After a season of races that has taken in Australia, Asia, North America and Europe, the Formula One circus will next weekend head for the last continent on the calendar: South America, courtesy of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Brazil has produced so many motor racing legends that it will have a place in the heart of any F1 fan. Interlagos, the current base for the country's grand prix in the giant, sprawling city of Sao Paulo, has also played host to some classic battles down the years. Panasonic Toyota Racing heads to Brazil in 4th place in the constructors' championship on 80 points, just 10 points behind Ferrari and pushing hard to make the top three.
THIRD IN THE HAND
Toyota has three races left to fulfil its ambition of making it into the top three of the constructors' championship, and Jarno Trulli will be pushing as hard as ever to make it happen.
Jarno Trulli (Car 16): "Our pace has looked good recently so our target for the last three flyaway races is to challenge Ferrari for third place in the constructors' championship. We are only ten points behind and we can definitely manage it if we continue to push hard. To come from near the back of the grid last year to the position we are in now is an amazing achievement and it's down to a fantastic performance by the whole team. The Brazilian Grand Prix is a race that I have always enjoyed. I always enjoy racing at technically demanding tracks, and Interlagos is certainly a challenge with a mix of low and high speed sections and some other things that make it quite complicated. I like the first corner a lot, and it is one of only three anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar, which can make the race tiring on the neck. Most of all, I remember the torrential rain from the 2003 race. That made life really tricky..."
LET'S MEAT UP
Ralf Schumacher is looking forward to his Sao Paulo trip for many reasons, not least the quality of the steaks in the downtown restaurants.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 17): "Interlagos is a challenging circuit for both drivers and the technical team – one of the most demanding on the calendar. It's less bumpy than it used to be, which is lucky seeing as I've had such a pounding in past races that it's only taken a few laps to give me a headache! But even since they changed the track surface there are still bumps so you have to find a good damper and spring set-up. Apart from that you have to find a good compromise between aerodynamical downforce, mechanical grip and top speed. When you come to the tight corners on the infield like Pinheirinho and Bico de Pato it's important to have as much mechanical grip as possible, and as much downforce as you can find. But you have to balance that out with the two long straights, where the cars need to have as little wing as possible to go quickly. Away from the circuit I'm a big fan of meat so I'm looking forward to trying out some more great Brazilian steaks."
WINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE HEIGHT
Interlagos is at a higher altitude than most circuits on the F1 calendar, and it has a track surface that is more prone than most to give the cars and drivers a bumpy ride.
Dieter Gass – Chief Race Engineer: "Interlagos is a circuit with a medium downforce configuration, with some quick corners, but also some very low speed, tight corners where traction is very important. It's quite easy on brakes but usually you have quite a lot of tyre wear, which will be an influencing factor for the tyre choice. The fact that it is anti-clockwise doesn't make much difference from an engineering point of view, but some of the drivers put some padding on the head rest to support the helmet because of the different stresses it places on the neck. The track surface is not as bumpy as it used to be but what bumps there are can cause problems. If they are on the straight it's not so critical. But if you have them on the corners then you can really upset the car's balance. So you need to set up the car in a way that it does not have any sudden balance changes when it goes over a bump. If you don't, the driver can lose control – and you especially want to avoid snap oversteer over the bumps. The circuit is at high altitude so you can miss out on engine power. But that's the same for everyone."