Interlagos - the engineers view 21 Oct 2004
Formula One racings finest technicians on the engineering challenges presented by Sao Paulos Interlagos circuit, giving you an insight into the engine, aero, braking, tyre and strategy needs.
Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams:
Interlagos will be an exciting finale to the season for all the teams as the Sao Paulo track layout provides great overtaking opportunities. We have not raced in the dry here for over two and a half years as last year's race, at the start of the year, was fully wet. The circuit itself is dominated by slow to medium speed corners and straights. The long straights demand a good balance for the corners leading into them.
Strategy will be particularly interesting at Interlagos with such a long pit lane, combined with the tendency to do short first stints. We are confident of a strong challenge in Brazil. It will be the final race for the FW26, and we need to ensure that we finish fourth in the Constructors' Championship.
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
Interlagos is a variable and challenging circuit. The long, uphill start/finish straight will certainly place demands on the BMW P84 engine. In addition, the circuit lies approximately 800 metres above sea level which causes around an 8% loss in engine power due to the low air density, although this obviously affects everybody to the same extent.
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director, BAR:
"Although we are going to Interlagos with an almost secure 2nd place in the Championship given our 16 point gap to third place, the team is not taking the position for granted and will be aiming for a strong performance from both cars. We expect the BAR Honda 006 to perform well at this circuit where the car needs to have good stability and aerodynamic efficiency, and the ability to handle the very bumpy track surface well. These bumps, and the fact that Interlagos is one of the few left-hand circuits on the calendar, mean that it is quite physically demanding on the drivers. Being at altitude, the engine power and aerodynamic forces are down and it is important to have good top speed up the long climb out of the last corner and along the start-finish straight. We expect the performance of the Michelin tyres to be competitive here so we are looking forward to this last race of the season and will try hard to ensure that we can finish off with a strong performance to carry the momentum from a very successful 2004 over the winter in preparation for the 2005 championship."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber:
"Interlagos is a very challenging circuit, with a variety of difficult corners. There is a special combination of the two long straights followed by the infield complex, and that places different demands when you set-up the car. Naturally the straights require low downforce for high top speed which is essential for overtaking, while you need good grip and traction on the infield. As Interlagos is a very bumpy track, the engineers spend a lot of time optimising the mechanical set-up by means of spring, anti-roll bar and damper setting. Simulating these track conditions on our 7-post rig helped to achieve a good compromise for all track conditions.
"Last year we found a good set-up compromise for single-lap qualifying and the race at Interlagos, so I am confident that we will be in good shape also for the final race of this season. The high-speed nature of the track will suit the aerodynamic behaviour of the C23."
James Robinson, Head of Race and Test Engineering, Jordan:
All the classic quotes rightly come back when we return to Sao Paolo: anti-clockwise, undulating, with a beautiful flowing corner sequence. This year we have the included benefits of spring weather and the expected carnival of a last race. The strong changes in elevation and the tighter infield make wing choice interesting, much will depend on the rain together with the strength of our Bridgestone tyres.
Dr Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance, Jaguar:
"In Japan it was evident that the pace of the car was impressive and that made the failure which led to Mark's retirement all the more disappointing. After the race it became apparent that an internal cockpit chassis fixing had come loose, which led to hot air from the engine entering the cockpit and heating Mark's seat to a point which became unbearable for him to continue. We have re-designed this feature to prevent a repeat of this failure and fortunately Mark is fine for the Brazilian race weekend. Following the pace we showed in Japan we hope to capitalise on our recent performance at Interlagos, Brazil, which is my favourite circuit of the season. It normally produces good quality races, often due to the unpredictability of the weather - as we saw last year - when it rains it really rains! The track, which is at a relatively high altitude, has a reasonably flat aeroscan profile requiring medium to high rear wing settings, that can result in large discrepancies in car's end of straight speeds, which in turn creates good overtaking opportunities at the end of turn one. It is quite a physically demanding track for the drivers due to the bumpy track surface and numerous left-hand corners. Last year's car, the R4, went well at Interlagos in both wet and dry conditions, qualifying on Friday in pole and on Saturday in P3, just 5/100ths off of pole. We will be working hard over the weekend along with Cosworth Racing and Michelin to ensure that both cars are as well set up as is possible, and it would be great to see the R5 score some points here."
Pascal Vasselon, Michelin F1 programme manager:
Although the race is taking place almost seven months later than usual, weather conditions are unlikely to be very different - and that means heavy rain is always a distinct possibility.
If you get mixed wet/dry conditions at Interlagos, you find that a number of rivers accumulate at certain points on the circuit. These areas remain very damp, even when the rest of the circuit has dried out. Im sure lots of people remember the F1 scrap yard that developed between Turns Three and Four during last seasons corresponding race.
In dry conditions, the track surface is very abrasive and wear rates are high. It is consequently very tricky to produce tyres that will be consistent over a long run. Furthermore, qualifying times tend to be very close and you need to be aware that losing a tenth of a second could cost you several places on the grid. So, a conservative approach has to be avoided.
We will have a relatively large number of dry-weather tyre options - four, to be exact - and it will be very interesting to analyse their performance on Friday, when teams have to finalise their race selections.
Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport:
"It has been approximately 18 months since our last visit to the Sao Paulo circuit and although we are competing at a different time of year, we expect weather conditions to be similar. Our range of compounds, mid to soft, has therefore not changed dramatically for the relatively smooth track surface. Interlagos can, however, be tough on rear tyres so our teams will be benefiting from Bridgestone's latest specification rear tyre which we expect will give them a competitive edge. We also expect the track to be quite green upon our arrival so it will be a busy day on Friday as the teams assess their tyre choices while having to bear in mind that the track will evolve over the course of the weekend. However, I am very much looking forward to the Brazilian round; it's a great race to finish the season with."
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, McLaren:
Hopefully the race will be dominated by the track action, rather than the weather as in Japan. Due to the surface characteristics of the track, which are bumpy and abrasive, set-up is even more crucial and the circuit is notoriously hard on tyres. Work away from the Grand Prix has been continuing apace at the McLaren Technology Centre and on the test track, both in terms of preparation for Brazil and maintaining our current impetus into the winter season, as we start to work more aggressively on our build-up to Melbourne in just over four months. Of course Brazil will also see Davids last outing as a West McLaren Mercedes racing driver. He has always been 100% committed and has done a great job for the team for the past nine years.
Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
The Interlagos circuit has really special challenges. Because of the bumpy surface, several fast lefthanders and the slow and twisty infield it's a demanding task to find the optimum set-up here. Due to the high grip level the track is hard on the tyres. 56 per cent of a lap is run with full throttle which is below average. The race in Brazil will be David's last race for us. We thank him for his efforts during the nine years he has started for our team. The Brazilian Grand Prix is also our 150th race together - no driver in Formula One history has ever driven more Grands Prix for one team."