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Brazil GP 2021 - Haas F1 preview

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By Olivier Ferret

10 November 2021 - 08:17
Brazil GP 2021 - Haas F1 preview

Formula 1’s triple header continues with a return to Brazil for Uralkali Haas F1 Team at the São Paulo Grand Prix, Round 19 of the 2021 season.

Formula 1 first visited Brazil in 1973, with Interlagos the venue, before the country’s event moved to Rio de Janeiro’s Jacarepagua through the 1980s. But from 1990 a reprofiled Interlagos picked up the mantle once more. In 2004 the race switched position in the calendar and became the regular season finale, with Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel all crowned World Champion in gripping denouements across the late 2000s and early 2010s.

A contractual dispute, and rumors over a new venue, led to fears that Formula 1 was never going back again, but amid the difficulties of 2020 came the welcome development that a new agreement was reached, keeping the championship at Interlagos through 2025.

Officially known as Autódromo José Carlos Pace, in deference to the Brazilian Formula 1 icon who died in a 1977 plane crash, Interlagos takes its name from the neighborhood of São Paulo located between the artificial reservoirs of Guarapiranga and Billinges – directly translating as ‘between lakes’. The circuit is among Formula 1’s shortest, at just 4.3 km, and features two lengthy full-throttle sections linked by a sequence of long-radius undulating corners, including Ferradura, Laranjinha and Pinheirinho.

The opportune overtaking spot comes following the front stretch, at the Senna S, a complex named in honor of the late great Ayrton Senna. While not as extreme as Mexico City’s 2,200 meters, Interlagos sits some 800 metres above sea level, providing another set-up trade off as teams chase both downforce and top speed. And, as the dramatic title deciders of 2008 and 2012 will testify, wet weather can influence proceedings, while 2016’s race was twice red-flagged and run across three hours due to torrential rain.

For the third time this season Uralkali Haas F1 Team will tackle a tweaked timetable, with F1 Sprint featuring after its first two appearances at Silverstone and Monza. That leaves rookie drivers Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher with just one hour of practice prior to qualifying on Friday, with Sprint installed on Saturday, ahead of Sunday’s grand prix.

Günther Steiner

Round 19 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship hosts the final sprint event of the season. With speculation of additional events next year, what’s your assessment of sprint qualifying and does anything need to change to improve the product for fans or behind the scenes for teams?

“I’m looking forward to Brazil as the track should suit the sprint qualifying format very well. I think we have to see after the three events we did this year how the fans reacted to it and if we need to make to some tweaks, there is always room for it. You can always make something better so we should look at it and see how we can improve it. For me, going into a few more next year is very good for the sport.”

The São Paulo Grand Prix is the home race of Official Test and Reserve driver, Pietro Fittipaldi. Having also announced him joining the team for the post-season test in 2018 at Interlagos, can you share how Pietro’s role has evolved and what he’s brought to the team over the years?

“Pietro is a very good guy, he’s a very good driver and he’s now a part of our family. We always can’t do without him but last year when Romain had his accident and he had to jump in, he did a fantastic job not having been in the car for almost one year. Pietro is one of us and hopefully he stays on with us.”

It will be the first time racing in Brazil since the pandemic. Does visiting these iconic locations once again bring about a feeling of normality to the paddock after what seems a long time of uncertainty?

“Yes, but more than that, I feel normality because we have the grandstands full of people again. That to me is normality because missing out one year in the schedule we are running – you don’t really realize how quickly a year goes by – but people back at the track and seeing fans engage with it is very good and that for me is normality and I hope it stays like this.”

Nikita Mazepin

Round 19 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship hosts the final sprint event of the season. With speculation of additional sprint events next year, what have you learned following sprint qualifying in Silverstone and Monza?

“I like sprint events. The issue with them is that you get very little time to adjust to the circuit and having not been to Brazil, it will be a big challenge for me. However, you can’t change it, it’s the same for everybody and I’m going to give it my best.”

It’s a track that has hosted many championship showdowns in its time, what racing memories do you have from the Brazilian Grand Prix?

“I remember watching the wet race in Brazil in 2016. It was a crazy one to watch and crazy class the drivers have shown.”

The Autódromo José Carlos Pace has numerous iconic features, including the banked entry into the start/finish straight and the Senna ‘S’ bend – can you describe a lap of the track and where are the most challenging areas?

“I’ll be better at describing the track once I’ve driven there! Right now, I’ve only seen races and onboards, so it will be great to get out there. It seems like it’s a very fast circuit with very slow speeds, so it will be a good challenge. It’s just nice to get to know all of the tracks around the world. As Mexico and Brazil are the types of circuits that have real character to them, being a young driver and getting to drive to these places for work – it’s cool.”

Mick Schumacher

Round 19 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship hosts the final sprint event of the season. With speculation of additional sprint events next year, what have you learned following sprint qualifying in Silverstone and Monza?

“I think that sprint events are interesting. They are different, but probably for Brazil it’s going to be all about figuring out, as quick as you can for FP1, what you need for qualifying. The good thing is in brazil the track is very short, so you’ll have the opportunity to do a lot of laps and maybe come into the pits and change things, in terms of set-up or approach to corners.”

It’s a track that has hosted many championship showdowns in its time, what racing memories do you have from the Brazilian Grand Prix?

“I haven’t personally been to Brazil before, so it’s going to be a first for me. I have driven the track on the simulator though and it was fun – I enjoyed it. Hopefully it will be the same experience when I go there this weekend.”

The Autódromo José Carlos Pace has numerous iconic features, including the banked entry into the start/finish straight and the Senna ‘S’ bend – can you describe a lap of the track and where are the most challenging areas?

“It’s a very short track, you do lots of laps and hopefully there’s the opportunity for us to fight with some people and maybe have a Q2 appearance, that would be great. It will be very interesting, the start-finish straight will be great. Some of the iconic battles that we saw with people losing the car and having shunts there. It’s a tricky corner, especially if it’s wet which it looks be right now, which would be good for us, and I’m very much looking forward to going there.”

Pietro Fittipalidi

Although born in Miami, you race under the Brazilian flag. It’s a country with such racing prestige and has produced three World Champions, one whom you share a surname with. How does it feel to be a part of Formula 1’s Brazilian contingency?

“I’m very proud and very happy to be representing Brazil in racing, as well as being a part of a family who has so much history in racing – with my grandad in Formula 1, my cousin Christian, my uncle as well – Max Papis – and my brother. For me, it’s a big honor – to have the Fittipaldi name on my helmet and car as well, I’ve always been very proud of it.

“People always ask if pressure comes with the name, but I think nobody can put more pressure than I put on myself because I want to win races and championships, and I think the name and the family that I have around me can only be helpful and positive.”

It’s a track that has hosted many championship showdowns in its time, what racing memories do you have from the Brazilian Grand Prix?

“The first Brazilian GP I went to was in 2006, but the one I remember, and it’s a sad memory, was 2008. I was there with my brother and we were watching the race from the Paddock Club. Everyone was obviously cheering for Massa and thought that he had won the championship as we were watching the screens and we saw his car had gone past, he had won the race. We saw his family celebrating, so everyone started celebrating and then a couple of seconds later we realized he had lost. It was a massive moment of excitement with a massive downfall. There weren’t many happy Brazilians, but I remember that as if it happened yesterday.

“The other memory I have is with Haas in 2018 when we announced that I was going to be testing the car for the first time and being a part of the team. That’s a good memory I have of Interlagos.

“I raced at Interlagos this year for the first time in a Porsche Cup race. I was subbing for Nelson Piquet Jr. so that was pretty cool. When you come down the tunnel and into the track, there’s a massive painting on Senna so you can see the history as soon as you enter the track. When you race on it, the simulator is actually very similar to the real thing. I’ve done so many laps on the simulator that when I got out on track for the first time, it felt like I had been racing there for years.”

You’ve been a part of the Haas family since 2018, first driving in the post-season test. How has your role evolved of the years and what are your thoughts on the new set of regulations for 2022?

“I’ve been with the team since 2018 – so I’ve got to test the 2018 and 2019 car and I got to race the 2020 car. I haven’t tested this car as due to COVID, there haven’t been any in-season tests and there is limited pre-season testing.

“For me, it’s exciting, it’s different. You get to drive a new era of Formula 1. If I get the chance to test the car next season, that will be exciting as no one knows what it’s going to be like. Everyone’s saying it’s going to be harder to drive, less aero, with cars moving around more, so you will only be able to tell once you get behind the wheel. As a driver, you always want new challenges.

“I think I’m one of those drivers who has driven the biggest number of different cars in the world – the only thing I haven’t done is rally or ice driving. I’ve raced Formula 1, NASCAR, IndyCar, I’ve driven Formula E, Porsche LMP1, Super Formula, DTM, Brazilian Stockcar, GT, so to add the new era of Formula 1 would be pretty cool.”

The Brazilian Grand Prix can’t be discussed without mentioning the fans, who really live every second of the race on track with the drivers. Have you felt that warmth?

“Brazilian fans are huge. When I made by debut last season in Bahrain and we weren’t able to have fans at track, I was getting so many messages on social media with so much support from Brazilians. They were happy to finally have a Brazilian back on track in Formula 1. I see that as well with the drivers in junior categories, Brazilians want another Brazilian driver back on the grid. I believe the race for this weekend is sold out and I can’t wait for the day when a Brazilian finishes on the podium or wins the race in Interlagos – it will be a huge moment.”

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