There is no rest in the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship, as drivers are back in action following last weekend’s action-packed Mexico City Grand Prix. This weekend sees the 20 drivers flex their muscles at the Autodromo José Carlos Pace which hosts the first-ever Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
After yesterday's Brazil F1 Sprint, Valtteri Bottas has the best cards in his hands thanks to his brilliant start which saw him snatch the lead away from championship leader Max Verstappen. The Dutchman, who has performed astonishingly so far this season, making almost no mistakes and getting literally always the best out of his car, will wait for the lights to go out from P2 on the grid. His championship rival Lewis Hamilton showed a brilliant recovery drive from P20 yesterday, but a penalty for taking his fifth new internal combustion engine means that he will line up tenth on the grid today.
Long history – Today’s race will be the 48th Formula One race to be held in Brazil, but the first ever to be named Sao Paulo Grand Prix. Of the 47 F1 races held in Brazil so far, 37 grands prix took place at Interlagos. The other ten were staged at Rio de Janeiro’s Jacarepagua circuit in two stints (1978 and 1981-1989).
The inaugural race The Formula One World Championship first visited Brazil back in 1973. The inaugural race was staged at the Interlagos circuit which was designed and developed by an Englishman, Loius S. Sanson and opened its gates in 1940.
The importance of the first row - The pole man has only won here at Interlagos a total of 16 times out of 37 starts. Considering the statistics from the past six years, the importance of starting the Brazil F1 race from the first row has significantly grown. In the hybrid era, five races have been won by the pole man. This series was only broken by Sebastian Vettel who won at Interlagos in 2017 after starting from the second place.
Mercedes stronghold– Since the hybrid power units were introduced in Formula One, the Mercedes squad has won every race but two. In 2014 and 2015, it was Nico Rosberg who came out on top at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix. The next year saw his then-teammate Lewis Hamilton securing the victory which the Briton repeated in 2018. One of the two non-Mercedes triumphs came in 2017 when Sebastian Vettel put in a heroic performance to fend off the faster Mercedes cars to secure his third Brazilian Grand Prix victory. The other occasion when Mercedes was defeated in Brazil was in 2019 with Max Verstappen crossing the finish line first.
The French driver - Alain Prost holds the record for most wins in Brazil with six. Michael Schumacher is the second most successful driver in the history of the Brazilian Grand Prix. The German won on four occasions of which he took two victories for Benetton while he was victorious with Ferrari twice. Carlos Reutemann and Sebastian Vettel share the third place on this list with three wins apiece.
The Brazilian stars - Home heros Felipe Massa, Ayrton Senna, Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet all have two victories on their home turf.
A short one- The Autodromo José Carlos Pace is one of the shortest tracks on the current Grand Prix calendar. Drivers will need to complete 71 laps in total on the 4.309km race circuit to cover the entire race distance of 305.909km.
The important numbers – As common, drivers have to adhere to a speed limit of 80kph in the race while driving through the pit lane. The start and the finish line are not identical with an offset of 30m lying between them.
The Finnish record-keeper – Valtteri Bottas holds the record for the fastest ever race lap at Interlagos. The Finn recorded a 1m10.540 in 2018 to set a new lap record around the undulating, twisting circuit. However, the fastest ever lap belongs to his current teammate Lewis Hamilton who set a lap time of 1m07.281 on his way to secure the pole position for the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Average fuel usage – The 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix was staged without any interruption as the real and the virtual safety car stayed away from the happenings. Therefore the data on the fuel usage from 2018 gives a good indication on how difficult the Autodromo José Carlos Pace is in this regard. In that year, the driver who needed the least amount of fuel to complete the entire race distance burnt a total of 100kg of petrol while the most thirstiest car used 104kg.
Small changes – A small area at the apex of Turn 4 has been resurfaced. The apex kerbs at Turns 6 and 7 have been replaced with a new Bevel kerb. Furthermore, the track surface has been grooved to assist drainage between Turn 9 and 10 and on the right-hand side of the pit straight.
The usual configuration – There will be two DRS zones in today’s race at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace. The first zone has a detection point at the apex of Turn 2 and activation 30m after Turn 3. The second zone has a detection point 30m after Turn 13 and activation 160m before Turn 15.
Two-stopper - Although the soft compound held on surprisingly well in yesterday’s 24-lap F1 Sprint, Formula One’s tyre manufacturer Pirelli claims that the two-stop strategy is the fastest was to approach today’s Interlagos race.
The Milan-based tyre supplier thinks that the fastest strategy for the 71-lap Brazilian Grand Prix should be a two-stopper, using the medium followed by two sets of P Zero White hard. Another possibility (really close in terms of overall race time) is to use all three compounds: starting on the medium and then using the hard for the central stint, before finishing on the soft.
But a one-stop is another possibility. This could be medium to hard, to benefit from a long opening stint and gain track position, or alternatively soft to hard (although this would require more management, with the cars full of fuel at the start of the race). Under Sprint Qualifying regulations, the drivers are allowed to start the grand prix on whichever compound they choose, irrespective of the tyres used in Sprint Qualifying today.