Five things you need to know ahead of the Brazilian GP | 2021 F1 Brazilian GP Preview
The 2021 season of Formula 1 hits the third race in the Americas with the Brazilian GP. The Interlagos track was built in 1940 but did not host a F1 race until 1973. This 4.309km circuit is one of the smaller circuits in the 2021 calendar but manages to squeeze in 15 corners in the layout. On November 14, it will host a 71 lap race in a track that allows plenty of overtaking chances. However, there is a twist this weekend. Interlagos will host the third and final Sprint Race format of the F1 2021 calendar. This means there will be more action to follow and more chances to shake things up before the final race on Sunday.
The championship battle has never been this intense in the hybrid era of Formula 1. That is because the fight is not only on the top, but various teams are now fighting for each and every point available on the weekend. This also means all the drivers and the teams will not leave an inch for their rivals to gain on them inside the track or back at the factory. With that said, Max Verstappen is the leader in the driver’s championship with an advantage of 19 points from Lewis Hamilton, while on the other hand, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team leads the constructor’s championship by just a point from Red Bull Racing. So, without much further ado, let us look at the top five things you need to know ahead of the 2021 Brazilian GP.
1. In search of the upper hand
Red Bull Racing and Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 have locked horns since the first race of the season. Now, after eighteen intense races, they have emerged as the only two teams that have a shot at winning both the titles in Formula 1.
With just a point separating the two, any slip ups would cost them very dearly in the title fight. Brazil has favoured the Red Bull chassis a lot more than Mercedes’. The high downforce requirement, along with the tight nature of the circuit means that raw power will not be a factor to decide the faster car.
This takes a card right out of Mercedes’ hand. But, Mercedes has been seen taking the engine unit of Lewis Hamiltion’s car out of the car. This points to the fact that Mercedes might be thinking about changing Lewis Hamilton’s IC engine.
This will ensure that Lewis has a new engine for the final few races of the season and moreover, the grid penalty for the engine swap will not hurt Lewis on the main grand prix, but rather it will be put into effect on the Sprint Race on Saturday. The penalty for an IC engine swap is a five-place drop.
Red Bull has put barriers between their cars and the media. This makes us come to the conclusion that Red Bull is developing their cars in the season and are determined to win the championship at any cost.
Max Verstappen leads the driver’s title run with 312.5 points with Lewis falling behind with 293.5 points. However, Mercedes are neck and neck with Red Bull as the Silver Arrows lead with 478.5 points and the energy drink company trails with 477.5 points.
2. The return of a strong Scuderia Ferrari
Scuderia Ferrari and McLaren F1 have come about to be the unlikely rivals that are now fighting for the third position in the 2021 Formula 1 season. They are being called unlikely because Ferrari had fallen down to P6 in the 2020 season and McLaren had achieved P3 in the same season.
Moreover, McLaren have the Mercedes engine behind them in 2021 and McLaren have made the shift without much problems. Lando Norris was very consistent for most of the season and has gathered most of the points for the English team.
Ferrari, on the other hand, managed to dig deep and sort out some of the fundamental problems of the car. Their draggy car from 2020 has now become the best car on the grid to tackle the slow and medium speed corners. Their updates in the powertrain has also helped them come close to the other engine manufacturers on the grid, in terms of performance.
However, the differentiator between the two teams are the new drivers that have joined them. At one side, Carlos Sainz has managed to be the perfect teammate for Charles, scoring just as many points as him, and also helping out when the cards are against them. This has helped the Italian side run smoothly this season and has allowed them to pack punches way above their 2021 package’s capabilities.
On the other side, veteran driver Daniel Ricciardo’s switch to McLaren has not gone smoothly and is still struggling to put in consistent weekends together. Lando Norris has been pulling most of the weight of the championship fight as the difference in points between the two drivers is nearly 45 points.
That said, Ferrari currently stands P3 with 268.5 points and are ahead of McLaren who have acquired 255 points so far. With four more races, we have to see if Ferrari can keep their upward trend for the remainder of the season or McLaren can bring the fight to them? We’ll find out this weekend!
3. The Interlagos circuit of Brazil
The circuit of Brazil has been one of the most iconic tracks on the F1 calendar, right after Monaco. This track is one of the smaller ones on the grid but this track has proven itself to provide multiple opportunities to the drivers, even during the modern age.
The circuit is 4.309km and will hold 71 laps of the race this weekend. The weather is predicted to remain dry for the next three days, with slight chances of rain on Saturday. But the bigger factor is the temperature. Interlagos also sits 700 meters above sea level.
The height of location dictates that the air available at Interlagos will be light and a little deprived of oxygen, when compared to the European tracks. This means that the engines that require more oxygen to perform in optimal condition (Mercedes), will suffer on the track.
Cooling is also a problem due to the F1 cars relying on air to cool their components down. But this time, the Brazilian GP will be hosted in far colder temperatures, around 19 degrees celsius to 24 degrees celsius over the weekend, which will make it easier for the drivers and teams to maintain the temperatures on the cars.
Red Bull Racing has always been the favored cars on the grid for the Brazilian GP layout. Their high downforce package along with their agile chassis has worked on this track. And with Max Verstappen’s strong performances in the last two times we have been here, we have to see what Mercedes brings on the table to bridge their gap to the bulls!
4. The Alpine V AlphaTauri battle
Yes, you are hearing it correctly. Scuderia AlphaTauri has become the rival of the Alpine F1 team in the 2021 constructors championship table for a potential P5 finish. Both the teams are tied at 105 points.
In all aspects, the AlphaTauri car has the stronger package between the two teams and there have been instances when the car has outdone its capabilities in a race in the hands of Pierre Gasly. His consistent performances over race weekends has allowed AlphaTauri to climb the table and challenge for the P5 position, which was Franz Tost’s target at the beginning of the season.
AlphaTauri’s only problem is their second driver, Yuki Tsunoda. Tsunoda has been having troubles settling into the team and was also lacking the guiding hand that every rookie would need to survive in F1. Even though he has had a good number of races that he didn’t score points in, AlphaTauri and Tost still have faith in the young Japanese driver.
On the other side, Alpine F1 has one of the most consistent driver line-up on the field with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, but the team has not been able to put the performance on the track. The low revving engine developed by Alpine this year has not played out well in the season and only has a few good performances to argue against that.
As both these teams fight for the fifth position on the grid, it is clear that both the teams have to perform without errors in the final few races of the season, otherwise one of them will have to swallow the tough pill of losing out.
5. The Sprint Race weekend
The Brazilian GP will be the final race of the season which will host the experimental Sprint Race weekend. This means that spectators will be seeing action right from the start of the race weekend.
On Friday, we will have the first practice session. Right after that we will have a classic qualifying round where drivers will be eliminated over their fastest times. But the qualifying round will decide the grid for the Sprint Qualifying race on Saturday.
Saturday will open up with yet another practice session for the teams where ideally, the teams will mostly conduct their race simulations to dial the car for the optimum race conditions. This will be followed by the Sprint Race, which is interesting to say the least as the shortened race on this track will let drivers overtake on the slightest of chances.
That is followed by Sunday where the main event of the race will unfold. This is F1's attempt to spice things up and get Formula 1 ready for the 21st century. But with mixed verdicts from the drivers and the teams about the experimental weekend, we will have to wait and find out if this format will be carried to the 2022 season or not.
With that said, these are the timings for the weekend ahead at Interlagos. All timings are in IST.
Free Practice 1: 9:00pm
Free Practice 2: 8:30pm
Sprint Qualifying: 1:00am
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