It's time for the penultimate race of the longest season in the history of the Formula 1 World Championship, with no less than 22 rounds.
This weekend's race at Interlagos is the second Sao Paulo Grand Prix, although for the previous 47 times, it featured on the championship calendar, known as the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Formula 1 has raced at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, more generally referred to as Interlagos, 38 times. It is one of the most unusual tracks on the calendar, set in a natural bowl, between two artificial lakes (Interlagos meaning "between lakes" in Portuguese.) At 4.309 kilometres it is one of the shortest on the calendar, runs counter clockwise and provides a severe test of man and machine. It features a mix of fast corners, hairpins and gradient changes, which along with a bumpy surface makes for a particularly demanding mix. Therefore, finding the right set-up is a compromise between a lot of aero downforce and as little drag as possible. Interlagos is demanding from an aerodynamic point of view, mainly because of the slow mixed middle section with its low speed corners, while the first and third sectors favour a strong power unit to deal with straights and corners taken at full throttle. Overtaking is a definite possibility, especially in the Senna esses after the start-finish line, which is one of the DRS zones, along with another on the straight between turns 3 and 4. Turn 12, "Junçao" is the key to being quick in the final sector, both on a qualifying lap and in the race if a driver has to defend or go on the attack in the braking zone for turn 1.
As was the case last year, the Sao Paulo Grand Prix is the final Sprint race weekend of the season which means a different timetable to usual. On Friday, there is just one hour of free practice from 12.30 local (16.30 CET) before Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will be tackling qualifying at 16 (20 CET) to decide the grid positions for Saturday's Sprint race that gets underway at 16.30, over 24 laps, equal to around 100 kilometres. The top eight score points and the result also decides the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix that starts at 14 (18 CET) over 71 laps, a distance of 305.879 kilometres.
Three questions to Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
Can you tell us about your passion for motorsport? Where did it start? How did you get to Ferrari and what is your best memory so far from your time in red?
Laurent Mekies: "It all started, as is the case for most kids around the world, by being attracted and passionate about cars since a very early age, then being lucky enough to turn this passion into a job a few years later. Fortunately there are some great opportunities to start in the grassroots categories of motorsport after university, to then climb the ladder to eventually reach Formula 1. After a long stint at Scuderia Toro Rosso and another one at the FIA, I was (again) lucky to cross Mattia's path at a time when he was always looking to strengthening the team and that's how I got the opportunity to join Ferrari. The best memory? Monza 2019 of course, as winning in front of our tifosi is something incomparable!".
Can you describe the characteristics of the Interlagos track? What it normally takes to go fast on this circuit?
LM: "It is one of well established venues on the calendar. It has plenty of character with a superb mix of middle speed corners and a seriously long uphill straight line at the end of the lap. So it's a tough one for setup choices, downforce levels and so on. It's also a track where we have often had to deal with heavy rain in the past which makes for very unpredictable racing".
This weekend we have the Sprint format for the third and last time in the season: what skills are highlighted both for the team and the drivers by this format?
LM: "With the Sprint format you go straight into qualifying after only one hour of practice and that's it. You cannot change the setup of the cars from that point onwards. So it puts some serious emphasis on the quality of your preparation work back at home, in terms of simulation and in the simulator with our drivers. It also puts all drivers to the test, having to nail a qualifying lap after so little time to adapt. From that point onwards, it is a little bit like a 400km race, interrupted by a red flag after the first 100km (the Sprint)".
Ferrari in Brazil
GP contested 48
Debut 1973 Brazilian GP (A. Merzario 4th; J. Ickx 5th)
Wins 11 (22.92%)
Pole positions 7 (14.58%)
Fastest laps 8 (16.67%)
Total podiums 31 + 1 Sprint (21.53%)
Sao Paulo Grand Prix - Facts & Figures
1. The number of Sumo rings in Brazil. Located in Sao Paulo, it is the only traditional facility for this ancient and revered discipline found outside Japan. This is the result of their being a community of almost two million Japanese people who have made this South American country their home. The first immigrants arrived in 1908 and Brazil now boasts the biggest Japanese community outside Japan. The majority of these Brazilian-Japanese live in the states of Sao Paulo and Parana.
36. The percentage of races won from pole position at Interlagos, one of the lowest figures on the calendar. As previously mentioned, overtaking is quite common at this short track and so, only 16 times in 38 races has the winner started from pole. The first to do so was local hero Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974 and the most recent was Max Verstappen in 2019. For Ferrari, Felipe Massa won from the number one spot in 2006 and 2008.
706/07. The number of the law, approved in March 2009, that meant painting street art was no longer a crime, which it had been up to that point. Since then, the country, particularly Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, has attracted many artists whose murals are now an accepted art form in the cities. They are particularly prevalent in the Beco do Batman, Vila Madalena and Pinheiros areas of Sao Paulo.
1554. The year the city of Sao Paulo was founded, on 25 January. The Jesuit missionaries Manuel da Nobrega and Jose de Anchieta who built the first village, establishing the Colegio de Sao Paulo de Piratininga mission, home to fewer than one hundred people. The name of the city was down to the fact that, on that day, the church was celebrating the saint day of St. Paul the Apostle. Today, it is home to just over 12 million inhabitants.
25.000. The number of people who live in the Vargem Grande district of Sao Paulo in the Parelheiros district. Found at the southern end of the city, it is located inside a crater caused when a meteorite crashed into the earth more than 40 million years ago. The crater is 140 metres lower than the surrounding land.