Written by SFCMelbourne Member, Michele Terminello
After Max Verstappen took a dominant victory in Mexico and Lewis Hamilton came home fourth and secured his fifth World title, the penultimate round of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship returns to the popular Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Sao Paulo, Brazil for the Formula 1 Grande Premio Heineken Do Brasil 2018. This marks the 46th running as a round of the world championship since its inception in 1950 and the 35th event to be held at Interlagos.
A look at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace
The Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, known by its former name Interlagos is a permanent racing circuit located in the city of Sao Paulo in the neighbourhood of Interlagos. The circuit was renamed after Brazilian Formula 1 driver Carlos Pace who was tragically killed in a plane accident.
In 1938 a huge plot of land was bought in Sao Paulo by two property developers whose intention was to build accommodation. Following difficulties partly due to the 1929 stock market crash and one part of the land not being suitable for housing, they decided to build a racing circuit instead. Construction began in 1938 and the track opened in 1940. Sao Paulo grew at a rapid rate and the circuit was quickly surrounded by houses.
In the 1970s when legend Emerson Fittipaldi began to have international success, the Brazilians wanted to host a Grand Prix. In 1971 and 1972 Interlagos hosted non-championship races but in 1973 the track staged its first Grand Prix as part of the world championship.
The track quickly became the locals’ lucky charm, with Fittipaldi and Carlos Pace claiming victories in the 1970s. Interlagos was the scene of Pace’s first and only Formula One victory and following his death in a plane crash the circuit was renamed in his honour.
In 1978 it moved to the Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio de Janeiro, but in 1979 Interlagos reclaimed the race back for a couple of years. By 1981 however, Rio de Janeiro had taken the Grand Prix back. When an agreed $15m investment to shorten and smoothen the circuit was made due to recent success of Sao Paulo native Ayrton Senna, the race made its return to Interlagos in 1990 and has stayed as the home of the Brazilian Grand Prix ever since.
The Autodromo Jose Carlos Paces’ natural contours provides a challenging combination of technically demanding medium and low-speed turns linked with high-speed straights and bends. The topography of the circuit means many of these are off camber, increasing the challenge.
A major car setup consideration is the altitude. At 800m, Interlagos is the second highest altitude circuit of the year after the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico and the thinner air in the past led engines to produce 7-8 per cent less power but the 1.6L turbocharged V6 hybrid powertrains have the advantage over its naturally aspirated predecessors due to the turbochargers being able to spin faster to compensate for lower atmospheric pressure at higher altitudes.
The altitude levels also effect aerodynamic performance too as such teams will run higher downforce packages to cope with inefficiencies. The lack of aerodynamic grip also means that the importance of good mechanical grip is emphasised. The other variable is the weather and conditions at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace which can be hard to predict at times.
The Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace is 4.309km (2.677 miles) in length with 15 corners and runs in an anti-clockwise direction.
Race distance is 305.909km (190.067 miles) in length with 71 laps in total.
Max Verstappen holds the fastest lap record at the circuit with a 1:11.044 set at last year’s event in his Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13.
Four-time World Champion Alain Prost holds the record for most Brazilian Grand Prix victories with six.
McLaren are the most successful constructor at the Brazilian Grand Prix with 12 victories.
The Last Five Winners
2017: Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari. 2016: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1. 2015: Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1. 2014: Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1. 2013: Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing.
As in 2017, Pirelli will be bringing with them to Brazil, the red-branded Supersofts, the yellow-marked P-Zero Soft tyres and the white-branded Medium rubber along with the green-branded Intermediate and blue-marked Full Wet tyre compounds in case of rain.
The Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull drivers have all opted for nine sets of the supersofts except for Kimi Raikkonen who has one set less of the red side-walled rubber available to him for the weekend.
Most of the other teams on the grid have followed suit either selecting eight or nine sets of the supersofts for their driver’s bar McLaren who have chosen seven sets.
The medium tyre has been the less favoured choice by the teams with over half the grid selecting just one set of the harder rubber available.
As in 2017, there will be two DRS Zones at Interlagos. The first detection point is at the apex of turn two, with the activation point 20 metres after turn three. The second detection zone is 30 metres after turn 13 with the activation point 30 metres after the final corner.
Pitlane Speed Limits
Pitlane speed limits will be 80km/h during practice, qualifying and the race.
ICYMI: Mexican GP Rewind – Verstappen cruises to victory, Hamilton crowned World Champion
Max Verstappen took a comfortable victory at the Mexican Grand Prix while Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and clinched his fifth World Championship.
Polesitter Daniel Ricciardo was rounded by team-mate Verstappen and Hamilton at the start and Verstappen went wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton to take the lead.
Verstappen then went on to produce a faultless drive and claim the win ahead of the two Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen as Hamilton settled for fourth but was enough to claim his fifth world title with two races to spare.
Hamilton went into the Mexican Grand Prix weekend knowing he needed to finish seventh to secure the championship and did not need to finish if Vettel couldn’t take the victory.
Vettel started fourth on the grid and momentarily fell to fifth on the opening lap Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas passed him into the first corner, but the German charged back at turns four and five to take the place back from the Finn.
Hamilton tried to keep up with Verstappen over the first stint but slowly fell back and was threatened by Ricciardo but remained in second as the Briton pitted on the eleventh lap.
Ricciardo followed suit on the next lap whilst Verstappen did the same a lap later, and the undercut gave Hamilton a bit of a breather from Ricciardo but not enough to give the Briton a chance of challenging Verstappen.
With the Dutchman flying at the front, Hamilton started to get caught rapidly by Ricciardo and Vettel after the Ferrari’s who were running a long first stint finally pitted.
Hamilton moved clear again as the leaders had to make their way through heavy traffic, and the virtual safety car was deployed for Carlos Sainz’s stopped Renault – which was comfortable in the points but suffered an engine failure and put a temporary halt on the Ricciardo/Vettel battle behind.
The fight continued a few laps later and more heavy backmarkers allowed Vettel to tuck right behind his former Red Bull team-mate until the 34th lap when the German put on an impressive move on the inside of Ricciardo under braking into the first corner.
Vettel was only four seconds behind Hamilton at this stage but was charging towards the Mercedes as the W09 EQ Power+ was struggling with tyre degradation.
Five laps after he passed Ricciardo, Vettel moved by Hamilton at the same place when Hamilton tried to defend, the Briton locked up and travelled along the grass.
Mercedes brought Hamilton in to the pits immediately with Bottas following suit after losing sixth place to Raikkonen in an almost identical moment at turn one like Hamilton.
With Hamilton out of the picture, the Mexican Grand Prix went down to a Red Bull vs Vettel battle, with Ferrari taking on an aggressive strategy by pitting Vettel who put on a fresh set of ultras.
This brought the German within ten seconds of Verstappen once Red Bull pitted the Dutchman for supersofts, but Ricciardo remained on track and attempted to keep Vettel at bay.
This halted Vettel’s chance to catch Verstappen and as Ricciardo’s slower pace held Vettel up in the closing stages, Vettel looked too far behind the Australian to launch an attack on the RB14.
However, disaster struck for Ricciardo with 10 laps remaining as a ploom of smoke emerged from the back of his RB14 and Ricciardo went straight off at turn one and retired for the eighth time this season.
Verstappen asked his team over the radio if they needed to be concerned and conserve the engine but had a problem-free run to the chequered flag to claim his fifth career victory.
“Amazing,” explained Verstappen as David Coulthard interviews him at parc ferme. “I didn’t sleep very well last night, I was very determined to win, and we’ve done that. We had the right tyres and the car was working very well.”
Vettel and Raikkonen rounded out the top three as Hamilton came home in fourth, annoyed by his Mercedes’ lack of pace compared to his rivals.
Hamilton’s mood changed as he celebrated his fifth World Championship crown that brought him level to the great Juan Manuel Fangio.
“It’s a very strange feeling right now,” said Hamilton. “I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13, to complete this, when Fangio had done it with Mercedes, is an incredible feeling and very surreal at the moment.”
Bottas rounded out the top five in the other Silver Arrow and finished a lap down after pitting for hypersofts and posting the fastest lap at the end.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg finished best of the rest in sixth place with a one stop strategy working to perfection and ahead of Sauber’s Charles Leclerc who was seventh.
McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne came home in eighth place ending a 14-race pointless run, which stretched back to April’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Marcus Ericsson gave Sauber a double-points finish after taking ninth place to bump the Hinwil-based squad above Toro Rosso in the Constructors Championship despite Pierre Gasly who started at the rear due to power-unit component changes rising back to secure the final points spot.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon finished the Mexican Grand Prix in 11th and in-front of Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley who was 12th and the two Williams of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin who came home in 13th and 14th respectively.
The two Haas VF-18’s of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were brought up the rear.
The other retirements of the race included McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who pulled off after a water pressure issue and home Grand Prix favourite Sergio Perez suffering a brakes failure on his Force India VJM11.
Lewis Hamilton returns to Interlagos with the Driver’s Championship all wrapped up and sits on top of the standings with 358 points and a 64-point gap over nearest rival Sebastian Vettel who is second on 294 points while Kimi Raikkonen is a further 122 points behind the Briton in third on 236 points.
With the Constructors Championship still up for grabs, Mercedes returns to the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on top of the standings with 585 points and a 55-point lead over nearest rival Ferrari who are second on 530 points while Red Bull Racing are a further 223 behind the Silver Arrows in third on 362 points.
2018 Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship Standings
2018 Formula 1 World Constructors Championship Standings
The Formula 1 Grande Premio Heineken Do Brasil 2018 weekend begins Friday November 9 with Free Practice 1 and 2, followed by Free Practice 3 and Qualifying Saturday November 10 and the 71 lap Race Sunday November 11.