Will Vettel bounce back in Brazil?

2011 Brazilian Grand Prix preview

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The last season finale in Brazil produced an epic race

After racing at F1’s three newest venues the contrast in Brazil could hardly be greater.

On one hand we have Yas Marina with its spectacular hotel and ultra-modern facilities. But a meagre (by F1 standards) crowd of 50,000 was enough to achieve sell-out capacity at an insipid and tedious track.

On the other hand we have Interlagos, where F1 opulence is cheek-by-jowl with appalling poverty, and the drivers arrive with armed bodyguards to protect themselves. But the track is a gem and the crowd is as large as it is passionate.

The Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace circuit in Interlagos has served up a series of exciting races without the need for gimmicks like DRS. Recognising this, the FIA have limited the DRS zone to single point on the track for Sunday’s race, not wanting to make overtaking “too easy”.

The success of Interlagos as a racing circuit gives food for thought for those planning the next Yas Marina. It gives the lie to the assumptions behind many modern track designs that leave fans and drivers alike wanting.

It does not have India’s bizarrely wide corner entries nor Abu Dhabi’s bowling green smoothness. Above all, it spurns the excessively long 5.5km length of modern tracks with a compact layout shorter than anything on the calendar bar Monaco.

This has multiple benefits. Lower lap times means closer qualifying sessions. It also means tighter queues of cars and more lapped traffic, all of which adds up greater opportunities for overtaking.

It also means the cars pass the spectators much more often – 71 times in a race instead of the usual 50-odd.

The race organisers have their eye on one of the track’s deficiencies – the lack of run-off in some places – and are planning changes for next year’s race. However it looks like the track layout will remain unchanged, and that is something to be celebrated.

The season finale

Vettel is out to bounce back from his Abu Dhabi disappointment

The last time Interlagos hosted the season finale it produced one of the greatest races I have seen: the epic 2008 championship showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa.

With the championships already won and forgotten about, it’s doubtful anything could match that peak of excitement this weekend.

There is the prospect of record-breaking on Sunday as Sebastian Vettel could become the first ever driver to set 15 pole positions in a season.

Yas Marina promised to be an intriguing contest between Hamilton – who was quick all weekend up until Q3 – and Vettel. But the contest was over the moment Vettel’s tyre failed.

Hamilton has the chance to end the season on something of a high following repeated setbacks earlier in the year.

While the local crowd will focus its attention on Massa, it’s hard to see him figuring in the fight for outright victory. A podium finish would certainly be welcome, though: Alonso has had ten this season while Massa is yet to finish higher than fifth.

All three of the home drivers find themselves under pressure. Rubens Barrichello’s future with Williams is uncertain and there is the chance this could be his final race.

The same goes for Bruno Senna who is working to keep his place at Renault. Today’s confirmation that Robert Kubica will not be back with the team at the beginning of next year makes it a straight fight between Senna and Romain Grosjean for Renault’s second seat, assuming Vitaly Petrov isn’t going anywhere.

Both Renault drivers have been plagued by technical problems in recent races. It would take a significant upset for the team to lose its grasp on fifth in the constructors’ championship in the final race, but stranger things have happened at Interlagos.

Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso’s three-way contest for sixth, seventh and eighth places will finally be resolved. This may sound like small bier in the rankings remember the distribution of prize money for these places is crucial for the smaller teams.

New tyres, tired engines

Interlagos circuit information

Lap length 4.309km (2.677 miles)
Distance 71 laps (305.9km/190.1 miles)
Lap record* 1’11.473 (Juan Pablo Montoya, 2004)
Fastest lap 1’09.822 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)
Tyres Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Interlagos track data in full

As the drivers reach the end of their engine allocation for 2011 they will have to make sure their remaining units have enough life to cope with the peculiar demands of Interlagos.

The long, uphill drag from Juncao to the start/finish straight places a premium on engine performance. Although the altitude of the circuit helps reduce the load on engine internals, the lower air density means the engine has to work much harder.

On top of that, drivers will have new tyres to use. For this first time this year the original-specification soft tyres will be absent from a race. Pirelli has replaced them with the new soft compound tested in Yas Marina.

Motorsport director Paul Hembery explained: “The idea is to find a tyre that’s closer in performance to the super soft.

“At the moment the delta gap in peak performance is too high. From that point of view we’ve found up to a half a second improvement over the current soft tyre.”

However this weekend the new soft tyre is paired with the medium tyre, so expect a larger gap in performance between the two.

Hembery added the new tyre: “also has an improved resistance to blistering which is something we wanted to improve on the hotter, more aggressive tracks.”

2011 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 1.28 1.53 1 4 17/18 Form guide
Mark Webber 3.89 3.47 2 5 17/18 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3.56 3.75 1 8 16/18 Form guide
Jenson Button 4.56 3.06 1 6 16/18 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 4.56 3.41 1 7 17/18 Form guide
Felipe Massa 5.72 6.47 5 11 15/18 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 10.33 7.77 4 17 13/18 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 7.61 7.69 5 12 16/18 Form guide
Nick Heidfeld 13.36 8.5 3 12 8/11 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 10.22 10.73 3 17 15/18 Form guide
Rubens Barrichello 14.94 13.2 9 17 15/18 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 14.44 14.62 10 18 13/18 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 11.78 10.13 6 15 16/18 Form guide
Paul di Resta 11.72 11.24 6 18 17/18 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 13.72 10.64 5 16 14/18 Form guide
Sergio Perez 13.81 11.58 7 17 12/16 Form guide
Sebastien Buemi 14.61 11.15 8 15 13/18 Form guide
Jaime Alguersuari 14.39 11.87 7 21 15/18 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.11 15.85 13 19 13/18 Form guide
Jarno Trulli 19.24 16.77 13 20 13/17 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23.13 20 17 24 7/8 Form guide
Vitantonio Liuzzi 22.44 19.75 13 23 12/16 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.61 17.85 15 21 13/18 Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio 21.89 18.07 14 22 15/18 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 17 12 12 12 1/1 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 22.6 19.14 18 22 7/10 Form guide
Karun Chandhok 20 20 20 20 1/1 Form guide
Bruno Senna 12 13.43 9 16 7/7 Form guide

Will it be another win from pole for Vettel this weekend? Or can McLaren end the season with back-to-back victories? And how will the home drivers do?

Share your thoughts on the season finale in the comments.

2011 Brazilian Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    71 comments on “Will Vettel bounce back in Brazil?”

    1. I think given the predictions of a very wet weekend it’s rather early to put predictions, but it would be a brave man that would bet on Vettel being outside the top 2 at the very least

    2. Why does vettel need to bounce back? He had a tyre failure.

      1. Exactly,Didnt put a foot wrong,Its not Vettel’s fault that the car picked up a puncture at the 2nd corner of the 1st lap.

        1. yes it was. He hit the kerb hard on the exit to the first corner, causing his own puncture on his cold, low pressured tyres.

          Nobody has said this, but if you watch it back, its obvious that is what happened.

          1. maybe you should work for Pirelli/Red Bull

            1. Maybe you should watch the video. :)

            2. @nixon , and from doing that you could see plenty of others taking the same line as SV.

          2. @mike-e
            You don’t know this. It is just a theory, and it is just as good as all the others.

            The only problem is, drivers have been tackling high curbs all year from T1 on the first lap to the very last corner of the last lap on tyres as thin as paper. Yet tyre failures very rarely happen, as the tyres are build to tackle tall curbs, and the curbs are designed so they WON’T cause a puncture if you use them, as that would be seriously dangerous.
            It is never good to take a failing tyre over a tall curb, but whether the tyre would fail or stay intact was decided by luck.
            It might not have failed had he not used the tall curb, but who would have known that? No one on earth could guess that the tyre would let go if he used the outside of the curb at T1.
            The tyres and the curbs are build to be treated like that.

            1. @mads yeah it is just a theory, but if you look closely at the design of the kerb it seems to be flat, then have a cut away channel, then on the other side of this dip there is a higher flat faced section. If you look at the video it looks as though as he has the tyre loaded and squashed, he goes across this cut away channel and hits the rim on the flat face on the other side of it, quite hard too. It was this action which obviously caused the tyre to fail IMO, but its unclear whether the rim broke, the tyre was cut against the rim (IMO this is most likely) or if the tyre was pulled from the rim with the forces.

              Obviously without the data you cant say this is fact, but using the facts we do have, a little common sense and observation along with the laws of physics and reality, its easy to draw up a fairly educated guess on the whole thing.

            2. @mike-e
              Except that on that track all drivers use the curbs extensively, as they loose little to no time running nearly off the track, so they can afford to push hard.
              If going over the curb caused that problem, either the curb wouldn’t have been deemed safe in the first place and would have been changed or we would have seen punctures all over the place.
              Yes his front tyre wiggled a bit when he got over the tall outside bit of the curb, but as I say, the tyres are build to take a lot harder punishment then that. And the curbs are designed to NOT be able to cause a puncture.

              It might have been running over the curb that caused it, but something else MUST have been wrong as well. Either the tyre structure, debris, damage to the curb etc. so it was just one of those things that happens, due to bad luck.
              But I cannot see it as a driver error. Not at all.
              It might be him who guided the car over the curb, but no one would ever have guessed that it would be able to cause a puncture. Especially not the kind of instant failure he had. Like they said on the BBC, a normal puncture is pretty slow and the tyre only really starts to go after a several corners, his rear tyre was gone after 15 meters.
              Something else must have been wrong, and whether it was the tyre or the rim etc. I guess we will never know.

          3. @mike-e and why exactly would his tyres be low pressure? i know the commentary keeps talking of low pressure, but the differences are minimal. Back in Martin Brundle’s day there would have been a lot more pressure change from cold to hot tyres, but nitrogen is a lot more consistent in terms of pressures.

            1. Nitrogen is not more consistent than air in terms of pressures. The coefficients of thermal expansion, Beta, (C°)^-1 are:
              Air 3.67 * 10^-3
              Nitrogen 3.67 * 10^-3
              The only reason that nitrogen is used is that it is easier to use totally dry nitrogen from a gas bottle/tank, because any water vapour will have an exponentially greater effect on tyre pressure as the temperature increases.

            2. @paul-a as you say. The actual gases will expand/contract and change pressure in the same manner. I’m not sure where you got your expansion coefficient from, but one only needs to look at ideal gas laws to derive that.

              But in terms of filling a tyre, the issue lies with the water vapor in air, which is what would make the difference. Which again is something you pointed out. We’re agreed on every point, it’s just that I didn’t bother pointing out the finer details

          4. Nobody has said this, but if you watch it back, its obvious that is what happened.

            Oh man, would all those engineers’ faces be red if you told them all they ever needed to do was watch the replay. Can’t believe they didn’t think of that…

          5. this tyre thing its just an PR problem. Redbull runs low pressures, lower than recomended and Vettel happen to be unlucky, Pirelli says that they werent at fault and Redbull strange that hadnt happened before, so they obviously believe it was something of extraordinary. In the end I dont think he needs to hit back, nontheless he will and finally win again.

    3. I’ve almost forgot the feeling of a great season finale, I really hope Brazil delivers.

    4. Will Vettel bounce back in Brazil?

      The headline and the article just dont relate. Bounce back from….??

      1. @1abe It’s the race preview, a fact made abundantly clear by the big green letters that say “2011 Brazilian Grand Prix preview”.

        1. Oh no..How could i have missed those “big green letters that say “2011 Brazilian Grand Prix preview”..? Silly me.

          Anyways, I was just wondering “what” exactly should he bounce from? Tyre failure? Its not that he was out of form or anyting. Just saying the headline could be different or should i say better. I dont know, maybe, a “Will it be a Vettel-Hamilton showdown in Brazil?” Just saying. But anyways, it doesn’t matter, does it? Cheers

          1. @1abe

            Its not that he was out of form or anyting.

            I never said he was.

            1. opttimisticBrazilian
              23rd November 2011, 17:37

              You never said he was, but bouncing back means (or at least implies) he needs (or is expected) to recover from some situation where he performed under expectations, isnt it? Too many people noticed this inconsistency, so maybe there is some point in it Keith =)…but the article is what it counts, and looks great.

            2. bouncing back means (or at least implies) he needs (or is expected) to recover from some situation where he performed under expectations, isnt it?

              No, that’s just what you and some other people chose to read into it.

            3. Bouncing back does not imply recovering from one’s own mistake. It is merely to move on from a bad result, which clearly going out on the first lap is. What’s with the negativity? Keith provides a fabulous website with lots of great material – can people not engage with that instead of nit-picking around the edges?

        2. I don’t think that was his question. I think it was more like, if the headline of the race preview is the above, why is there no section in the article discussing the matter. Not that its important but I guess it is somewhat of a point even though there is nothing for Vettel to bounce back from, a tyre failure surely doesn’t make that necessary.
          By the way, good read as always from you, this is why I always come back to the website instead of many others.

          1. @bananarama

            why is there no section in the article discussing the matter

            There is, under “the season finale”.

        3. My mistake,Sorry;Must stop jumping to conclusions

      2. bounce back from….. the disappointment of a retirement.

        1. @mike-e A Google +1 for you.

        2. This is exactly how I read it.

          This nitpicking of article titles is getting really tedious.

      3. The retirement was his worst result in what has been a truly incredible season for him. Therefore, if he wants to recapture a result fitting of his form, he needs to bounce back from that retirement- regardless of the fact that the retirement was not his fault.

        Startlingly obvious I’d have thought. I feel like I may as well have described the subheading, as I thought that was also painfully self-descriptive.

    5. On the other hand we have Interlagos, where F1 opulence is cheek-by-jowl with appalling poverty

      Wow. I have read to much articles describing Social Contrasts in Brazil, but this quote was particularly…ehhh… elegant!

      Great article!

      1. opttimisticBrazilian
        23rd November 2011, 17:26

        Well, as a brazilian I have to agree there is poverty, and for your standards in UK and europe it may appear appailling poverty, but Keith the term is very exaggerated compared with poverty in other parts of the word..I think you wanted to stress too much but be aware that Brazil is not as poor as it was 5 or 10 years ago…I live here, I know what Im talking about. But no worries, you said many good things, about the track which is the main subject here, but please be more careful next time around… I also agree with the “bounce back” part to sound a little bit pointless, but uninportant detail as well, your article is great anyway… cheers from Brasil (yes, with S)

        1. Yeah, and I see many articles putting a lot of focus on how unsafe it is in Brazil, etc… I don’t see it being bad as people picture… there was even some journalist that twitted that he had his Visa, his FIA pass, blah blah, and now was only missing a bullet proof vest in order to be ready to come to Brazil. That’s a bit too much. It’s just that Jenson’s incident is still fresh in the memories of everyone. I agree, not the safest place F1 visits, but not that bad…

          1. there was even some journalist that twitted that he had his Visa, his FIA pass, blah blah, and now was only missing a bullet proof vest in order to be ready to come to Brazil

            That wasn’t a journalist, it was Gianluca Pisanello, Jarno Trulli’s race engineer. It was in the round-up today:


      2. I personally believe the whole introduction was a great piece of journalism, it’s a shame there is so much focus on the header. Although I think it has now had enough explanation, for those of you who have never been in a race situation, if 1 driver wins the majority of the races for the year and then doesn’t place/finish (for whatever reason), there is confidence, doubt and other physiological obstacles to overcome.
        Not saying that Vettel will be affected by these, but i am sure Hamilton is certainly feeling alot better about his car and performance since the last race

    6. sad they didn’t go for no DRS at all. They tried two DRS zones, they could’ve tried non at all.

      1. heh. Be careful what you wish for :P – you don’t want them to suddenly allow people unrestricted use of DRS if they’re within 1 second of the car in front – it’s something which I can see FIA doing.

        1. @raymondu999 Don’t think that’s quite what @ferno.65 meant…

          1. @mclarenfanjamm I know it’s not. But @fer-no65 says “they tried x, they could’ve tried y.” Basically saying they could try many things; and I sure don’t want to see them trying a DRS free-for-all-except-leader.

            1. @raymondu999 well, no DRS zone is much more doable than 3, 4, 5 DRS zones :P

      2. Yeah, I hoped they would try not having a DRS zone here too @fer-no65

    7. We don’t seem to have had the updates on engine use like we have in the past. Are those stats not available or are they just not interesting any more?
      Does anyone have those figures?

      1. I think it’s harder to keep track of engine use these days, since they changed from the old “no engine race for X races” rule to “you have X engines, use them as you want throughout the year”. An engine that can no longer be raced can still be reused in P1, especially when you put your third driver in it :)

        1. Ah ok, thanks Keith, it’s a shame the data is not available. I’m sure I read somewhere that Webber had 2 new engines for the last 2 races, which seems odd… particularly when he was one of the few drivers not to take one at Monza.

    8. If it’s wet, I can see a McLaren coming out on top. But then again, Vettel is due for a win in the wet, and he did win his first two Grands Prix in pouring rain!

      If it’s dry, I can’t see any reason why Vettel wouldn’t win. He didn’t make any real mistakes in Abu Dhabi except for in practice, and put his car on pole when it was looking likely that McLaren had the faster car. The puncture was nothing more than a car failure and I can’t imagine it would have affected him at all. He has nothing to lose now and he can afford to go all out and put the icing on the almost-perfect cake he’s been crafting all year! :P

    9. I guess Vettel will win as last year. Red Bull are strong here, McLaren can be second as Ferrari haven’t been too good at Interlagos since the rule changes in 2009.

    10. I hope Vettel gets the 15th pole of the year, not that it’ll quieten those that say ‘he had 19 races not 16’
      Qualy should be really close though with the 70 second laps and maybe some drizzle on race day or some drama could lead to a surprise result at both ends of the top 10

    11. Hey Hermann look! This track doesn’t have 20+ corners!

      1. @pjtierney To be pedantic; actually; which of Tilke’s circuits have 20 corners? Sepang, Bahrain, Turkey, China, Abu Dhabi, Korea and India are his circuits and I think they all are below 20… The only one above 20 which springs to mind is Valencia which I believe is not a Tilke creation.

        1. it is, he chose the streets and some were custom-built for the circuit. so it’s identity as a tilkedrome is a valid reason for everyone hating it. :)

          1. @pielighter dear me I didn’t realize that. Thanks for the correction. But to be fair that’s the worst circuit he has. The others are a lot better.

            1. @raymondu999

              The others are a lot better.

              No they’re not, they’re all pretty awful !

              Tilke has designed about a dozen F1 circuits and between them there isn’t a single one I’d pay to attend an F1 GP that was being held there.

              He’s designed a couple of decent corners, most notably Turn 8 at Istanbul, but he’s yet to design a single F1 circuit that comes close to Spa, Interlagos, Monza or any of the top quality circuits around the world.

        2. A bit hyperbole @raymondu999, but you must admit that Tilke really seems not to be able to do less than 16-18 turns and the 1 or 2 horribly long straights.

      2. Hey Hermann look! No mile-long straight bookended by chicanes!
        No stupid amounts of runoff!
        PJ you legend. XD

        1. Having said that, there are two significant straights at Interlagos… but they work well – the home straight has nice kinks in it (but still flat out) and the one after turn three is nice too, as there’s a decent braking zone at the end of it and the exit from the Senna ‘S’ can be tricky to get right (as well as being a great overtaking spot).

    12. Finally, the season finale. I can’t believe how long this year has been.

      For some reason I think we might get a similar race to that of 2004, when JPM and Kimi went head to head, being on the limit all afternoon. No one cared who came out on top, as long as the racing was good. And I hope we’ll see something like that on Sunday, maybe between Vettel and Hamilton this time.

    13. I fully expect Vettel to spring back and be on pole. As he did after Spa last year and after Canada and Germany this year.

      But he might just be beaten by either McLaren. For me it would be a dream podium to see either Webber or Massa winning, although the latter is even less realistic than the former.
      And a wonderfull bonus would be Rubens to get a last podium before telling us it was his last race in the post race press conference (anyone thinks there’s some truth to Rubens to Ex-Renault-Lotus rumour?).

      The brazillians seem most exited about having the name Senna on the grid (with Rubens so far back and both him and Massa having suffered from being their team mates stooge), so having him on the podium would be good as well.

      Anyway, i just hope we see a really good race to end the season. We might see some rain (wasn’t he last time we had that in Canada?), not bad for a change and it might actually give us something unexpected.

    14. This race is going to be an immense classic in rainy/mixed conditions. I have a possitive feeling about it.

      Watching a race at Interlagos is like watching a race back in the 1990’s, don’t know why, but it sends chivers down my spine.

    15. i think there’s 2 factors that can affect the race :
      1 weather conditions
      2 because interlagos circuit lies 750 metres above sea level so the low air density causes all engines around an 8 % loss of power (i don’t know who’s the team that will be the most affected)

      1. they are all around 750bhp so in theory they should all have 690bhp but a good KERS is still worth 80bhp so it comes into play more, so maybe the 3 new teams may struggle a bit more, although its a short lap
        Lotus were hoping for Q2 if they get it spot on and someone else doesn’t get a great lap in.

      2. If they are all affected by 8%, they will be affected equally ;-)

        1. @Noelinho incorrect. Those teams with more engine power will be affected more. The Ferrari engine last year had around 804bhp (Yep – the engines aren’t as down on power as a lot of people think). 8% of that would be 64.32bhp – down to 739.68bhp

          If say another team had 790bhp (only 14 less bhp) that would a decrease of of 63.2bhp to 726.8.

          The differences in bhp (who has more/less) will also decrease by 8%.

          But in terms of competitive order, then you’re correct; as all teams will lose 8%. Relative order of engine merits will stay the same

          1. It depends whether you look at the absolute or releative difference. Relatively, they remain equally affected, assuming other parameters are equal (which they aren’t).

    16. Rain is expected in all three days of the weekend,the last race of the season will be something to savor.

      1. Hopefully it will be, with a surprise on the podium.

    17. Keith, let us not forget, the epic season finale from 2007 where Kimi became World Champion with one point difference. In a race like last years final race with three title contenders.
      The second time in my life I didn’t have any nails left after 2 hours. Just like Jacques Villeneuve’s victory in Estoril in 1997.

    18. I am praying for a rainy and chaotic race, in the vein of 2003´s GP, but without those terrible accidents. Moreover, I would like to see different drivers in the podium, perhaps Schumacher, Rosberg and Di Resta, they have done some great races so they deserve it.

      I miss those races where other drivers used to have the chance of reaching the podium, nowadays F1 is too predictable(and the cars too reliable), at least in my opinion.

      1. nowadays F1 is too predictable(and the cars too reliable), at least in my opinion

        It’s not just your opinion mate, I’m in full agreement with you :-)

    19. From a track orientation point of view it’s really Red Bulls pole to lose. I hope Vettel gets pole, just for his stats. He may not get another chance to dominate so much.

      Who knows in the race though. It’s so incredibly right and windy round Interlagos.

      I’m not bothered who wins but I want a great season finale.

      Enjoy everyone!

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