2015 Brazilian Grand Prix Practice Review

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Nico Rosberg wins the Mexican Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton in second place and Valtteri Bottas in third place. Red Bull, Force India and Toro Rosso also managed to score some much needed points during the race as well.

The Interlagos Circuit which is officially named Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, is regarded as one of the most challenging and exciting circuits on the Formula One calendar. The circuit is located in the outskirts of Sao Paulo; which is the largest city in Brazil.

Unusually, the Interlagos racing circuit runs anti-clockwise and is at high-altitude, so races are particularly hard on the drivers. The heat and humidity of Brazil also add to the driver’s discomfort. The combination of the tight infield and the long straight make the track layout very unique. The track has a bit of everything – low speed, high speed and there are several overtaking opportunities.

Interlagos has some great corners such as the Curva do Laranjinha with lots of g-force and there are real overtaking opportunities into the Senna S at the start of the lap and under braking for turn four, Descida do Lago, at the end of the back straight.

The present design of the track dates back from 1990, when the original circuit due to safety reasons was shortened from 7.83 kilometers to only 4.31 kilometers. The first Brazilian Grand Prix on the reconfigured circuit was won by Frenchman Alain Prost, with Austria’s Gerhard Berger in second place and Brazil’s Ayrton Senna in third.

Compared to some circuits, Interlagos has a relatively small capacity of about 70.000 people. The fact that the track was built within a natural amphitheatre has resulted in spectators being offered an excellent view of more than half of the circuit, regardless of where they sit. Weather conditions can change rather dramatically at this time of year, so be advised to bring both raincoat and sun cream to Interlagos (that’s if your going!)

Heading into the race weekend, it has been announced that GP2 Champion Stoffel Vandoorne has been officially confirmed as a reserve driver for the McLaren-Honda team for the 2016 season. This is a fantastic opportunity for Stoffel and it is well deserved as well. Also, Lewis Hamilton has been involved in a car crash in Monaco. He or anyone involved in the crash wasn’t hurt and he will be taking part in the race this weekend.

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is Mercedes look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP1.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP1.

Practice 1 saw Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheet with a time of 1.13.543 followed closely by Nico Rosberg with a gap of 0.519 seconds behind, Sebastian Vettel was in third with a gap of 0.625 seconds behind, Daniel Ricciardo was in fourth 0.906 seconds behind and Kimi Raikkonen was in fifth place 1.006 seconds behind Hamilton

Daniil Kvyat was in sixth 1.153 seconds behind, Valtteri Bottas was in seventh 1.343 seconds behind, Max Verstappen was eighth with a gap of 1.417 seconds behind, Nico Hulkenberg was ninth 1.631 seconds behind and Pastor Maldonado was in tenth 1.649 seconds behind Hamilton.

During FP1, Kimi Raikkonen stayed in the garage for much of the early part of the session and after 30 minutes of running he had yet to set a time. At one stage he was as high as third fastest, but his session ended early following a spin at Turn 4. Raikkonen lost the rear of his car under braking and touched the grass on the outside and then spun off through the gravel. He gingerly returned to the pits before Ferrari called it quits after another short run.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP2.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP2.

Practice 2 saw Rosberg topping the timesheet with a time of 1.12.385 followed closely by Hamilton with a gap of 0.458 seconds behind, Vettel was in third with a gap of 0.960 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in fourth 1.115 seconds behind and Ricciardo was in fifth place 1.200 seconds behind Rosberg.

Bottas was in sixth 1.218 seconds behind, Grosjean was in seventh 1.249 seconds behind, Hulkenberg was eighth with a gap of 1.325 seconds behind, Kvyat was ninth 1.463 seconds behind and Massa was in tenth 1.485 seconds behind Rosberg.

During FP2, the McLaren-Honda team suffered yet another reliability issue when Fernando Alonso’s Honda engine failed in a puff of smoke after 10 laps and did not take any further part in the session. This then brought out the red flag while the McLaren-Honda was safely recovered off the track.

Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas was sixth fastest despite a spin at Pinheirinho one hour into the session and Nico Rosberg running wide and off the track in Juncao in the final 15 minutes of the session.

But shortly after FP2, it was announced that Bottas has been hit with a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix. If you want to read more about this, then please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/bottas-receives-a-grid-penalty-ahead-of-this-weekend/.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP3.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP3.

Practice 3 saw Hamilton topping the timesheet with a time of 1.12.070 followed closely by Rosberg with a gap of 0.123 seconds behind, Vettel was in third with a gap of 0.690 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in fourth 1.026 seconds behind and Bottas was in fifth place 1.265 seconds behind Hamilton.

Hulkenberg was in sixth 1.275 seconds behind, Grosjean was in seventh 1.367 seconds behind, Perez was eighth with a gap of 1.436 seconds behind, Maldonado was ninth 1.464 seconds behind and Verstappen was in tenth 1.478 seconds behind Hamilton.

During FP3, the medium tyre runs dominated the opening 45 minutes. However, Nico Rosberg who did not take to the track until 22 minutes into the session; surged his way to the top on only his fourth lap and deposed Vettel by three tenths of a second.

Rosberg then traded fastest laps with Hamilton, who had earlier prompted yellow flags momentarily when he radioed in to say he had “lost gears”, bringing him to a halt on track.

Hamilton managed to get going and returned immediately to the pits and following a quick check was back out again, with his first flying lap shaving a tenth off Rosberg’s time. However Rosberg then swiftly responded as moments later he again returned to the top, improving on Hamilton’s lap by almost a third of a second.

Hamilton was then poised to reclaim top spot and set the fastest time in the first sector by three tenths of a second, only to spin into Mergulho. When attempting to explain over the radio, Hamilton said the following:-

‘Don’t know what happened there. The rear gave up real quick and I couldn’t really react to it,” to which engineer Pete Bonnington replied: “Looks like the rear just spun up”.

That had followed a message from Rosberg in which he also claimed the “rear grip dropped away quite a lot” on one of his runs.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race.

But Raikkonen and Vettel are both looking strong this weekend and could snatch pole from them. However, Sainz Jr, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez and Bottas also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Lotus have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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