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Interlagos: a great track in a great city

Here’s our guide to the circuit

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By Franck Drui

29 October 2010 - 14:13
Interlagos: a great track in a (...)

Interlagos is a rare beast in modern F1 – a great track in a vibrant city and where Mark scored his final victory of last season. Here’s our guide to the circuit, its history and the 2009 race…

Brazil Basics

• This is the 38th Brazilian Grand Prix and the 28th to be held at Interlagos circuit. The São Paulo track was the first to hold the race in 1973, but, after it had filled in for the 1978 event, Rio’s Jacarepagua circuit took over for nine years from 1981-1988, before Interlagos claimed it back.

• Prior to Interlagos hosting the first championship F1 grand prix in Brazil, the country had organised many non-championship races. The first, though, is perhaps the most colourful. On October 8, 1933, the International Grand Prix of the City of Rio de Janeiro was held at the street-circuit of Gávea, which was also known as the ‘Devil’s Seesaw’!

Brazil Racing

• We’re used to a certain M Schumacher holding the records for multiple wins at various circuits but at the Brazilian GP he has to give way to Alain Prost. ‘The Professor’ won the Brazilian event six times – in 1982, ‘84, ‘85, ‘87, ‘88 and 1990. Schumacher has won it four times, as has Carlos Reutemann.

• In total, 28 Brazilians have contested their home race (and two more will get a chance this weekend – Lucas Di Grassi and Bruno Senna). The locals’ strike-rate is not alarmingly good however, with just five winning – Emerson Fittipaldi, Carlos Pace, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Felipe Massa.

• The 2008 race was a thrilling climax to the season with Felipe Massa winning the race and causing huge celebrations in the Ferrari garage as the team thought he had clinched the championship. Lewis Hamilton, though, had other ideas and only needed to finish higher than sixth to take the title. He started the final lap in sixth but on the final corner both he and Sebastian Vettel passed the struggling Timo Glock in fourth. Hamilton had the point he needed and Massa’s hopes were dashed!

Brazil Analysis

• Interlagos is a notoriously bumpy circuit, particularly at Turn 4, the Descida de Lago, and this puts massive strain on the car as bottoming out is frequent and debilitating to both car and driver. It’s a real test of endurance.

• Engines get a workout too, even before the start! The high altitude of the city means a normal atmospheric pressure of around 930mb and a loss of nearly 10% of an F1 car’s aerodynamic and engine performance. Also 63% of the lap is at full throttle, so gasping engines have to work extra hard around here.

• The best overtaking opportunities are into the Senna S at the start of the lap and under braking for Descida do Lago at the end of the back straight.

What Happened Last Year

Jenson Button went to Interlagos last year needing to just finish within four points of team-mate Rubens Barrichello to secure the drivers’ championship. But, after a rain-hit qualifying session, it looked a tall order with Rubens on pole and Button a lowly 14th.

First-lap incidents bumped the Briton to ninth but Barrichello looked in control in the lead. Button, though, was on a charge and was soon up to sixth. His team-mate, meanwhile, was going backwards and, unable to live with the pace of Red Bull’s Mark Webber, was beaten back to second in the first stops.

It went from bad to worse for Barrichello later when he suffered a puncture when being passed by Lewis Hamilton and he dropped to eighth after pitting. Button, however, was back in sixth after see-sawing up and down the order during the second stops. At the front, Webber sailed serenely on for his second win of the year. He was followed home by Kubica and Hamilton. With Sebastian Vettel finishing fourth, Button’s eventual fifth was enough to give him the championship crown.

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