"Another great result in Austin and a fantastic achievement to have matched the record for one-two finishes in a single season. America is an important market for Formula One and it was great to see such tremendous support for the race throughout our weekend in Texas. People came from all across the States and created a real carnival atmosphere around the city, which was encouraging to see in a country where there are so many alternatives on offer sports-wise. On track it wasn’t an entirely straightforward weekend, with various problems to deal with throughout the practice sessions. When it came down to it, though, the cars delivered strong performance so all credit to the team for their hard work. The drivers were also in very strong form – competing very evenly and separated by the smallest of margins throughout the race, which was exciting to watch. It’s clear that both are in great shape and enjoying the competition in a healthy way. Looking ahead to Brazil, the majority of the track has been resurfaced which will remain a point of great interest throughout the weekend in terms of how the tyres perform. It’s a tricky circuit at the best of times, with high altitude, significant elevation changes and a high frequency of wet conditions. Already, the weather is forecast to include thunder storms on all three running days! It’s sure to be an exciting weekend and a good prelude to the title showdown in Abu Dhabi."
Interlagos - On the Pit Wall
Mixing it Up
Interlagos is always one of the more challenging circuits in that it invariably throws in a few surprises. Historically it has been the final race of the season, which always incites unusual behaviour from the drivers. Seemingly normal procedures such as pit lane entry, for example, can often catch people out. Drivers know the regulations, however it is far from uncommon to see penalties awarded for repeated infringement of the pit lane entry boundaries, which are slightly unusual at this circuit. Beyond the men behind the wheel, however, there are plenty of unique characteristics which add to that unpredictability factor in São Paulo. The climate is highly variable, with rain often washing out the majority of running before clearing to leave an entirely dry day on the Sunday. This has produced some fascinating races over the years as teams and drivers must adapt quickly to a suddenly unfamiliar set of conditions. Elevation changes around the circuit also lead to rivers forming across the track during sustained periods of rain, which can often lead to sessions being suspended. Track temperatures too can vary significantly, reaching levels as high as 48 degrees and dropping as low as the early twenties. These shifts can occur not only from season to season but from day to day, making it tricky to predict the best set-up direction for each session.
The track has just been resurfaced almost in its entirety, which provides an unknown factor heading into the weekend that cannot be underestimated. Sochi was a case in point, with unusual tyre behaviour arising during the race in particular. The extent of this can depend on the quality of the surface, how long it has been laid down for and the materials used. The smoothness of the surface will also be a factor, with the significant bumps that have historically been a feature of this circuit potentially now negated. Grip levels too, both at the start of the weekend and as running progresses, will have an effect on how many adjustments will need to be made from run to run in order to keep up with that track evolution. These are all questions which must be answered as swiftly as possible. Again, this may well bring a few surprises – particularly with a softer tyre compound allocation that traditionally seen here in the soft and medium.
The high altitude nature of the circuit’s location has always had an effect on baseline engine performance. Electrical power, however, is not affected – making the Hybrid element of the Power Unit all the more potent at this circuit. Factor in a short lap – just a 4.309km in length – and again the influence of electrical power efficiency becomes increasingly prominent. The final sector in particular, with the long climb up to the start-finish straight, will be an area for which the driver must ensure they have saved sufficient Hybrid power to optimise their speed. Too little electrical energy at this point would leave a car highly vulnerable to attack, which should lead to some fascinating battles, lap after lap, as cars pass and re-pass each other along the two DRS straights.
Brazil often sees high quantities of overtaking manoeuvres – and not always at corners which might be expected to create such opportunities. The DRS runs into Turns One and Four are the most obvious opportunities, however is it not uncommon to see drivers making bold moves at places where it might not be imagined possible. This will be a particularly interesting factor with the freshly laid track surface for this year, as drivers explore grip levels around different parts of the circuit. The first corner also often sees a high attrition rate in terms of contact – particularly on the first lap – which again will be exaggerated by a lack of grip level understanding.
With the Constructors’ Championship wrapped up, the majority of teams will now be firmly looking ahead to 2015. Of course, with much at stake in the Drivers’ Championship and a number of inter-team battles still to be decided, this is not universally the case. However, fundamentally it is unlikely that many teams will be bringing anything significantly different to the table at this stage of the season. On top of that, as we enter the final stages of a long, demanding year, human fatigue will inevitably become a factor. Brazil is always a weekend where people start to show signs of being physically run down – and the drivers are no exception. It has been a long season and, with Championships and even careers on the line at this point, there will be an extra strain on bodies and minds that are already feeling the effects of a gruelling calendar.