In Formula 1 appreciation for circuits comes in many forms. There are tracks such as Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring where regardless of the actual facilities (both are pretty darn good) the appeal lies in the fact that both are home races, where the support is incredible and you feed off the buzz.
Then there are tracks that work simply because of the paddock environment – the exceptional facilities in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi spring to mind. And finally there are circuits where the appeal stems solely from the track itself – layouts that inspire admiration and trepidation in equal measure – Spa, Suzuka, Monaco and Monza are the obvious candidates.
Brazil’s Interlagos isn’t one that immediately occurs and yet it most definitely falls somewhere between the first and last of the above categories, in that it’s a track where the atmosphere and passion always hit the rev limiter and where the undulating circuit almost always guarantees good racing.
It’s not a long layout (at 4.309km it’s the third shortest lap of the year) but it packs plenty of punch. From the steep downhill twist of turns one and two (the Senna S) to the bumpy high-speed blast from turn two to turn four (Descida do Lago) and all the way through the twisty infield to the final bury-the-pedal-and-hope-for-the-best uphill sweep from turn 12 (Junçao) to the pit straight and turn one it’s a track that fires the senses and always provides to some pretty hectic racing.
And if it rains (which it frequently and furiously does) then hold on because the race rapidly turns into a high-speed lottery where only the very best prosper. Just ask Max who went from P16 after a pit stop in response to a safety car to P3 in just a handful of truly inspired laps in a rain-hit race in 2016. Or even further back in our history, ask Sebastian Vettel about sealing his third world title with the Team in Brazil in 2012 when a first-lap collision dropped him way back down the order and he was forced to fight his way through to P6 to take the crown.
And the kicker is that the inevitable drama that unfolds in São Paulo always comes with a high-tension soundtrack of thunderous drumming and deafening singing from the packed grandstands. The waves of support (and occasionally vitriol) from the crowd are tangible and just add to the intensity of a grand prix in Interlagos.
And this weekend, Alex will get his first taste of the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, while Max returns to happy hunting ground where he’s never finished outside the points. Are they up for it? You bet they are…
You’ve raced in Brazil four times and had four points finishes, including podiums in 2016 and last year. It’s a bit of a lucky circuit for you isn’t it?
Interlagos is a short track but it’s good and a lot of fun to drive. It has a good combination of corners and it’s also anti-clockwise so it’s a bit heavier on the neck. Qualifying is pretty important there as overtaking is not so easy. The track is also quite hard on tyres so you need to look after them throughout the race.
What about the weather? The forecast is predicting some thunderstorms this weekend, though maybe not on race day.
As we saw in 2016, crazy weather can happen! But whatever happens, Brazil has a lot of passionate fans who live and breathe F1 so it’s always great to see that and it makes for a great atmosphere.
Alex, you’re heading for your first Brazilian Grand Prix at unpredictable Interlagos, what are your expectations?
It looks very cool and it’s a driver’s track that takes you back to the old school of racing, which I enjoy. Interlagos has a lot of history and it’s one of the circuits I’ve been looking forward to most this year to drive. Obviously I’ve never been before but from what I understand the weather is always going to be tricky there which always makes for an exciting weekend.