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All you need to know about crucial Brazilian F1 title decider
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Nov 2012   |  3:47 pm GMT  |  179 comments

It’s been one of the most exciting seasons of F1 and it looks like it may have one more twist before it’s over.

This weekend the World Drivers’ Championship will be decided at the Brazilian Grand Prix, between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. It seems straightforward for Vettel. He needs only to finish fourth or better regardless of Alonso’s result to win the title. Red Bull is the form team at Interlagos, having won this race for the last three years in a row.

But it looks as though fate may intervene, with rain forecast on Saturday and Sunday. As we have seen in the past at Interlagos, this makes it more of a lottery. If it is dry both days then on paper the Red Bull driver should comfortably achieve his goal, qualifying on the front row and finishing on the podium.

If it happens to rain around 14-00 hrs on qualifying and race day, then anything could happen and Alonso, with nothing to lose, could end up champion. Especially with his record of making things happen for himself.

There is also the question of Red Bull’s reliability, with Mark Webber’s retirement due to yet another alternator failure in Austin causing anxiety for Red Bull bosses. Red Bull is set to use new specification alternators in Brazil, which Renault’s other teams used in Austin last weekend. But it is going to feel like a time bomb until the chequered flag falls.

Here are the championship permutations:
*Any scenario where Vettel is fourth or higher gives Vettel the title.
*A win for Alonso would give him the title if Vettel is fifth or lower
*If Alonso is second, he would be champion if Vettel is 8th or lower
*If Alonso is third with Vettel lower than ninth, Alonso is champion

The Brazilian Grand Prix is a unique race on the F1 calendar, a circuit of unpredictability due to weather, tight run-off areas and a high chance of a safety car. There have been many heart-in-the-mouth finales at this event in the past and it’s a relief when a race goes to plan, especially when a championship is at stake.

The circuit is special for a number of reasons; set in a natural bowl around a lake in a suburb of Sao Paulo, the passionate and noisy crowd can see most of the circuit from their seat. The venue is also at one of the highest altitudes of any F1 circuit at just over 800 metres. This means that the atmospheric pressure is almost 10% less than at sea level and this cuts engine power, downforce and drag by a similar amount.

It is also the shortest lap of the season in terms of lap time, a quick lap there being under 1m 12 seconds, so the qualifying and racing have an intense quality about them. The circuit has a fast downhill sector one and final uphill sector three, with a tight infield sector in the middle.

It is one of six anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar. For years it was the only one, but in recent years Hermann Tilke has had a penchant for anticlockwise tracks and they make up almost 30% of the calendar.

The tyre choice from Pirelli is surprising once again, in that they have opted for medium and hard compounds, whereas last season they came with soft and medium. On the face of it, this is another conservative choice from Pirelli, a trend we have seen for the last six races. However the simulations show that there is doubt whether the fastest way to do this race is one or two stops, as we shall explain.

Track characteristics

Interlagos – 4.309 kilometres. Race distance – 71 laps = 305.909 kilometres. 15 corners in total. Average speed 210km/h. A classic circuit set in a natural bowl, in a suburb of Sao Paulo.

Aerodynamic setup – Med/High downforce. Top speed 323km/h (with DRS open) 311km/h without.

Full throttle – 60% of the lap time (ave/high). Total fuel needed for race distance – 144 kilos (ave/low). Fuel consumption – 2.10 kg per lap (low)

Brake wear- light. Number of braking events – 6, Time spent braking – 16% of the lap.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 15.5 seconds
Total time needed for a pit stop: 20 seconds

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.27 seconds (ave)

* See if you can find the fastest strategy for the Brazilian Grand Prix, using our own UBS Race STRATEGY CALCULATOR

Form Guide

The Brazilian Grand Prix is the final round of 20 in the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.

Last year’s race was dominated by Red Bull, but Ferrari and McLaren both have a strong record on this circuit. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has been the form driver in the final part of the season, winning a string of races and enjoying an average of 0.5s margin over his title rival Fernando Alonso in qualifying since the Singapore Grand Prix.

Mark Webber won last year, Felipe Massa won the race for Ferrari in 2006 and 2008, while Michael Schumacher, making his final F1 appearance this weekend, has won it four times. McLaren hasn’t won there since 2005 and neither Lewis Hamilton nor Jenson Button has ever won there, despite both clinching their world titles at this event by finishing in fifth place in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

This season has featured eight different race winners, one of the most open seasons for a long time.

Weather Forecast

Rain showers are a common occurrence in Sao Paolo at this time of year and many Brazilian Grands Prix have experienced sudden showers over the years. The forecast for the weekend is for temperatures around 25 degrees centigrade but with threats of rain on Saturday and Sunday.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Brazil: Medium (white markings) and Hard (silver markings). This combination has been seen several times including Austin, Spa, Monza and Sepang

The choice of medium and hard, rather than the soft and medium of last year, is very conservative by Pirelli.

They have gone for this combination due to the high energy loadings through the high speed corners, but the signs are that this will lead to very interesting strategy deliberations. Before a wheel is turned in practice, it looks like there could be a premium on saving a set of the faster medium tyres from qualifying to use in the second stint of a two stop strategy before switching to new hard tyres for a longish final stint (black line in graph below). This is a faster strategy and gives track position in the final stint over a two stop strategy where the second and third stints are on new hard tyres.

However a well-timed one-stop (blue line) on these very conservative tyres is also comparable to the black line two stopper, it will give track position but the two stopper may have more pace in the closing laps.

The track does not have a particularly abrasive surface and the energy going into the tyres is largely from the series of left hand corners before the final straight. On top of that, the tyres get plenty of rest on the two long straights and a safety car around one third race distance could change the decision making process.

The limiting factor on this track is the rear tyre, with the stop-start traction events in the series of corners in the middle part of the lap and the last corner onto the uphill final straight.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Last year’s race was won with three stops. The pit lane at Interlagos is quite short and the time needed for a stop is only 15.5 seconds plus the stationary time. However the indications this year are that two stops will be the way to go.

Starting in the top ten, one stop does not look competitive and seems unlikely to work out unless there is a safety car. However it might be worth a gamble for cars starting outside the top ten, as they can start on new medium tyres, rather than used. One stoppers will be greatly helped by a safety car deployment.

Overtaking at Interlagos isn’t too much of a problem, thanks to the long uphill straight leading to the Senna S. And the DRS wing certainly helps.

Chance of a Safety Car

The chances of a Safety Car are high at 63%. The Safety Car has been used in seven of the last ten races. It is often called into action on the first lap, as it’s a short lap with 24 cars charging into tight corners.

This makes the Safety Car an important element to factor into Race Strategy planning. It encourages teams to hedge their bets and split strategies with one car doing a conventional two stop plan and the other on a one stop, which would benefit from a safety car. This is because a safety car would close up the field reducing any time loss and if timed well, would allow a one stopping car to effectively get a free pit stop.

Recent start performance

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.

As far as 2012 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows. Please note that where a driver has been eliminated on first lap this has been noted and removed from the sample as it skews the table. So this is intended as a guide of trends, rather than a definitive list.


+39 Glock
+35 Massa ***** *******, Kovalainen
+28 Alonso********, Perez***
+22 Karthikeyan, Vergne **********, Pic
+20 Senna* ***** ********
+16 De la Rosa ****
+15 Hulkenberg***********
+14 Schumacher* ****** **********
+13 Raikkonen, Kobayashi**** *********
+11 Petrov***** *******
+8 Di Resta ***** ***********
+6 Vettel
+5 Button*********
+4 Maldonado****
+2 Hamilton

-3 Ricciardo*
-5 Grosjean** **** ***** ******** ***********
-6 Webber********
-7 Rosberg******** ***********

* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap
***Perez punctured on lap 1 in Spain and went to back of field
**** Eliminated by or involved in first lap accident in Monaco
***** Di Resta eliminated lap 1 at Silverstone, Petrov did not start
***** Massa, Senna and Grosjean involved in first lap collisions dropping them to the back
****** Schumacher forced to pit lap 1 in Hungary (lost six places)
*******Massa (puncture) and Petrov (broken nose) pitted for repairs on lap 1 in Singapore after making contact.
******** Alonso, Rosberg, Webber, Senna and Grosjean either retired or dropped to the back following first-lap accidents in Japan
********* Button eliminated, Kobayashi pitted for repairs, on lap 1 after collision in Korea
********** Schumacher and Vergne pitted for repairs at the end of lap one after first-corner collision in India
***********Rosberg, Grosjean di Resta pitted for repairs and rejoined after first-lap incidents in Abu Dhabi. Hulkenberg eliminated after first-corner accident

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and there have been some amazing performances; we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds this year.

The league table below shows order of the pit crews based on their best total time in the pit lane in the recent United States Grand Prix

1. McLaren 2.39secs (3)
2. Red Bull 2.48secs (1)
3. Lotus 2.77secs (9)
4. Mercedes 2.87secs (5)
5. Ferrari 3.10secs (2)
6. Sauber 3.66secs (4)
7. Force India 3.68secs (6)
8. Williams 3.72secs (10)
9. Marussia 3.96secs (7)
10. Toro Rosso 4.23secs (8)
11. Caterham 4.29secs (11)
12. HRT 6.08secs (12)

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is prepared by James Allen, with input and data from several F1 teams and from Pirelli.

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Why would anyone bother with this ‘you can’t say this about Vettel’?

Even if you love Vettel, let them say what they want.

I love Hamilton but I won’t stop – or disagree with – anyone who says he is not good in any way.

That is a magical thing called THEIR OPINION.

To the race – it is all valiant to mention the possibilities but anything that can happen to A can happen to V.

The Ferrari has been reliable but it doesn’t mean a simple puncture can’t take Alonso out.

The weather or race incidents are totally 50-50 and shouldn’t be seen as something that could help Alonso to the tune of 14 points.


Isn’t the alternator on the Renault F1 engines made in Italy (Magneti Marelli)?

This may suppose ANOTHER conspiracy theory.

I had various Renaults, but I don’t remember them being F1 – anyway, none of them worked properly in the wet. Electrical problems.

What electrics do Ferrari use? The same,I imagine.


Hi James,

According to you who should win the championship…Vettel or Alonso…

I was is and always will be Fernando Alonso supporter…but just wanted to hear from you…

Fernando has always proved why he is the best driver on the grid..Even most of the pundit`s of F1 rate him the best..


Both deserve it, it’s a massive one : 3x WDC, major bragging rights for whichever gets it.

I think most people in F1 have been amazed that ALO has got himself in this position given how bad the Ferrari was in winter testing and early races.

But you have to admire VET & RBR – the man and the machine because at the end of the day maximising that combination is what it has always been about

So I don’t mind who wins and will be very happy with either


I would not at all be surprised if Lewis wins this race. What better way to finish his career with Mclaren.

I would wet myself if Fernando finished 2nd and Sebastian just jumps into 7th on the last corner.

I’m sick of Ferrari and Fernando continually complaining about how slow their car is..and rightly or wrongly how great driving has kept them in the hunt. I would add Fernando had his fair share of luck in the start of year and full credit to both he and Ferrari for taking every opportunity when they did.As much as I’m no fan of either team. I really believe Red Bull got on with the job far better & fully deserved the constuctors title. I think Lewis after this weekend may prove to be the guy that deserved this years championship more than both in team that performed 3rd best.


As an F1 fan I’m just looking for another great (and competitive) GP, if possible as a good one as we had in Austin. Every race was crucial, and that means that we had a really competitive championship. And there was more than Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel, and that was good. I like the action in the middle field. More often than not the best racing is just there.

It doesn’t matter mush who will win, even if I think that RBR should take both titles.

Ferrari suffered with a slow and tricky car during all the season. McLaren had a nice car but they had too many failures due to poor reliability, bad pit stops, etc.

RBR victories in both championships is a logical result and a deserved one. Again…


Funny (maybe) twist on the article title-“You all need to know about crucial Brazilian F1 title decider”


I have to be honest from the start and say that I would prefer the title decider to include Lewis. I think he has done enough, as a driver, to deserve to be in the mix this weekend. It is, though, down to the the number 1 drivers sitting in the cars built by the teams who have done a better job, one way or another, this season to fight it out. Of the two, whoever walks away with the most points after 20 races will deserve the title. There is more to winning a WDC title than qualifying pace, driving and racing ability. They have to play the whold game: Being in the right team, preferably with a number 2 driver (by choice or not), the right car, designed to maximise any advantage from that years changing F1 rules. They have to have a little more luck on their side over the 20 races. The best driver doesnt always win, but that is what makes it interesting, exciting and frustrating to watch, in my opinion. Every driver on the grid would like to be sat in the fastest car, designed by the best designer and with the best team around them, including an inferior team mate. It has always been that way. At the moment Vettel is the one who has that position, next year it could be him again, maybe Alonso… 2014?

All that said, if it is possible I would like to see Alonso take his third WDC this weekend. It is a long shot and will need some mistakes from Redbull but strange things can happen under pressure when the winning line is in sight.

Lewis for win 22 this Sunday.


We know for a fact that Massa is running in this race to help Alonso.

But what about Webber? Will Webber pull to the side to let Vettel through if that will win Vettel the title?


I predict Hamilton will split Vettel and Alonso, then his car will break down and then well we shall see 🙂 ….I cant wait for the race! Hope it is a deserving final to a fab season!


As I am not an Alonso fan nor am I Vettel fan. I will be able to sit down and watch the race totally chilled out and relaxed.

Hamilton for the win-only fair given his terrible luck this year.

Alonso second.

Massa enters the home straight seventh with Vettel close behind but slows down just before the finish line to let Vettel take seventh place. Massa drives past the Ferrari pit wall with his finger up, Vettel style, only a different finger.

Pure class.


James, recently you did a brilliant analysis of the German papers on Schumacher, and I seem to remember one about the Italian papers on Ferrari.

I’d love to know what the respective press are making of the title decider. Can you put some choice Italian ones on here?

Thanks for another season’s worth of everyday reading!



Nice article. It would be nice to see the legends and Y axis units in the chart (it’s NOT a graph, as referred to in the article) so we can understand the data more fully.


How upsetting would it be for there to be torrential rain, causing Vettel to retire, Alonso winning, but the race being stopped before 75% of the distance has been covered, only giving Alonso 12.5 points…


In an ideal world, that would be Karma.



If bad weather hits racing day, do you think it could favour RBR alternator? i mean lesser overheating, or I don’t know whether it does have something with temperature to do?


I’m not a huge fan of Vettel but there are way too many people hating on him, including some of the other drivers. Yes he may have the quickest car but end of the day he damned if he does, he’s damned if he doesn’t. All this talk about what Alonso would do if he was in the red bull. He’s not and you have no way of proving he would do a better job. We all know he can’t do battle with a competitive team mate (2007). No doubt he will bark on about how slow his car is for the rest of his contract with Ferrari.


“We all know he can’t do battle with a competitive team mate (2007)”

If you consider losing the WC by one point and scoring the same points as your team mate despite having your team racing against you (as confessed by Ron Dennis) is not battling enough…


I agree with you to a certain extent, your absolutely right we have no way of proving what Alonso would do in a Red Bull. The only people you can compare them to are their team mates. Alonso has comfortably beaten every team mate he has had apart from Lewis Hamilton which I think says more about how fast Lewis is than Alonso. Vettel usually beats Mark Webber who has also beaten his previous team mates and is generally regarded as being pretty fast. From that I think it is fair to deduce they are both pretty quick.

I think Alonso is driving now better than he ever has done, a brilliant combination of speed and aggression with calculated racing reminiscent of Senna in his later years. Vettel has an uncanny ability to go faster than anyone else on cold tyres which allows him to build a lead at the start or after a re start, get out of DRS danger and manage the gap from there. He has also shown that he can race. I don’t understand the people that say he can’t race, Jim Clark was renowned for preferring to win from the front and being uncomfortable chasing people, was he a bad racer? No I didnt think so.

I don’t subscribe to the Alonso can’t handle a fast team mate nonsense either, Lewis did not beat him in 2007 they drew on points and both had a very strong season. What Alonso couldn’t handle was that he went to Mclaren expecting no1 status, to be fair to him that’s not entirely unreasonable is it? He was a back to back and reigning world champion and his team mate was to be a rookie, abliet one with the finest talents of this generation but we weren’t to know that at the time. He then spat the dummy about this over the course of the season about not even getting preferential treatment but about Hamilton getting the preferential treatment (remember the “We are racing Fernando”) he thought this was hurting his championship chances, which to be fair it was. However Mclaren remained supposedly fair to both drivers and as a consequence lost the championship. He didnt do himself any favours over his threatning to blow the whistle over “spy gate” though. Im rabbling but either way I don’t think its fair to say he cant cope with a fast team mate, I’m pretty sure he has said Lewis was his favorite team mate as he was such a challenge to beat (or was that Lewis)?


I wonder if it is really wise to have the final race held at Brazil where quite often the race becomes a bit of a lottery. Don’t get me wrong, it provides for an absolutely thrilling race but after 18 or so races it feels a bit bizarre to have the championship decided on something akin to the flip of a coin. I’d much rather the championship be decided at a more standard venue, and perhaps Austin would be better placed in future years to hold the finale.

I love Brazil and at any other spot on the calendar it is an excellent venue, but the problem you get with the lottery finale is that you can only really get the championship tarnished like in 2008 where people claim Massa was robbed or that Lewis was lucky.


No, it is right, otherwise we have Abu Dhabi, where nobody could overtake, or US, which is good, but again, overtaking is interesting.

In 2008 the fact that it was still a mystery with 5 laps left of the race was amazing!!


OOPS! *Overtaking is difficult in the US.


In the midst of all this championship battling which is great to watch , we must not forget that one of the greatest drivers is leaving us. If the weather forecast is correct and it rains i really hope Schumacher will be sent off with a good result.

If it is dry i doubt it

James are you going to do a piece on Schumacher?


Another one..?


Now that the race is down to the wire it would be awesome with some rain thrown in, one or two safety car periods and lots of mayhem and rushing especially for Vettel and Alonso. I’ll be watching out for Massa too as SD said he could be vital for Nando’s championship. Also not forgetting the ticking time bomb.



Over the past two races, BBC and SkyF1 TV commentators (post race) have said how great Fernando is etc.

Now, with Seb’s 13 point lead going into the final race, I noticed that all the praise is now for Seb and how great a racer he is. Little mention of Fernando.

All the pundits, KNOW, that based on Sebee’s lead, plus recent form, he will win the championship. Despite Damon’s attempts to add some spice to what seems to be a foregone conclusion.

Fernando will be second, and ppl are already starting to forget who was second.

It’s not looking good. The glass is half empty for this Ferrari fan up until the start of the race. And probably empty by the end of it.


Build a Championship worthy car from the start of the season, that would be the answer for Ferrari. They build a reliable car, which gave them most benefit when “leaders” were not scoring the points. But not fast enough to start closer to the front to have the best shot at the wins.


James – out of interest, how do you compare the RBR run over the past few seasons to Williams at its peak?

I think this is where Sebs detractors are coming from.


Look back at 1992/3 and Williams had a much bigger performance advantage than RBR have had. Last year they executed a tactic very well, but the gap to the next car was usually only a few tenths. The Williams active car was on a different planet


Yes, that Williams was amazing……..But people then (from my recollection anyway) didn’t rubbish drivers & say ‘Useless driver, but had the fastest car’ as is happening so musch now.

Those comments are so tedious & I think it’s very encouraging that you are taking a firm line on moderation.

Since you have mentioned the ‘active’ Williams, I think that one of the problems is that many commenters have little or no interest in F1 even 10 years ago, so the 80’s & 90’s don’t exist for them, although the cars of 2012 were directly developed from those years.

The main difference in opinions about 92/3 and today is that there was no internet then. Now everyone has an opinion, often stated as FACT.


The difference is that Mansell had an entire career to display his prowess as a great driver, who also lucked into driving the ’92 car that was ‘on another planet’.

Seb? We have not seen him do too much that special while driving in a STR. Particularly in the dry.

Seb still has plenty to show us when his car is not that great. Look at this year… he hardly set the world on fire for the first half of the season. Alonso was far better in a similarly performing car.


I’ve got to think that there’s a 75% chance that Vettel has this thing in the bag, a 15% chance that Vettel retires (and Nando will undoubtedly be on the podium), and a 9% chance that weather wrecks havoc enough to shuffle the order around _that_ significantly (for Vettel to lose the title). And the last 1% chance that Massa (or Lewis, or god forbid, Webber) screws up the party for Vettel, hah.


“Especially with his record of making things happen for himself”

Really???Well the recent history doesnt augur well for him,isnt it.Two times before he was almost in a similar situation.2007,when he was behind the championship leader by 4 points.2010 ,when he was in a much better position leading by 8 points.

Both times,we all knew what happened.

Yes,he is a very good driver,but sometimes cant help feel if the media(you included)have projected him much larger than he actually is.And he isnt inspiring any confidence after the show he put up at COTAS.He was completely outdriven by Massa.

Well one can argue,he ended up in the podium.Even with entire Ferrari throwing its might behind him,he still couldnt muster a drive that is worthy of a championship contender.Massa was outstanding there.And now we go to Interlagos where Massa normally does very well.My money is on Seb,if it comes just to the drivers.But if that Renault alternator decides to have a say,maybe,just maybe 🙂


I want Vettel to win this because I believe he deserves the title. I could go on about the endless number of reasons but there is only one that matters, my heart tells me Vettel FTW.

All I wish for a fair race this weekend. No dirty tricks from Ferrari or Alonso and that includes summoning Massa to help out. If you want to win, win it like a genuine champ.


If you want a fair race so desperately please don’t forget to tell the Toro Rossos to race Vettel too, just in case.


James, I have heard that the HRT factory closed this week, I am assuming HRT will be in Brazil. Is the team in that much trouble?


Yes, I’m afraid so. Looks like the game might be up. Redundancies etc

I don’t think you will see them on 2013 entry list


Bad times 🙁

I always feel sorry for the underdog. Could Stefan GP be making an appearance? maybe Pro Drive?


Bring in Lola Cars then?


And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard,

it’s a hard, and it’s a hard,

And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall


Just hope Alonso can do it, his 3rd WC has been well deserved for a long time now.

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