The Autódromo José Carlos Pace, venue for the Brazilian Grand Prix, provides teams with many of the challenges they faced two weeks ago in Mexico, albeit on a smaller scale.
The track is at 800 meters altitude, which decreases the air density by a little under 10%, and pushes teams to run higher downforce set-ups together with larger cooling configurations. In terms of the track layout, this is also similar to the last race, as straight-line speed dependent sections are mixed with tighter sequences of corners.
Downforce vs Drag
- As mentioned above, teams are pushed to run more downforce than would normally be the case for a track of this nature thanks to the altitude.
- However, those with under-performing engines will not be able to run their highest Aero grip set-ups without too much of a penalty on the straights.
- This applies particularly to Renault, who not only have a PU deficit, but also poor Aerodynamic efficiency, which resulted in an almost Monza-spec front wing being run in Mexico.
Car Strengths Needed
- Good mechanical grip is essential for the middle sector, which is dominated by slow speed corners.
- The kerbs were re-profiled at multiple turns for last year’s race – they are now much higher – so a car with uneven ride compliance should excel.
- A strong power unit is critical for the long drag up the hill from Turn 12 to the first corner.
- Turn 1 – as well as being a good overtaking opportunity, hitting the apex is key here, setting up a flat-out run through Turns 2/3 on to the back straight.
- Turns 6/7 – there is a high-speed section on most tracks that acts as a key performance differentiator between cars, and this uphill, blind sequence provides this in Brazil.
- Turn 12 – good traction on the exit from what is effectively the final corner is critical in order to maximise top speed down the pit straight.
- Once again, softer tyre compounds will be used compared to the 2016 race.
- However, a one-stop strategy is still likely, using the softest compounds available. No team has brought more than the single mandatory set of Medium tyres, so do not expect these to be used, except for installation laps.
- It should be noted that the track was resurfaced for the 2014 race, so is still becoming more abrasive each year, increasing tyre wear.
- This is one of the better tracks for overtaking, with the lack of high speed corners making following other cars less difficult.
- Added to this, there are two long straights, from Turn 12 to Turn 1, and from Turn 3 to Turn 4, both of which have DRS assistance.
- Rain is expected on both Friday and Saturday, which could severely hamper race preparations, given that Sunday is expected to be dry.
- Mercedes and Renault, and most likely other as well, are hoping to run experiments in Friday practice with a view to 2018, but this work may also be disrupted.
- Normally, teams would have the previous years’ data to lean on for a clue to car set-up and pit strategy, but the new 2017 regulations have rendered these irrelevant in many respects.
- The top three teams appear to have their own strengths and weaknesses, evident as the sport moves between different track layouts on a regular basis.
- Mexico serves as a reasonable indicator of what to expect given the similarity in track layout and conditions, so a close fight between these teams should result.
- Behind them, Renault will hope to fight Force India and Williams on more of a level playing field, with its reliability problems under control.
See further analysis by Iman Hansra here>>>