Former Formula One driver Heikki Kovalainen, who raced for McLaren, Renault, Lotus and Caterham between 2007 and 2013, will be writing an exclusive column for Sport360 this season. Here he looks at the F1 storylines ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
– F1: Red Bull ‘right on limit’ for first pre-season
– F1: Haas chassis will be ‘better’ than Ferrari
– #360view: With pressure off Rosberg is different driver
The circuit at Interlagos is a short lap, with the enthusiastic Brazilian fans making for a great atmosphere, especially when you pass the second last corner of the track. It’s quite different to a few circuits because it’s anticlockwise so you’re turning left more than your turning right.
Because of the difference in direction of the circuit, it used to present challenges physically as your neck is accustomed to going clockwise a lot more than anticlockwise. Years ago when the cars had more grip and more G-Force, it was physically a little harder for your neck. Nowadays the cars are easier to drive so it’s not an issue, and more importantly when you’re competing at this level its business as usual.
In 2007, when I raced with Renault at this circuit it was just refused for the first time. Prior to this it was very bumpy which made for difficult driving conditions. However, the track has since remained in great shape and throws a number of surprises during its course.
The first challenging part of the track is braking into the first corner. The circuit falls a bit to the left so your left front tyre gets light as it falls into the corner. It’s very easy to make a mistake and you can end up screwing your lap immediately. On the other hand, if you brake too early you just lose too much time. You have to find a correct braking point before qualifying, and then in the race the drivers need to be focused to know where they’re at.
Another testing area later in the lap is near the top of the hill. After the long right-hand corner there are a couple of slower corners which are tight. The inside wheel always gets a bit light here which makes braking challenging because of the sharp changes.
Every race is a test and with Mercedes’ power they are going to be the team to beat again. The circuit is at altitude so you lose power from the engine faster than normal. The Mercedes car is very strong and I suspect Nico Rosberg will be the man to beat now. I don’t see a big reason for it to change after his superb run of form. I think knowing that a good run of form could set him up better for next season is motivating him. He’s trying to start next season already.
Whether Lewis is up for it or not remains to be seen. He might not be at his absolute best. A long championship has been done, and he’s had some superb performances between qualifying and the races. He’s normally at his best when it matters.
Behind them, the usual suspects – Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams – should have a say in the podium positions but it’s difficult to say which order. There won’t be much in it because it’s such a short circuit. It will only be a few tenths in qualifying and the same in the race. It will be short margins for the rest of the grid.
- Nico Rosberg
- Lewis Hamilton
- Sebastian Vettel