Brazil GP – FP2: Race Pace Analysis
Formula 1 makes its comeback to fan-favourite Interlagos for the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Autódromo José Carlos Pace, also known as Interlagos (which means “between two lakes“) is one of the oldest tracks on the calendar together with Monza, Spa, Monaco and Silverstone. With a total lenght of 4.309 kilometers, Interlagos is among the shortest and fastest circuits in Formula 1. This reduces the gaps between teams as well as teammates, especially in qualifying.
This is the last of the “Sprint Qualifying” weekends of the season, with FP2 being held on the Saturday after the Friday Qualifying session. Due to the parc fermé rules, the teams will focus their work on race pace simulations, trying to test at least two different tyre compounds as well as different fuel loads (one for the Sprint Race and one for the main event on Sunday). Pirelli selected again the middle range compounds for this weekend (C2, C3 and C4), predicting a one-stop strategy especially considering that everyone will have a free tyre choice at the start of the race due to the Sprint format.
FP2 got off to a usual start for the Sprint race weekend; there were no major accident and traffic was not as big of an issue for most of the drivers. Aston Martin was the only team that tried all three compounds, with most of their competition opting to only use two.
RACE PACE ANALYSIS
With a grid penalty already confirmed before FP1 and the impending disqualification from the Friday Qualifying session, Mercedes and Hamilton will need to limit damage in what is looking like the thoughest weekend so far for the reigning Champions. Hamilton and his teammate only tested the C4 compound in a short Sprint Race simulation (Hamilton’s average: 1:13.356/lap, Bottas’s average: 1:12.625/lap). Both drivers also did a longer simulation on a heavier fuel load on the same compound, averaging a promising 1:14.940/lap with Bottas and a disappointing 1:15.087/lap with Hamilton. With the fuel loads being unclear, however, it is hard to estimate what the real pace will be in both upcoming races.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez’s program today was more in line with that of the rest of the group. Red Bull looked fast on the Medium C3 tyres especially, with Verstappen averaging 1:13.353/lap and Pérez 1:13.606/lap. In the shorter Sprint Race simulation on the C4 compound, Verstappen was the fastest man on track with an average of 1:12.594/lap. The RB16B looks much better in the race trim than it was in quali, where neither driver could close the gap to Lewis Hamilton’s W12.
Ferrari split the strategy with their drivers in both simulations. On a heavier fuel load that indicates a Sunday Race run, Leclerc averaged 1:15.271/lap on the C4 compound, with Sainz averaging 1:15.430/lap on Medium tyres. On both tyres in either main race simulation or sprint race simulation, they looked faster than McLaren by a small margin, which is a positive sign for Ferrari this weekend. The race should be very tight (both Sprint and Main) between those two teams.
McLaren once again is forced to chase Ferrari, with the gap between them being rather small around this track. Lando Norris averaged 1:15.397/lap on Soft tyres (just about a tenth behind Leclerc), while Ricciardo registered an average of 1:15.706/lap on the Medium compound which again trails the Ferrari of Sainz by about two and a half tenths. The battle between these two teams will be close in the upcoming races, with both teams looking to secure the Third position in the WCC.
Like previously mentioned, Aston Martin was the only team that tested all three compounds today. Vettel averaged 1:15.142/lap on Hard tyres on his first stint, with his teammate Stroll keeping close with an average of 1:15.276/lap on the same compound. The team did not seem focused on the Sprint simulation judging on the fuel onboard during their stints, though their runs on the Hard compound looked promising. Overall, they seem to be in the mix with Alpine, but could benefit from a better starting position around this track.
Alonso finished the session on top of the timesheets as everyone else focused on mean pace. Alpine had a decent weekend so far, obtaining a top 10 finish for Alonso in Qualifying, with Ocon just outside of the Q3 group. In the race simulations, Alonso averaged 1:15.107/lap on Medium tyres, which puts him slightly above both Sainz and Ricciardo – though with fuel load being uncertain, it is all relevant to what tested today. It is hard to say if Alpine will be able to challenge those two teams for more than a P7 or P8, but the pace seems quite promising, especially in the battle against Aston Martin and the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda.
Author: Toni Sokolov