15 million injection in the late ’80s and the current layout has staged the Brazilian Grand Prix every year since 1990.
What makes it unique Bumps. The track was built on marshland between two lakes, hence the name ‘Interlagos’, and its soft foundations mean bumps appear over time. The track was re-surfaced two years ago, but the new surface is already becoming increasingly bumpy.
Grip levels High. The cars immediately circulated close to lap record pace when the new asphalt was laid two years ago and grip levels improve over time when small cracks appear in the surface. The drivers are expecting good levels of grip this weekend.
Run-off Medium. The proximity of surrounding roads and houses means it hasn’t been possible to push back the barriers as far as might be conventional at a new circuit. But there’s ample run-off at the fastest points on the lap – on the approaches to Turns One and Four.
Watch out for... Changeable weather conditions. Should it rain, the undulating nature of the circuit means rivers form very quickly at various points around the lap. The depth of water is particularly bad at the exit of Turn Three, where lots of cars have spun off in the past.

THE DRIVERS ON: THE CIRCUIT

#14 Fernando Alonso

“I think every racing driver enjoys racing at Interlagos. It’s obviously a special place, and we saw at the last race just how important it is to have packed grandstands full of passionate fans – and Brazil is no different. For such a short lap, the track has a great flow – from the moment you cross the start-finish line, you plunge into the esses and then sweep down into the bottom of the venue’s natural bowl. Even with a couple of hairpins, it doesn’t really feel like any of the corners interrupt the flow around here, which means that, at the end of each lap, you’re already fully committed to attacking it again. I love this place.”

#22 Jenson Button

“The Interlagos circuit has a bit of – how can I put it? – ‘muscle’. It’s a place that you really attack – and it’s really enjoyable, particularly when the front-end is properly nailed. A corner like Ferradura is really satisfying when you get it right; you really commit at the corner entry, barely scrubbing off any speed, and then sort of guide the car through until it rolls out of the second apex up onto the apex kerb. It’s great. Even the hairpins require a really attacking style, you can take lots of kerb, and there’s no run-off at the exits. It’s how a racetrack should be, really.”

EVENT STATS
Start time 4:00hrs local/16:00hrs GMT
Race distance 71 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/53 laps)
Safety Car likelihood High. This race is often incident-filled and, statistically, there’s a 70 per cent chance of a Safety Car
When to press record The drivers’ parade. There’s a lot of passion for F1 in Brazil and the fans are generous in their support of drivers of all nationalities. However, this is Brazilian Felipe Massa’s final home grand prix, so expect him to be the focus of attention
Don’t put the kettle on… Pirelli brought their Soft and Medium tyre compounds to the race in 2015 and the top three drivers made three pitstops. Race winner Nico Rosberg pitted on laps seven, 26 and 50; how will the addition of the Hard tyre affect pitstop strategy this year?
Weather conditions NOW 26 degrees and rain
Race forecast 25 degrees, with the potential for more rain
Tyre choices Soft/Medium/Hard, a combination that was last used at Suzuka in Japan
EVENT FACTS
First Brazilian Grand Prix 1973
Official slogan The race has no official slogan
Brazil's F1 heritage There have been 30 Brazilian F1 drivers, including three multiple world champions – Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna. It was the popularity of Fittipaldi, who won his first world title in 1972, that was the driving force behind the inaugural Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos in 1973. The race has been a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar ever since.
Smallest winning margin 0.588s, in 2002. The third race of the season, but the first at which Ferrari took its 2002-spec car. Michael Schumacher and pole-sitter Juan Pablo Montoya collided at the start, handing Schumacher the lead. The German then surprised the field by one-stopping and there was nothing brother Ralf, who two-stopped, could do to pass him in the closing laps.
Sporting legacy Football is the most ubiquitous sport in Brazil and the country has hosted the World Cup twice, most recently in 2014. But its presence on the international sporting stage was cemented last summer at the Rio Olympics, where Brazil finished 13th in the medals table. However, it was with some sadness that we learnt the Jacarepaguá circuit, home to the Brazilian Grand Prix on 10 occasions, was built on to house the Olympic village.
Did you know? For five consecutive years, from 2005-’09 inclusive, the drivers’ world title was decided at the Brazilian Grand Prix. If Nico Rosberg wins this year’s race, the same will be true in 2016.
Don't forget McLaren has taken 12 victories at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Fan zone Connie, aged 37, from Toronto, asks: “How does the anti-clockwise direction of Interlagos affect the drivers?” McLaren’s answer: “It places the muscles on the left side of the neck under extreme stress, although the effects will be felt less in 2016 because there are several anti-clockwise tracks on the calendar. The Circuit of The Americas, two races ago, was a left-handed track and will have helped to condition the neck muscles. Having said that, the high-G left-hand sweep towards the start-finish line at Interlagos presents a unique challenge for which the drivers will have to train specifically.”

THE DRIVERS ON: THE EVENT

#14 Fernando Alonso

“Sitting on the grid ahead of the race is one of those unique Formula 1 sensations: the crowd seems to loom over you; really in your face, very close. The atmosphere and intensity are always amazing. After a disappointing weekend in Mexico, I think we’ll be looking to bounce back in Brazil. One of our aims will be to make the most of practice and qualifying, and give ourselves the best chance of maintaining a better position during the race.”

#22 Jenson Button

“I love Interlagos and I’m really excited about the weekend. There’s been some absolutely classic Formula 1 races there and it’s always a good climax toward the end of the season. I hope we can have a better result there than we did in Mexico and work towards getting back into the points. There’s only two races left so we’ll be giving it our all for the awesome Brazilian fans. The atmosphere at Interlagos is always something special, so we’ll go out there and show them a great weekend of racing.”

HEAR FROM THE MANAGEMENT

Eric Boullier

“Over the past few races, we’ve seen that our form has fluctuated due to a variety of circuit-specific characteristics. We’re working hard to iron out these differences from track-to-track, but it’s inevitable that some circuits will suit our package’s strengths better than others. 

“Interlagos is a real test of car and driver and often we see the best drivers shine there. It demands a lot from them, and at this time of year the circuit is notorious for tricky driving conditions if it rains, especially on the many off-camber areas of the track. 

“Along with the backdrop of São Paulo, the incredibly enthusiastic Brazilian fans and the undulating nature of the circuit all make for great racing and one of the most exciting grands prix of the year. McLaren has seen a great deal of success in Brazil – both Fernando and Jenson clinched their world titles there – and it’s a special place for our team. Interlagos rightfully deserves its legendary status on the calendar and we’re aiming for a positive weekend at this incredible venue.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

“The Brazilian Grand Prix is always a special place for Honda due to our history with the great Ayrton Senna. We receive a warm welcome from the local fans every time we go there and that has always been the power that fuels us over the weekend. 

"The classic track at Interlagos, however, is a challenging one. The swooping corners and the consecutive quick elevation changes make for beautiful scenery, but these turns ask a lot of the car balance. The track is also narrow, and the infield section is slow and twisty, so overtaking is always going to be difficult. 

“Last year, we made more noise in qualifying with Fernando on social media than we did on the track. This year, we know that we can show our progress to our fans in Brazil with a better performance, and we're hoping for a good weekend of racing.”

2016 BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX – PRACTICE

"It’s better that these issues occur during free practice rather than during qualifying or the race"

Friday practice started on a positive note, with both drivers refining the balance and evaluating a number of test items during FP1. After completing their initial runs in FP2, and finding further improvements, both drivers were forced to curtail their running just as they began their long-run simulations.

Fernando was forced to stop on-track after his engineers discovered anomalous data readings relating to his car’s ERS water pressure. At the same time, Jenson’s car encountered a separate issue – rising temperatures from his car’s exhaust area. The team are still investigating the root causes of both problems.

Neither driver was therefore able to complete their planned running in FP2.

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03
FP1 1m14.252s (+2.357s) 27 laps 13th
FP2 1m13.440s (+1.169s) 19 laps 10th
For the race itself, I’d like the weather to sort itself out and rain!

“On low fuel, the car didn’t feel too bad, it was relatively fun to drive.

The balance still needs a bit of work on high fuel, but we didn’t get much running done because we had an issue with the exhaust temperatures and had to stop. Neither car did much long-running today, which is a pity because we need that information, particularly for our understanding of the Option tyre’s performance.

Fortunately, the problem on my car should be very easy to solve; it’s just hurt today’s running. Hopefully, we can get plenty of running in tomorrow – we need it. With the anticipated lower temperatures, qualifying should be fun – getting into Q3 will be tough, but that should be our aim.

For the race itself, I’d like the weather to sort itself out and rain!”

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04
FP1 1m14.296s (+2.401s) 26 laps 14th
FP2 1m13.572s (+1.301s) 18 laps 11th
Tomorrow we need to have a good qualifying session

“We saw today that we seem to be a little bit more competitive here than at some of the previous races, and I believe there’s a chance for us to make it into Q3 tomorrow.

In the second session, I had to stop the car due to the fact that we saw an anomaly in ERS water pressure data. We’re going to change the engine anyway for tomorrow, so this issue won’t affect me at all for the rest of my weekend.

With the high temperatures we had today, I think everyone suffered a lack of grip and degradation, but it looks like the weather is going to change, with some lower temperatures, cloud and rain. That would help us, as it would help reshuffle the deck a little.

Tomorrow we need to have a good qualifying session – that’s very important as overtaking around here can be quite difficult.”

Eric Boullier
We’ll have a little bit more work to do during FP3 tomorrow

"It was frustrating to see both cars stop in quick succession of each other, particularly as it meant that we weren’t able to complete our proposed long-run plan at the end of FP2. Looking at it pragmatically, it’s better that these issues occur during free practice rather than during qualifying or the race, and I’m sure we’ll be able to quickly resolve the problems before tomorrow’s sessions.

In addition, with mixed and rainy conditions forecast for the remainder of the weekend, today’s lack of running may not prove too consequential at the end of Sunday’s race.

On a more positive note, we were able to complete a fairly comprehensive test programme this morning, running through a number of correlation exercises and test-item evaluations, all of which should prove useful to our knowledge and understanding of next year’s car.

We’ll have a little bit more work to do during FP3 tomorrow, but we’ve nonetheless made a positive start to the race weekend.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
We were able to gather more data for future use

“Friday running at Interlagos started smoothly, with continued aero testing from the Mexican GP, which we were able to gather more data for future use. The sunny conditions at the track quickly raised the temperatures for the afternoon FP2 running, where we saw a drop in water pressure from Fernando’s ERS so we elected to stop the car until we had further information.

Engineers on Jenson’s car detected a temperature rise in the gearbox and exhaust area, so we returned the car to the garage. Both instances are being investigated, but we believe neither should affect our running for tomorrow’s FP3 and qualifying session."

2016 BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

There’s still much to play for this weekend

Fernando Alonso will start tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix from 10th position, after posting strong lap-times in all three qualifying sessions on Saturday afternoon. Jenson Button starts 17th after failing to find a satisfactory balance in either FP3 or qualifying.

Jenson was mystified by the lack of pace, but the team will analyse the data overnight in a bid to resolve any outstanding issues.

With rain forecast for tomorrow, there’s still much to play for this weekend.

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04
FP3 12th 1m13.002s (+1.262s) 12 laps
Q1 11th 1m12.700s On Options
Q2 7th 1m12.312s On Options
Q3 10th overall 1m12.266s On Options
The car just kept on delivering

“I really enjoyed driving today and felt really confident with the car. These cooler conditions seem to suit our package a little better than yesterday’s higher temperatures, and we extracted the maximum from the car.

Still, we were a little bit worried after FP3 as we weren’t completely on the pace, and I was even more worried when I saw Jenson go out in Q1. I just thought, ‘This isn’t going to be our Saturday!’ but – happily – my car behaved fantastically on each of the five Option tyre-sets I used in qualifying.

The car just kept on delivering: I kept finding an extra tenth each time I went out, just finding a little extra at the limit.

I hope the track time I lost yesterday isn’t going to cost me too much in tomorrow’s race, as everybody conducted their long runs in totally different weather conditions. Tomorrow, we’re expecting it to be cooler with the possibility of some rain, so it’s good to be starting in the top 10.”  

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03
FP3 18th 1m13.750s (+2.010s) 9 laps
Q1 17th overall 1m13.276s On Options
Tomorrow’s another day

“The car was really well balanced yesterday, and I was 10th quickest in FP2; today, it was a completely different car.

There’s definitely something not right – there’s no reason why the car should feel like it does; but it’s been like that since this morning. We’re off the pace and it’s frustrating.

When the conditions are cooler, you tend to pick up a little more rear grip and stability, and in high-speed the car is so on the nose. Then you destroy the rear tyres for the low-speed corners; you don’t have the grip because the tyres are damaged.

Still, it’s done now, and tomorrow’s another day…”

Eric Boullier
We’re set for a stronger performance tomorrow

“It’s been a somewhat tricky weekend so far, but we’ve pushed hard to fix our issues.

Yesterday, we weren’t able to get either car through to the end of FP2; this morning, we had a gearbox sensor issue on Fernando’s car, which delayed him at the start of FP3, then we had to change Jenson’s ISS and ECU after an issue at the very end of this morning’s practice.

Our engineers and mechanics have done a very solid job of rectifying all the issues and swiftly addressing them, so let’s hope that our problems are now firmly behind us for the remainder of the weekend.

After showing well yesterday, Jenson couldn’t get the car hooked up today – he was always struggling for a balance, and was mystified by the shortfall in pace. We’ll have a close look at everything tonight to make sure he’s got a better chance in tomorrow’s race.

Today’s cooler conditions certainly played well for Fernando. He really revelled in the car’s handling this afternoon, pushing it as high as seventh in Q2. Tenth spot is a very good effort.

With mixed conditions on the radar for tomorrow, we feel we’re set for a stronger performance tomorrow.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
So far, it has been a tricky weekend

“So far, it has been a tricky weekend to gauge where we are, with the boiling heat of Friday and the damp track in this morning’s FP3. In this afternoon’s qualifying, it was nice to see Fernando back into Q3. He put in a very good lap, so we were hoping for a P7 or P8, but just missed out by a few tenths.

Jenson, however, had more of a difficult time adjusting to the condition changes from yesterday to today, and struggled with balance all of today. There is such a surprisingly big gap to Fernando, so we must look into this matter tonight, and nail the strategy for the race tomorrow.” 

2016 BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX – RACE

"We were aiming for something better today"

Fernando Alonso salvaged a single world championship point after a truly chaotic race in Brazil. 

The grand prix was dominated by the weather, with a consistent, light rain prompting a start behind the Safety Car for the first seven laps. Thereafter, the race was: run behind the Safety Car (following Marcus Ericsson’s accident), restarted and red-flagged (following Kimi Raikkonen’s heavy crash on the start/finish straight), restarted, and red-flagged for a second time as the rain worsened, run behind the Safety Car once more after Felipe Massa spun and crashed. 

It was at the final restart, on lap 55, that Fernando dropped out of the top 10 after spinning at Turn 13. His combat drive from the back of the field was stunning, netting 10th position on the penultimate lap. 

Jenson struggled in the conditions, still unhappy with the balance of his car following yesterday’s qualifying sessions. Regardless of whichever tyre he chose, he couldn’t get the rear-end to work, and finished 16th.

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04

Started 10th Finished 10th
Fastest lap 1m27.104s Lap 70 +1.799s, 12th
Pit-stops One Lap 10 (2.90s) [Full Wet/Intermediate. Red flag: Full Wet. Red flag: Full Wet.]
Sometimes it was just enough to keep the car on track

“I think we were aiming for something better today. 

I started 10th and finished 10th, and there were some retirements in front of me, so we definitely didn’t take some of the opportunities that presented themselves out there. 

The conditions were extremely difficult today. Sometimes it was just enough to keep the car on track. There was very poor visibility and the drainage on the circuit wasn’t great – I had some aquaplaning which made it hard to push the car and close the gap ahead. 

In the end, we scored one point. Hopefully, in Abu Dhabi we can finish the season on a high.”

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03

Started 17th Finished 16th
Fastest lap 1m26.983s Lap 38 +1.678s, 10th
Pit-stops Three Laps 9 (2.45s), 35 (4.32s) and 45 (2.59s) Full Wet/Intermediate. Red flag: Full Wet. Red flag: Full Wet/Intermediate/Full Wet
Finishing last is unusual for me in conditions like these

“After today’s race, we need to go back to the factory and work out what it is that’s wrong with the car. 

During Friday practice, it was working really well; I was comfortable with the car and in the high-speed corners we had a strong rear-end. Yesterday, it wasn’t working, and today it was further exaggerated by the conditions. 

In terms of the restarts, those were very difficult conditions in which to judge what’s right and what’s wrong, but nobody was injured – and that’s the most important thing. 

Finishing last is unusual for me in conditions like these – so there’s definitely something wrong. I don’t think I’ve forgotten how to drive in the wet…”

Eric Boullier
Passing seven cars in 15 laps – was brilliant

"For McLaren-Honda, this was largely a race to forget. For Formula 1 as a sport, it’s a race from which we can learn in order to improve the show for future wet-weather races. 

Unfortunately for us, neither driver was truly able to seize the moment – Fernando drove bravely to run inside the top 10 for much of the race, then a lap-56 spin at Turn 13 dropped him to the back of the field. His comeback drive to 10th – passing seven cars in 15 laps – was brilliant, and displayed all his speed, bravery and commitment. 

Jenson was unable to rid himself of the handling imbalances he encountered yesterday, and struggled to find any rear grip in the tricky conditions. We will go away and examine what went wrong for him.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
It was a nail-biting race

"The rain that continued to fall throughout the day forced the Brazilian GP to be the toughest survival race of the year so far. Fernando unfortunately spun after the restart of the last safety car period, and dropped to nearly the back of the grid, but after a stunning charge, finished 10th to claim the final championship point of the race. 

As with yesterday, Jenson continued to struggle with the balance of his car, and with the poor track conditions, could not improve on this during his race. 

Putting the results aside, I am in awe of the courage and the driving techniques of all the drivers on the grid today. It was a nail-biting race.”