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Brazilian GP: Close fight between McLaren and Red Bull but rain on the way
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Red Bull
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Nov 2011   |  9:40 pm GMT  |  22 comments

The first day of practice for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix saw some close lap times between the two leading teams, Red Bull and McLaren, promising a tense battle for the final race of the season.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the day, just over a tenth clear of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, but the long runs were interesting. The Red Bull was 8/10ths faster than the McLaren, but allowing for the difference in fuel loads, they were close.

Red Bull tends to do its long runs using the fuel load it would typically start the second stint of the race with, while McLaren tend to run with full tanks. Allowing for the difference in weight their lap times are closely matched.

Ferrari is again a little bit back from the front two teams, with Mercedes a little closer than they have been. In the midfield battle Force India look in good shape to make it into the top ten in qualifying. They lie 15 points behind Renault so they need both cars solidly in the points on Sunday to have a chance of moving up to fifth in the constructors’ championship.

Further back, Lotus look they have made a step forward with their new rear wing, which has better downforce and a bigger DRS effect than before. The update looks to be worth several tenths of a second; not enough to catch the midfield cars in qualifying, but they may be able to race with Williams.

This is a track where the exhaust blown diffusers, making their final outing before being banned next year, are very important. It is very apparent, for example, from watching and listening at the entry to the Senna S how much the systems are working on the car, giving a lot of extra rear-end grip. Some drivers are using this grip to take more aggressive lines over kerbs around the track.

What was also apparent today with the Pirelli tyres is that the rear tyres are the limiting factor, as has been the case in the past with the Bridgestones. But the soft tyre looks like it will last at least 20 laps, so a two stop strategy is a good bet for many runners.

That said, the rain showers which were forecast at 60% likelihood earlier in the week now look almost certain to come and teams prepared today with that in mind. Last year’s qualifying was rain affected and we could see showers both tomorrow and on Sunday.

This would make qualifying more of a lottery than Vettel would like; he needs one more podium to set a new record for a season at 15.

It would also mean that if the race started wet, but dried out, teams would not need to use the slower medium tyre during the race. The tyre looks to be between 0.8s to 1 sec per lap slower than the soft.

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  1. irish con says:

    i will be on a plane home from durban while the race is on on sunday so i guess it will be a iplayer and hdmi job for me on monday.

  2. goferet says:

    Thank you Brazil for this has set up nicely for a mighty scrap come qualifying & race day.

    It’s a shame we might not see what the two tyres can bring to the table but I think we will be trying to steal from the 2012 soap opera.
    That drama will play out next year so no need to get greedy & I would rather we were surprised then.

    Yes, Vettel doesn’t appear to be on pole this time round for I believe his fairly god mother has finally left his shoulder & when the bad luck bug infects you, it’s terminal so expect to see Webber out qualify & out race the Wunderkid for the first time in a really long time.

    Now, am amazed Force India is just 15 points behind Renault, darn, no wonder Petrov had his rant earlier & I really hope Sutil is the one that’s able to make the difference, how then would they justify firing him.


    Say JA on F1, have you happened to bump into Vettel this weekend? If so, how has his mood been like so far!

    From experience, whenever Brundle mentions that he hasn’t seen the happy-go-lucky Vettel roaming the paddocks, that weekend always ends up in being bad for the FINGER.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes and he’s smiley – as usual!

      1. Glenn says:

        Gee, I wonder what Seb’s got to smile about ;)
        Maybe he’s happy for Mark winning the DHL fastest lap award. There’s some pretty handy names on that trophy.
        Still, I’m predicting we’ll see the FINGER twice this weekend.It’s a matter of pride.

  3. Rob Newman says:

    It looked like Ferrari were concentrating more on 2012 rather than the Sunday race.

    I was surprised to see Vergne struggling in FP1 but Grosjean looked more confident and happy.

    Feel sorry for Barrichello. But I don’t think there is anything he can offer that is another driver can’t offer these days. Ciao amigo!

  4. Rob Newman says:

    Have to admit Vetel’s helmet cam is good but it made me a bit sick.

    1. James Allen says:

      It will not be used in the race

      1. Raymond U says:

        James on the subject of those helmet cams, is that;and the cam that Vettel used in qualifying last race in Abu Dhabi going to be standard issue from next year?

      2. James Allen says:

        I think it’s a trial run and it seemed to work well. As did the one he carried in Abu Dhabi which showed his eyes. FOM TV is always trying new technologies.

        In the past they sometimes didn’t appear on the World Feed but were kept as value added goodies for Pay TV. Let’s hope that’s not the case with these cameras next year

      3. mo kahn says:

        Awww, that is rather sad news that the helcam won’t be used in the race… It is by far the most exciting visual ever, spectators such as myself get the closest to the actuality.

        James, Any specific reason why FIA doesn’t make it mandatory for every driver to have one? or are there any safety compromises for the driver wearing one?

      4. James Allen says:

        It’s not the FIA it’s FOM that does the cameras. I think you’ll see it next year (unless it’s exclusive to Sky!)

      5. mo kahn says:

        Any provision that constitutes monopoly must be discouraged in F1. Having said that, F1 is an expensive sport and new revenue channels must continuously be adopted sustain high-cost bearing or to increase profitability of the F1 as a business enterprise.

        So, if Sky is given exclusive telecasting rights for Helcams then it must be provided to them at premium and the revenue generated there-forth must benefit the entire F1 fraternity and not a single section of F1.

        For Helcam telecasting is the closest a spectator can get to through the drivers’ eyes. So, telecasting rights of which must carry high-value premium.

        There is however, a query James, does Helcam compromise safety for the driver in anyway? if yes then, how stringent were tests conducted and profile of tests conducted and the results of which been carefully examined and applied?

      6. mo kahn says:

        I meant if NO… excuse me :)

  5. David says:

    good update to the point, thanks

  6. Tony Kulla says:

    The helmet cam should be strong inspiration for the next F1 video game. It definitely added a sense of speed and the effect of the curbs on the view was jarring but intense.

  7. Chris Severin says:

    Is there any chance that next year we could get some proper analysis of times in free practice.

    Yes you have inlcuded here some specific detail of long run pace but I regularly find myself being frustrated by not really understanding what the teams are looking at. For example, were Lotus running back to back comparisons today and if so can we see the times set? I guess in this case it was so obviously an improvement they didn’t need a back to back but you know what I mean. I’m looking for individual drivers times on long runs and what was being focused on or changed. Other sites simply say “Buemi came out first, then Button set the fastest after 45 mins and then Vettel came to the top in the last few minutes” but this tells us absolutely nothing and is almost irrelevant.

    Is there any chance of a new feature type thing of this type for next year? I know the teams don’t publish everything but i feel a lot can be and is identified by specialists that is not given to the fans.

    I suppose if this is not possible by those in the know outside the teams then it’s something that I’d vote for in the “new look sport” post Concorde renewal.

    1. Steven says:

      Theres no point. FP is just that, FP. Teams test all kinds of upates, and every team tests something different, plus each driver in each team tests something different than their teammates. Plus teams never show/know their true speed until qualifing, so theres no point.

  8. Sufyaan Patel says:

    Sorry, off topic but just found this on another site I visit. Watched the video clip on Youtube a couple of times but have never seen a recent article featuring the event – http://pistonheads.co.uk/news/default.asp?storyId=24769

    Enjoyable… for sure! :)

  9. Steven says:

    That story is in the movie, plus I heard it many time before. Although Ive never seen the time sheet.

  10. marc says:

    James or anyone any news of what the reason was for the off circuit team owners meeting on friday?? As ever a superb site

  11. Richard says:

    Yes this event has the makings of a proper GP instead of the rather one sided races earlier in the season. I’m hopeful Hamilton can edge Vettel out here with the pole and win, but if not just the win will suffice. Button says the new soft tyre is harder so Hamilton will be able to push a bit harder, but with rain on the way it could be anyone’s race. Anyway looks like it’s going to be an exciting finale pity it’s not the championship decider to add the extra bite.

  12. mo kahn says:

    Hamilton fastest in a circuit where he has never done well… See, what a Lunch with Nicole does to people?! :)


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