The most unpredictable event on the F1 calendar: Insight into Brazilian GP
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Nov 2013   |  3:43 pm GMT  |  90 comments

The Brazilian Grand Prix is often looked on by engineers and strategists in F1 as the biggest uncertainty of the season – it’s a very difficult race to plan for.

The weather often plays a part; last year was a perfect example. It was the championship deciding race, held in tricky wet/dry conditions. When it rains it is very hard to predict how long it will last and how hard it will rain. Then when it stops, there can be dry parts of the circuit and rivers running across other areas. Last year’s race was won by not switching to wet tyres when it rained!

Then there is the set up of the car; the requirements of Sector 2 of the lap, with its slow tight corners are quite at odds with the requirements of Sector 3, which is mainly a long uphill straight. There is a lot of emphasis on maintaining traction in the transition from the driver braking to putting the power down.

Add in tight run-off areas and a high chance of a safety car and you have a race where teams are relieved to get with an outcome in line with their expectations. Things can easily be turned on their head there.

Another unique feature is the altitude of the 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, and as the air is less dense it means that downforce and drag are cut 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.

It is one of six anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar.

The tyre choice from Pirelli is again very conservative; as last year they have opted for medium and hard compounds, whereas in 2011 they brought soft and medium tyres.

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 – 61% of the lap time (ave/high). Total fuel needed for race distance – 134 kilos (ave/low). Fuel consumption – 1.9 kg per lap (low)

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

Total time needed for a pit stop: 18 seconds

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.31 seconds (ave)

Form Guide

The Brazilian Grand Prix is the final round of 19 in the 2013 FIA F1 World Championship.

Last year’s race was won by McLaren’s Jenson Button, with McLaren taking a front row lock out in qualifying.

Red Bull won the race for the previous three years, Mark Webber, who is making his final Grand Prix start, won in 2011 and in 2009, while Sebastian Vettel won in 2010. Felipe Massa won the race for Ferrari in 2006 and 2008, Kimi Raikkonen won the race in 2007, but will not race this year due to back surgery.

Sebastian Vettel has set a new record of eight consecutive wins in a season, if he wins in Brazil he will extend that to nine consecutive wins.

Weather Forecast

The forecast for this weekend is for temperatures around 30-33 degrees with little chance of rain.

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 and no-one will factor rain out of their planning, just in case..

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

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

The choice of medium and hard, rather than the soft and medium of last year, is very conservative by Pirelli and repeats last year’s decision. In 2011, they brought soft tyres to Interlagos and it was a three-stop race for most of the runners.

Pirelli justifies its choice by pointing to the high-energy loadings through the high speed corners. After a difficult year on circuits with high loadings like Silverstone, the Italian company wants a quiet end to the season.

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. The cars tend to slide quite a bit on the hard tyre and this adds to wear.

Last year the key strategy call was to stay out when rain started to fall in the early stages with the dry tyres on which the race had been started, but few teams were able to do that, as they could not generate enough temperature in the tyres. Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg managed it and it set Button up for the win.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Last year, before the rain came, pre-race strategy indications were that teams would go for a two stop strategy with the first stop around lap 20-25 with a middle stint on a new set of hard tyres and then review performance before deciding whether to switch to used mediums for the last stint or another set of new hards.

The pit lane at Interlagos is quite short and the time needed for a stop is only 15 seconds plus the stationary time, which pushes teams into doing more stops, as the time lost in the pits is minimal compared to the faster lap times on fresh tyres.

So two stops is the likely default strategy this weekend, although if the tyres look durable, then should there be a safety car early on, one or two drivers may be tempted to go for the track position advantage of one stopping. But unlike many F1 venues, overtaking is relatively easy at Interlagos, as the DRS zone is particularly effective, so a quick two stopper will easily be able to come through a one-stopper who is conserving tyres in the final stint.

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 and having plenty of different plans is advisable.

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 2013 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.

+30 Maldonado

+25 Van der Garde*****

+24 Gutierrez

+22 Sutil***

+22 Perez

+19 Di Resta

+18 Massa


+11 Alonso

+8 Button

+6 Pic

+4 Vettel

+3 Hulkenberg**

+1 Chilton


-1 Bianchi******

-3 Grosjean

-4 Kovalainen
-5 Raikkonen


-6 Bottas

-7 Rosberg

-9 Hamilton

-11 Ricciardo

-23 Webber*

-24 Vergne ****

*Webber dropped from second to seventh after a clutch problem in Australia
** Hulkenberg did not start in Australia *** Sutil suffered puncture from contact with Massa in Bahrain ****Vergne retired following collision. *****Van der Garde and Maldonado made contact in Monaco. ******Bianchi started from pit lane in Monaco after stalling *******Raikkonen crashed into Perez at the first corner at Monza ********Massa spun at hairpin in Korea *********Sutil had collision in Korea ********** Hamilton suffered puncture from contact with Vettel in Japan *********** Button had contact with Alonso at hairpin in Abu Dhabi ************ Sutil crashed on the first lap in Austin

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 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.

Note: In Austin, Red Bull unofficially achieved the fastest pit stop recorded in F1 at 1.923 secs, which was half a second faster than the fastest stop it did in Austin the previous year

1. Red Bull 23.537s
2. Mercedes 23.806s
3. McLaren 23.808s
4. Ferrari 23.817s
5. Lotus 23.876s
6. Sauber 24.030s
7. Toro Rosso 24.226s
8. Marussia 24.293s
9. Force India 24.444s
10. Williams 25.014s
11. Caterham 25.268s

The UBS Strategy Briefing is prepared by JA on F1, with input and data from several F1 teams, from JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan and from Pirelli.

Strategy Insights
Strategy Briefings
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

If I am not mistaken, he was a F1 presenter at ITV in 2008.


Yes, and for a few years before that too


Really? Because now he was presenting a show called the F1 Legends in Sky Sports F1.


Mr.Allen, when you are at the ITV, how do you think about Steve Rider?


One of the best guys I ever worked with


“Last year’s race was won by not switching to wet tyres when it rained!” – true, Hamilton switched to wet tyres, then back, so Hülkenberg and Button were leading him by about a minute, but their advantage was nullified by the safety car. Hamilton overtook them both, was leading the race but was collected by Hülkenberg when the German spun. So the tyre choice played no role at the end. And I’m speaking as a HUGE Button fan 🙂


Mr.Allen, if you said Mercedes is the team to beat at next year? How do you think about the Red Bull?


They will catch them!


How was your feeling when you commentated Formula One with Martin Brundle?


It was good, I did it for a long time and enjoyed it


They should introduce a rule that if the new world champion seals the title early, they then have to start from the back of the grid at each remaining race. At least we would have had something to watch these last few races. I’d call for the whole grid to be reversed but for the ongoing constructors battle


It IS Mark’s last race. I suspect that we’ll see a win at all costs attitude from him. The fight, when it happens, with Seb for the win will be epic! In the end I think that Mark will burn his tires off and crash or fall back. As he has always shown himself to be a clean racer I do not see Mark taking out Seb, even by true accident.

Count me as betting on Seb for the win with Gro on the podium with one of the Mercedes guys, most likely Lewis.


Wet qualifying would make for an interesting race. Last year’s race was very entertaining. Lots of battling and Seb being forced to run through the pack. Somethign similar would be great to see. Am i the only one that hopes that the grid gets moixed up forcing the top 4-5 drivers to actually fight for the podium, rather tha RB run away with it? I hope this isn’t wishful thinking.


we had med and hard last year. Soft and med was 2011.


What’s up with the conservative tire choices? The champions are all wrapped up, we should be getting softs and super softs at every track. Its not like drivers can actually push any harder on the harder tires.

Final race for the V8’s, not sure I’ll miss them. Always preferred the V10’s.

Finally, best of luck Webber, one of F1’s proper characters, you’ll be missed.


Hoping for a lewis win ….. yet again 🙂


Sure gonna miss the Aussie…

As a South African, he’s the only Aussie i’ve rooted for…wish Mark well with Porsche – can’t wait to see him at Le Mans next year – “go, you good thing!”

As for the race…if it rains and everything is topsy turvy, it’ll be a cracker. If it’s dry, put me down for a RedBull 1-2 with Grosjean 3rd (outsdie chnave Alonso or Hamilton could sneak to the podium.)

Also hoping Massa goes well at his home track with Ferrari – his last hurrah at the team before going to Williams.

Lets also hope Bottas wipes the floor with Maldonado…


Has redbull ever brought up in a statement that they have a problem with marks starts. seems to me if it was say Lewis or someone then Ross brawn would be saying come sort this out. And why have they not fixed the problem in all this time. Marks starts are just what the doctor ordered.


Could 2013, monotonous excellence, end with a bang?

I’ve seen posters here, including our host, suggesting a Mercedes upper hand.

I guess the assumption is, the power; because, they are floundering again, now. Their platform is NOT a solid foundation to develop next year’s platform, because of it.

But we’ll see.

I think the advantage will come from a team that finds an innovation, perhaps very close to the line of demarcation between what can be got away with, by what ever means, and what cannot, which will have varying degrees of difficulty for other teams to adapt; and that will be the initial differentiator; it could be a team with power from another supplier, or it could be a Mercedes powered team, i.e. McLaren; maybe they’ve been playing the long game, who knows?

I’ve been suggesting that Grosjean would make it to the top of the pile, one time, before the end of the season, for the past five races; so I’m going with the best Lotus weekend, of the ear, bookending the season in victories.

If Lotus were to be able to put it all together, it would be the first time; but if they do, the Grosjean-Lotus package is the closest challenger to… you know who; and he is defying all odds on reliability, over his phenomenal run. If Vettel-RB got a klic less than the warranty, Grosjean would have been there in Austin.

It’s time [for so many reasons]!

I got a feeling of a lot of drama.

I love Spa, Suzuka, Montreal, but I think my favourite is Interlagos; because it is in the bowl, and you can see so much of the whole track!

‘ love to see Massa second, Hulkenberg third!


Farewell, Mark. Seems like yesterday you were fighting for fifth with Salo, in a Minardi, at the Australian GP. Talk about a wild ride … lots of ups and downs on the Webbocoaster!


What’s the word on the last 5 seats at Lotus, Sauber and Force India James?


It is amazing how much additional effort it takes to follow F1 with out Raikkonen.

I hope Kvyat can replace my Kimi craving, as Bottas did not turn out to be that amazing.


When the Red Bulls are running 1-2 it’ll be interesting to see what the team’s stance is – will Vettel give Webber the win to atone for Malaysia and try and get the audiences on his side (even the PR doughnuts haven’t gotten people to forget about it yet), or will they endorse him going for the likely unrepeatable record?

I know what I’d put my money on. Fingers crossed though that the race is more exciting than I’m giving it credit for…


I wish Mark all the best in his final F1 race. I sincerely hope it doesn’t pan out like DC’s final race.

Thanks for the memories mate.


There’ll be a few more goodbyes than Webbo and the V8s.

Still hoping that Vijay does the right thing and signs Paul and Nico, by far the best pairing for him and would be a joy to watch going head to head, getting Force India the good results on Sunday. Almost as interesting a battle as Fernando Kimi.

But as it stands, we have the Lotus financial joke and the career destroying pay driver muppets.

Guit and Sutil have sponsor cash, but it’s the other two that look like wrecking Paul and Nico. Pastor will buy the best seat and Sergio will buy the next best since McLaren have gone to la la rookie land since they dropped the ball with their car and their recruitment this year.

I see Hulk, using his excellent form in the massively improved Sauber, as a Force India driver next year after Pastor nicks his Lotus.

Then I see Sergio paying for the second Force India seat.

Guit and Russia buy the Sauber seats, so Paul gets unfairly booted from F1 due to the financial midfield mess as CVC fat cats take the hundreds of millions from the sport.

What chance does the talent of Paul and Nico have…

Pastor may bring £20 million

Sergio may bring £10 million

Nico brings an Atkins extreme dieting book

Paul brings a packed lunch, a penny chew and a Hubba Bubba.

Go on Vijay, give Paul and Nico a home for Christmas. That’s the appeal and I bet it pays you back and then some. 😉


* that’ll be underselling Pastor, more like £29 million.

I must have automatically deducted the £9m as front wing, carbon fibre and chassis rebuild fees 😉


As since the last 8 races, it will be be fun to watch from P2 onwards.

Hope we do not see a boring race like Austin.


All my support will go to webber this weekend would be great to see him sign off his F1 career with a final win

Out of all the drivers he seems the most grounded and i admire his no nonsense approach, F1 will miss him on the grid

His win at silverstone sticks out in mind “not bad for a number two driver”

All the best Mark


I hope the local water is OK and that team staff don’t put ice in their drinks!

I am really looking forward to this race, even though it will mean getting up early again to switch on the television.

My inner feeling is that, this time around Romain Grosjean will just pip Sebastian Vettel to the line – will be close though. I also feel that Nico Rosberg could bring in a really good result at Ross Brawn’s last race for Mercedes-Benz. I have always admired Ross’ work and a win on Sunday (Monday our time), would be wonderful.

I missed your interview at Austin, James, hopefully we will get one from Brazil.


Haha nice try Mr Allen. Well written article and gives a great sense that something spectacular will occur which i sincerely hope happens. Sadly I feel its a 1-2 Red Bull lockout as above with a Vettel win. Webber will fade to obscurity and the whole sorry season will be wrapped up. Not trying to be negative in the post but Red Bull are just that far ahead


I always try to see something exiting in every race and I don’t like the boring claims, but you are right about this race, if Vettel doesn’t have any mechanical issue is very likely he will win, I don’t like what I’m about to say, but hope it rains to see something different, last race there wasn’t any battle for any position in almost the entire race, I use to watch the races with the live timing app in my phone, but it was nonsense to do it either, anyway, I will watch the race hopping some action as is the last race for Webber.


Forecast is for rain woohoo we may have a race after all : )


Some forecasts are for rain, others show dry weather, it keeps changing.

That’s what makes it so unpredictable!


An on off shower of rain on Saturday would be nice.


Since we’re getting into predictions here’s mine! Grosjean will drive to the wall as last year.

Mark will have a clutch problem at start and a KERS problem later on in the race before he is harpooned out of the race by Maldonado. We’ll finally see Mark’s right hook as it launches for Pastor. The shunt makes Pastor to realize that F1 is not for him and he moves on to conspiracy theories about JFK assassination.

Seb wins.


Even if all of that happened, Seb would still win? Zzzzzzzz


I was getting carried away so I dropped the most probable result at the end. Sorry about that.


F1 is getting very boring, you can based on the qualifier almost predict how it ends!

That Red Bull has found something extra all know about, but no one discusses it!

Minardi came up what he saw and heard, Nico too, no discussion went on, weird.

The drivers are too young at the moment, no character. It is not to require young drivers to express themselves, they have no life experience.

Therefore, it is wonderful that Alonso and Kimi continues in F1.

James, remember your excitement when you commented on qualifying at Monaco in 2005, remember? Hope it rains in Brazil!


“That Red Bull has found something extra all know about, but no one discusses it”

What are you on about? Everyone’s been discussing it for the last 3 seasons and the TC (or not) of the Red Bull has been a hot topic of discussion since Singapore.


I agree – very dull and boring. They should do what our local kart track had to do this past weekend when their timing system broke down. Draw the grid from a hat. Then have 2 heat races – the first is with the grid formed up in the order drawn from the hat, the second heat is in a total reverse of the order.

The grid order for the finals is then determined on points earned from the 2 heats. So fast car/driver combinations will still get to the front but they have to do some overtaking to get there. And slower car/driver combinations but where a driver has very good race craft still have a chance to get up towards the front for the start of the final.

So you have 2 sprint races (say 20 laps) where fuel and tyres are not an issue. Raw racing where he who overtakes gets real benefits for the final. Then a longer final, say 40 laps, where they still have to use 2 tyre options (unless it is declared a wet race and they can choose to stay on wets for the duration – but would likely have to change for fresh wets at some stage, so you still get the pit stop). Remove DRS but keep KERS.

Sprint racing is far more exciting than marathons. Sprint racing means conserve nothing, leave nothing on the table, give it everything you’ve got. Marathons (particularly in the modern era) mean conserve fuel, conserve tyres, push on your in-lap and out-lap only. What do others think of that concept?

Top Tags
SEARCH Strategy