Recapping all of the news and notes from the Interlagos paddock on Thursday, here is our paddock notebook.
– The Autodromo José Carlos Pace welcomed Formula 1 with a grey and chilly day on Thursday. With a reasonable chance of rain for the next three days, including the race, many drivers were seeing the dark skies as an opportunity. “With the pace that we have, I hope that maybe the rain comes to mix things up”, said Lance Stroll, who explained on Thursday how Williams has been surviving, not racing, through 2018, even saying the car had barely been updated since Melbourne.
– Fernando Alonso was another driver doing a rain dance as he remembered how much stronger was McLaren’s position 12 months ago, when he started 7th and finished 8th. “We know that it’s going to be difficult, especially because of our qualifying pace. But the rain that fell on Friday in the last few races can come on Sunday this time and make the race more interesting.”
– Alonso, who has won his two championships in São Paulo, but never won a race in Interlagos, gave his tips for a good lap in Interlagos. “I like the circuit, it has only six corners where you can make time, so it ends up being a handicap when you are trying to push to find time, but normally with the weather and how the race develops gives some opportunities”, said the Spaniard, picking out Turns 1, 4, 6, 8, 9 and the last corner as being the key places.
– Safety was also a topic this Thursday, after some teams and the FIA were attacked in Interlagos last year. After many talks between the local authorities and the federation, F1 has been reassured that the police will stay for longer around the circuit. For the drivers, the matter seems to be solved. A number of teams have also taken extra security measures as a result of incidents last year.
– Another topic of concern is the future of the Brazilian GP. The organizers have a contract until the end of 2020 and guarantee they have the means to hold three more races. But Gabriel Rohonyi, marketing vice-president of the GP, said this is only possible thanks to the subsidy the event is getting with the current contract, signed with Bernie Ecclestone. “It’s a complex mathematics”, he said, denying some recent reports that the Brazilian GP is not paying any fees to FOM.
– The good news for F1’s biggest market is that the new mayor of Sao Paulo, who took over this year, wants to start negotiations for a new contract as soon as possible, even though the circuit is in the middle of a privatization process. As it stands, Interlagos is owned by the city of São Paulo, and will likely be sold with the guarantee that the track is kept as it is now. “I want São Paulo to be the racing capital of Brazil, with Formula 1 and other international categories like WEC and FE”, said Mayor Bruno Covas. Interlagos will start hosting WEC in the beginning of 2020, and has had negotiations with Formula E.
– Drivers will come together on Friday for their latest GPDA meeting, with tyres set to be a major talking point. With Pirelli expected to retain the tyre contract beyond 2020, the drivers are keen to work closer with the Italian tyre manufacturer in order to give them tyres that are better to race with. “At the moment, you do three corners really close from another car, you start sliding, and three degrees off temperatures on the tyres, and then basically the performance, you start to lose performance, and then a snowball effect, the temperature keeps increasing and after you are done,” said Pierre Gasly. “So I think it’s something Pirelli should focus on.”
– Fresh from clinching his fifth world title two weeks ago in Mexico, Lewis Hamilton has now turned attention to the constructors’ championship, which Mercedes can wrap up this weekend with one race to spare. It would mark Mercedes’ fifth straight teams’ title, securing a sizeable bonus for the team members in the process.
– Hamilton did however say he won’t look to easily give up a victory to teammate Valtteri Bottas as payback for his gifted win in Russia back in September. Bottas was content with this, saying he is eager to earn his victory.
– Mexico winner Max Verstappen cast doubt on his chances of being able to produce a repeat result at Interlagos, feeling the power-hungry nature of the track will play against Red Bull and its Renault engine. Verstappen said the team is likely to wind up P5 and P6 behind the Ferraii and Mercedes cars, barring anything out of the ordinary.
– Haas team boss Günther Steiner was in his typical upbeat mood on Thursday despite the team’s loss in the FIA appeal court over Romain Grosjean‘s Monza disqualification last week. Steiner said he did not wish to dwell on the matter, but did concede the team is now chasing “miracles” to overcome the 30 point gap to Renault for P4 in the constructors’ standings.
– FIA race director Charlie Whiting confirmed a few circuit updates in his pre-race notes, including the addition of a double kerb on the exit of Turn 4, a deep track cleaning to allow for more consitient levels of grip, plus “additional grooving” to aid drainage.
– Nicholas Latifi (Force India), Lando Norris (McLaren) and Antonio Giovinazzi (Sauber) will all take part in FP1 on Friday, as confirmed in the official entry list issued today.