Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Interlagos, 2019

Close grid and rising temperatures promise unpredictable race

2019 Brazilian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix has produced a fascinating grid which will hopefully resolve into a compelling race.

At the pointy end we have three different cars in the top three places for the second race in a row. Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes have converged on performance as the season draws to a close.

Mercedes showed strong race pace on Friday but admitted to taking a wrong step with their set-up in final practice, which they spent most of qualifying undoing. That allowed Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel to squeeze them off the front row of the grid. But the two silver cars lined up behind them will be on the offensive in the race.

Conditions at the track have been getting hotter since the race weekend began. Exactly how warm it gets on Sunday could have a significant bearing on the race.

“We’ll have to go into it with an open mind because the conditions we expect on Sunday are very different from the ones we saw [on Friday], where we did most of our assessment of the tyre behaviour,” said Mercedes technical director James Allison.

“Given that the top three cars are very close to one another in overall performance, I think tomorrow be a race where the car that reacts best to the hotter track, and makes judgments based on the degradation they’re seeing on the fly as the race actually happens, will probably be the ones that are happy at the end of the race.”

Pirelli believes a soft-hard one-stop strategy is the favoured approach on paper. But those hotter temperatures could tip the balance in favour of a soft-soft-medium two-stopper. And the longer teams extend that first stint, the more realistic a soft-medium one-stop may become, if the track conditions allow it.

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Daniel Ricciardo is among those who likes the look of a single-stop approach. “For sure doing [fewer] pit stops is better,” he said. “But maybe a two-stop is fast. I don’t know but I’d like to try and go as long as I could.”

His decision may be influenced by the unusually strong qualifying performance by the Haas pair. Both will start inside the top 10, but recent experienced suggests they’ll slip back in the warmer conditions, and could bottle up the cars behind them.

“Looking around us today typically the Haas, for example, haven’t been that strong this year on tyres in the races,” said Ricciardo. “They’ve both qualified really well today, but maybe tomorrow that kind of bunches the midfield up.”

Behind them an out-of-position Charles Leclerc will be trying to make his way up from 14th on the grid. The only driver from Q3 who will start on medium tyres, he will be hoping that passing doesn’t prove as difficult as it seemed in Friday practice. However the sector times from qualifying indicate he may be running less downforce to boost his straight-line speed, a decision which may lead to higher tyre wear and a greater chance he’ll have to pit twice.

But the heat will play a role in that for every driver, as Ricciardo acknowledged: “If it goes to like 45 degrees track temperature – one report said maybe it even gets up to 50 – I think it could then push a two-stop race being more favourable.”

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Qualifying times in full

DriverCarQ1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Max VerstappenRed Bull1’08.2421’07.503 (-0.739)1’07.508 (+0.005)
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’08.5561’08.050 (-0.506)1’07.631 (-0.419)
3Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’08.6141’08.088 (-0.526)1’07.699 (-0.389)
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1’08.5451’08.232 (-0.313)1’07.874 (-0.358)
5Alexander AlbonRed Bull1’08.5031’08.117 (-0.386)1’07.935 (-0.182)
6Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’08.9091’08.770 (-0.139)1’08.837 (+0.067)
7Romain GrosjeanHaas1’09.1971’08.705 (-0.492)1’08.854 (+0.149)
8Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1’09.2761’08.858 (-0.418)1’08.984 (+0.126)
9Kevin MagnussenHaas1’08.8751’08.803 (-0.072)1’09.037 (+0.234)
10Lando NorrisMcLaren1’08.8911’08.868 (-0.023)
11Daniel RicciardoRenault1’09.0861’08.903 (-0.183)
12Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1’09.1751’08.919 (-0.256)
13Nico HulkenbergRenault1’09.0501’08.921 (-0.129)
14Charles LeclercFerrari1’08.4961’07.888 (-0.608)1’07.728 (-0.160)
15Sergio PerezRacing Point1’09.2881’09.035 (-0.253)
16Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’09.320
17Lance StrollRacing Point1’09.536
18George RussellWilliams1’10.126
19Robert KubicaWilliams1’10.614
20Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Max Verstappen17.425 (2)34.195 (1)15.827 (5)
Sebastian Vettel17.462 (3)34.346 (5)15.823 (4)
Lewis Hamilton17.532 (4)34.248 (2)15.819 (3)
Valtteri Bottas17.621 (5)34.330 (4)15.817 (2)
Alexander Albon17.631 (6)34.384 (6)15.897 (6)
Pierre Gasly17.773 (12)34.955 (9)15.915 (7)
Romain Grosjean17.786 (13)34.830 (7)16.089 (15)
Kimi Raikkonen17.731 (9)35.122 (14)15.973 (9)
Kevin Magnussen17.756 (11)34.932 (8)16.065 (14)
Lando Norris17.717 (7)35.052 (11)15.987 (11)
Daniel Ricciardo17.799 (14)35.052 (11)15.982 (10)
Antonio Giovinazzi17.754 (10)35.205 (15)15.960 (8)
Nico Hulkenberg17.857 (16)34.973 (10)16.024 (12)
Charles Leclerc17.417 (1)34.265 (3)15.804 (1)
Sergio Perez17.822 (15)35.094 (13)16.028 (13)
Daniil Kvyat17.899 (17)35.227 (16)16.093 (16)
Lance Stroll17.926 (18)35.393 (17)16.203 (17)
George Russell18.093 (19)35.669 (19)16.229 (18)
Robert Kubica18.199 (20)36.119 (20)16.266 (19)
Carlos Sainz Jnr17.728 (8)35.553 (18)18.929 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari330.6 (205.4)
2Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault330.4 (205.3)-0.2
3Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda330.4 (205.3)-0.2
4Max VerstappenRed BullHonda330.2 (205.2)-0.4
5Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari330.0 (205.1)-0.6
6Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari329.7 (204.9)-0.9
7Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes329.6 (204.8)-1.0
8Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari329.5 (204.7)-1.1
9Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes327.7 (203.6)-2.9
10Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault327.6 (203.6)-3.0
11Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari327.5 (203.5)-3.1
12Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda327.3 (203.4)-3.3
13George RussellWilliamsMercedes327.2 (203.3)-3.4
14Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault327.1 (203.3)-3.5
15Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda327.1 (203.3)-3.5
16Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari326.9 (203.1)-3.7
17Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault326.0 (202.6)-4.6
18Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes325.3 (202.1)-5.3
19Robert KubicaWilliamsMercedes324.9 (201.9)-5.7
20Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes324.7 (201.8)-5.9

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Over to you

Will Verstappen finally claim a Brazilian Grand Prix victory after missing out in 2016 and 2018? What can Leclerc do from 14th on the grid?

Share your views on the Brazilian Grand Prix in the comments.

2019 Brazilian Grand Prix

Browse all 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix articles

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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8 comments on “Close grid and rising temperatures promise unpredictable race”

  1. Here’s hoping Ferrari has some race pace today.

  2. Max always was a very strong starter. There were some issues with the reaction of the Honda engine that seems to be solved lately. So a strong start and there will be redemption for the last year in sight .
    Without Merc driver looking for a career move it should work this time.

    1. erikje, not this stupid conspiracy theory again – particularly since it doesn’t seem to have done much for Ocon’s career at Mercedes now, does it?

      It’s as stupid as those who harassed and abused Glock in the 2008 Brazilian GP, and those rioters who threatened to kill him and the mechanics at Toyota after the conspiracy theories spread round then that he was letting Hamilton through to win because he was promised a seat at McLaren. It was, of course, a seat that quite obviously never materialised, but the threats that were serious enough that it took armed police to escort Toyota’s trucks out of the circuit and most of Toyota’s mechanics had to be smuggled out in disguise to stop them being lynched.

      People seem to think that spreading these sorts of conspiracies don’t have any consequences and seem to think that no harm will come of it yet, to use the example of Glock from 2008, even now, more than a decade on, he still faces harassment and death threats from those who still promote and believe those conspiracies.

      I know that there are those who want to vent their anger and frustration through such conspiracies, but do so without realising that there can be serious consequences and without thinking of what it is like for others to be on the receiving end of constant abuse and threats from those peddling such nonsense.

  3. Assuming a boring start, Max has this nailed on. :-)

  4. I think the sector times are wrong, because leclerc is faster in all 3 sectors than vettel and vettel did faster lap time…

  5. With his better tire consumption I see Hamilton undercutting Vettel and then running down verstappen in the third stint.

  6. Barring first lap incidents (almost assured), this should be another Max-Lewis battle. Though I expect to Max to win, Mercedes’ race pace and Hamilton’s tyre management could make it close.

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