When you think of Formula 1 or motor racing in a specific country, one circuit usually springs to your mind before the others. When it comes to Brazil, you just can’t ignore Interlagos, it’s become synonymous with the South American nation.
The Autódromo José Carlos Pace (to give it its full name) has hosted the Brazilian Grand Prix more often than not since its inception in 1973. The São Paulo track has changed a lot in that time, being shortened from its original 8 km (5 miles) layout to its current 4.3 km (2.7 miles) configuration ahead of the 1990 race.
There’s almost always drama in Brazil, it’s a special track that I hope remains on the calendar, despite a planned move to Rio de Janiero in 2020. From Senna’s emotional first home win in 1991 to spectacular title showdowns in 2007, 2008 and 2012, Interlagos has seen it all, and here’s how you can maximise your lap!
The Senna S divides the two longest straights on the circuit and also begins your lap of Interlagos. The first corner comes very quickly after the start/ finish line, so be on your toes for it. You’ll be travelling at almost 210 mph (338 kph) and need to start braking at the 50m board down into third gear.
Turn 1 is an overtaking opportunity, but as the braking zone is so short, you’re probably best waiting until Turn 4 to make a move if you’re not fully alongside. Ease the steering wheel to the left, don’t worry if you miss the apex slightly, what matters for these corners is hitting Turn 2’s apex and the line through Turn 3.
Squirt the throttle and shift up to fourth gear and feather the throttle for the beginning of T2, to ensure you hit its apex. Clip the inside kerb of 2 and then the inside kerb of the long third corner.
You should be able to go flat through T3, and you need to stay tight to the inside, while avoiding the inside kerb. As the corner goes on, ease the car to the right-hand side of the track for the second straight and be ready to activate DRS, it’s on the exit of Turn 3.
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Descida do Lago
You’ll almost be up to 210 mph again for the next set of corners, which are two downhill left-handed corners that will catch you out if you’re not prepared. Brake at 75m down to fourth gear for Turn 4 and if you can, avoid all of the kerbing.
Tight is the aim of the game here, the tighter line you take, the faster you go, partly down to the negative camber found in Turn 4. Turn 4 is also the main overtaking spot on the circuit, go for the inside line and muscle your way past your rival.
Turn 5 is effectively a kink to the left, but as you’ll be in seventh gear when rounding it, be gentle on the steering wheel and avoid the kerbs, they will slow you down. Fade to the left after T5 to be on the correct line for Ferradura.
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The Turns 6 and 7 complex of Ferradura is a thrilling uphill right-hander that is so satisfying when you nail it, but has huge potential to bite you when you get it wrong. Dab on the brakes at the 50m board and decelerate down to sixth gear. Get back on the throttle straight away and power through the long right hander of 6 and 7.
Because of the speed you take into Turn 6, you can overtake into here, but it is extremely risky to do so due to the tightness of the road. There’s only really one line through here, as was shown in the 2009 race, when three cars were taken out at this corner.
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Like the first corner, Turn 8 comes very quickly and can catch you out. You need to brake at around the point where the Santander hoarding on the left disappears from the T-cam view and down to second gear.
You can use the inside kerb, there’s little punishment for doing so, and it does line you up better for Turn 8. However, if you go a little wide of the apex, you can carry more speed, and I find this to be the fastest line.
Turn 9 is a long horseshoe left-hander, which seems simple, but its downhill nature makes it hard to avoid a lock-up and easy to run wide through. As soon as you’ve got round Turn 8, swing to left, shift up to third and dab the brakes through Pinheirinho. There’s no exact science to getting around this one, you have to feel your way through.
Ease back onto the throttle when the front end bites and accelerate gently on exit, avoiding the outside kerb as it will unsettle the back end. Fade back to left as this sets you up on the correct line for Bico do Pato.
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Bico do Pato
This corner is called the “Duck’s beak” in Portuguese, because of its shape and is the antithesis of Pinheirinho. There are no brake markers here, but I get on the anchors when revving out fifth gear and slow to second gear.
This corner has a late apex, you’ll just kiss it as you’re exiting for the run down Mergulho. As the corner goes downhill on the exit, you can be confident that the rear tyres will grip when you hammer the throttle back down.
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Mergulho & Juncao
You should be able to take Mergulho flat-out in the dry, but beware of running wide and onto the outside kerbs on exit, as you will pick up a penalty for going too far off-track. Like a lot of the corners around here, you need to avoid the inside kerbing too and Juncao, the final braking zone follows quickly after.
You be in seventh gear on the exit of Turn 12 and need to brake down to third gear beginning at the 75m board. Avoid all the kerbing, especially that on the inside, as it will throw the rear end off balance and cost you a lot of time.
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Turns 14 and 15 are flat-out left-handers these days in the dry, but beware of them in the wet, as they become extremely tricky, as Max Verstappen showcased in 2016. You’ve no need to use any kerbs through these corners, you only need to be aware of the DRS activation, which comes into effect after the final corner.
It should also be noted that the racing line is to cut the pit entry area, so don’t worry about getting a penalty for doing so out here.
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Because of the abundance of tricky corners here, you can go with a higher downforce setup, but I prefer to go with low wing angles, around 2 on the front and 6 on the rear. Honestly, this makes life difficult in the corners, but means you have huge speed on the straights. Because of the nature of the corners, you can get away with low downforce, as it’s not always required for you to hit the apex.
Traction is difficult around here, the rear wheels spin up a lot of corners and you need to go with a more open differential to compensate for it. I go for 60% for on-throttle and 85% for off-throttle, so that the car is more balanced.
The camber and toe angles should be more towards the default values than normal around here, tyre wear can be an issue, although the 1-stop is still doable.
You generally avoid the kerbs around here, but the spring angles have to be on the soft side just in case you do use them, 4 on the front and 3 on the rear. Because of long corners like Ferradura, the anti-roll bar has to be softer than normal, 5 on the front and 4 on the rear. The ride height is the usual 3 on the front and 4 on the rear to help straight line speed.
There are some big stops around here, but locking up is common and you shouldn’t kill the momentum through some longer corners such as Pinheirinho. 86% brake pressure is the max you can get away with and 52% front brake bias is also the optimum.
Tyre pressures are the usual values, 23.8psi on the front and 21.1psi on the rear is the highest you can get away with without overheating your Pirellis.
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