We’re in the home straight now, heading for the penultimate round of the 2020 season – in balmy and barmy Brazil. São Paulo’s Interlagos circuit may be one of F1’s shortest tracks (on the current calendar only Monaco and Mexico are shorter) but it packs plenty of magic and just a little bit of delirious madness into its 4.309km length.
With the grandstands nice and close to the track on the start-finish straight, race day has a frenetic atmosphere as F1-mad locals pack the house and fire up the drums for some intoxication pre-race samba rhythms. The grid here is one of the most intense of the whole season, but in a wonderful, adrenalin-fuelled way.
The rest of the track is no less exciting, with the Senna S the scene of some fantastic overtaking moves over the years, most recently when Max produced a stupendous drive from the rear of the field to the podium in the wet in 2016.
And it’s the rain that forms Interlagos’ other crazily unpredictable element. In São Paulo at this time of year showers are never too far away and they can turn what might otherwise be a straightforward race into a free-for-all in which anything can happen.
We’re already doing the rain dance for this weekend, but let’s hear what our drivers think about this pocket rocket of a circuit and whether they’ll be getting into the Samba spirit in the city of São Paulo…
You’ve not had the easiest time over the past few races, but does Brazil offer new opportunities for a good weekend?
The atmosphere in Brazil is cool and I had a good race coming through the field there last year. It’s a track that isn’t always that easy to pass on, but last year proved that it can be done and I’m looking forward to going back.
The lap is quite short and lacks high-speed corners but it’s definitely grown on me over the years. The weather can also play a big part in this race, so let’s hope the on-track action can live up to the off-track atmosphere.
Speaking about that atmosphere, what’s it like for drivers preparing the race in the cauldron-like environment of Interlagos?
The Drivers’ Parade is cool with the noise from all the local fans and the air horns. It has a kind of carnival feel which gives you a boost of energy before you get in the car. We always have a big team dinner there, which creates a great atmosphere for everyone. It goes without saying that I’m looking for a strong finish to round off the season with the team and I will be pushing as hard as ever to achieve that.
A bit like the track itself, the team’s fortunes have been a bit up and down at Interlagos. We've had four wins and four other podiums but those contrast with nine non-finishes over the past dozen years. How do you think we might fare this time around?
Interlagos doesn’t suit our car that well, but after finishing on the podium there in 2016 and winning last week in Mexico, anything can happen in the race. I’ve had some great battles and overtakes there and I’m hoping for another exciting race.
Is that excitement helped by the raucous atmosphere in the grandstands?
The Brazilian fans are so loud and because the narrow starting grid is so close to the grandstand you can hear them cheering when you’re sat on the grid.
What about getting out and about? Is there an opportunity to relax at all?
The food in Brazil is really good and the Churrascaria restaurants have amazing grilled meat. Although it’s nearly the end of the season I still have to be careful what I eat in order to stay in shape, which is a shame as I would like to enjoy the local cuisine even more.”