2019 Brazilian Grand Prix race preview: A power showdown in São Paulo

by Jake Williams-Smith on 13th November 2019

Mercedes secured its sixth double world championship in Texas, but there's plenty to fight for at the Brazilian Grand Prix, where the Ferrari power question will be answered

The start of the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix

Hamilton leads the start of the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix Photo: Motorsport Images

Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his sixth world championship at the Unites States Grand Prix while Valtteri Bottas took his fourth win of 2019.

A half-season of dominance many did not expect after winter testing set the Silver Arrows on course for glory.

Though Ferrari and Red Bull improved their performances in the latter half of the year, Mercedes appears to have risen to that challenge also.

But what many will be wondering after Austin is what happened to the Ferrari resurgence?

Reliability woes for both drivers over the course of the weekend and a chasm of a gap to race-winner Bottas on Sunday led many to infer a new technical directive had cracked the Ferrari code.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen insisted that a ‘piece of paper’ had unloaded and disposed of the Scuderia’s silver bullet, but there will be no doubts after Q3 in Brazil.

The long run from Junção up the hill to the start-finish straight will leave nowhere to hide if power unit performance isn’t at its peak and reveal whether or not Ferrari is down on power compared to earlier this year.

Here is a team-by-team preview ahead of the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix.


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Mercedes

Mercedes celebrates Lewis Hamilton's 2019 title and Valtteri Bottas' race win at the 2019 US Grand Prix

Celebrations all round at Mercedes in Austin Photo: Motorsport Images

No Toto, no problem? That will be what the 2019 world champions will be hoping for as team principal Toto Wolff will not be travelling to Brazil for the race.

It will be the first time since the Austrian joined the team in 2013 that he will not be present at a race, but it will not be a basis of excuses for the Silver Arrows.

"We have two races to go in the 2019 season and we want to end this season on a high,” Wolff said.

"It's a very short track which makes qualifying particularly challenging as the margins are very small.

"We have generally not had the fastest car on Saturdays since the summer break, but we were able to take pole in Austin and will try to fight for a front-row start again at São Paulo.”

Bottas will be eager to end 2019 on a high after a fourth win of the season for the Finn confirmed his second-place finish in the drivers’ standings and his best-ever season in F1.

Team-mate Hamilton, though, will be hoping to make it two successive wins in Brazil and continue to close in on the all-time record of 91 race victories, belonging to Michael Schumacher. Eight to go…

 

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel suffers a suspension failure during the 2019 US Grand Prix

More problems for Ferrari Photo: Motorsport Images

Where has the pace disappeared to? Temporary glitch, or game over?

Suggestions that the technical directive issued in the US is the cause of an uncompetitive SF90 were thoroughly rebuffed by team principal Mattia Binotto.

Despite those claims, Ferrari’s leader insisted the team’s issues were corrected by the time the flag fell in Texas.

“We were unable to deliver the results we felt we could have done,” he admitted

“On Saturday, we missed out on taking a historic seventh consecutive pole by just one-hundredth of a second with Sebastian, although we can take comfort from the fact it showed the raw performance was there.

“On Sunday, Charles’ pace in the first stint was poor although his car performance level was back to normal after the first pit stop.

“So we will put all this behind us now and look ahead to Brazil and a fresh start.”

Charles Leclerc’s job in Brazil has become more complicated than he might have hoped.

His power unit issue in practice last time out means the Monégasque driver will take a fresh Spec 3 power unit in Brazil and the subsequent grid penalty with it.

So, it will be a clear test of how powerful the Ferrari power unit is. The final sector at Interlagos places emphasis purely on power over aero performance.

Over to you Ferrari.


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Red Bull

Alex Albon leads Pierre Gasly during the 2019 US Grand Prix

Albon ahead of Gasly on track and in the Red Bull pecking order Photo: Motorsport Images

Fresh from the announcement that he will be remaining alongside Verstappen at Red Bull, Alex Albon could extend his impressive patch of form to a seventh-straight race.

Since joining the team, he has never finished outside of the top six and the 23-year-old has outscored Verstappen since becoming his team-mate.

“I am really excited to be partnering Max again for next year and I know how fortunate I am to be given this opportunity," Albon said.

"I’m hugely thankful that Red Bull have put their trust in me and believed in my results since I joined the team. For them to keep me in the car next year is a big deal."

Verstappen will be determined to make up for last season’s disappointment after colliding with the lapped Esteban Ocon, which ended up costing the Dutchman victory.

 

McLaren

Carlos Sainz gets into his McLaren ahead of the 2019 US Grand Prix

100 not out for Sainz and he is still improving Photo: Motorsport Images

The focus for McLaren is firmly on securing fourth place in the constructors’ championship.

Carlos Sainz’s 2019 season has been his best yet in F1, and Lando Norris has performed valiantly in his rookie season also.

Both scored points in Austin, this time Norris leading home Sainz for seventh and eighth, as the team took one step closer to confirming itself as best of the rest behind the top three.

“We head to Brazil seeking to extract the maximum from our car and score more points on the board,” Sainz said.

“The season is not over yet, with two more races to go, and there are still many points to fight for.

“Confirming our fourth place in the constructors’ championship is the target and I'll push hard until the end for that sixth place in the drivers’ championship, despite the difficulty of the task!”

 

 

Renault

Nico Hulkenberg during the 2019 US Grand Prix

Nico Hulkenberg looks like he may be done in F1 after this season Photo: Motorsport Images

Although 90 points technically remain available, Renault will need a helping of luck to usurp McLaren for fourth place.

Nico Hülkenberg’s Formula 1 exit looks to have been sealed with the confirmation of Antonio Giovinazzi remaining at Alfa Romeo for 2020.

Despite that, the German is targeting points to end his 2019 season and potentially his F1 career on a positive.

“We recovered well in Austin and the second half of the race, especially the final ten or so laps, were fun and we deserved our points," said Hülkenberg

“We have to target more in Brazil and pushing closer to sixth-seventh spots to take home even more points.”

The 38-point gap, as it currently stands, is a sizeable one with just two rounds remaining and even the target places of sixth and seventh would not be enough to overhaul the Woking-based team.

 

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat during the 2019 US Grand Prix

Photo: Motorsport Images

The team name may be changing to Alpha Tauri, but the current Toro Rosso driver line-up will remain the same next season.

Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat suffered a dismal United States Grand Prix, with the Russian receiving his second post-race time penalty for final lap contact, this time Sergio Perez the victim.

Looking ahead to Interlagos, the team is firmly locked in a battle with Racing Point for sixth position in the constructors’ standings.

A single point separates the two in RP’s favour, though Kvyat is expecting a tough time regardless at the anti-clockwise venue.

“Even with all the training we do, you feel the lateral forces on your neck here with the track running anti-clockwise," said Kvyat.

“It’s not a problem but it is challenging. The weather can also play its part and mix things up a bit and it can go either way, maybe providing an opportunity or just being an extra risk to deal with.”

 

Racing Point

Sergio Perez during the 2019 US Grand Prix

Photo: Motorsport Images

Perez has, typically of the reliable 29-year-old, been putting together a solid second half of the season.

Six out of seven points finishes since Belgium is a fine patch of form as Perez looks to have found his feet with the RP19.

It is a run that could have been seven for seven but for a reliability let-down in Singapore.

Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer insisted that fifth is still a possibility for the team but that they would need to execute perfect races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi

"I can say that I am pleased with our performance since the summer break," said Szafnauer. "We’ve worked hard to improve the car and scored points in all but one of the last seven races. 

"The point we scored in America helped move us up to sixth place in the championship and mathematically we can still aim for fifth. There’s lots at stake and lots to fight for, so we need to maximise the opportunities this weekend.”

 

Alfa Romeo

Antonio Giovinazzi during the 2019 US Grand Prix

Antonio Giovinazzi will be with Alfa Romeo for 2020  Photo: Motorsport Images

Antonio Giovinazzi’s future at Alfa Romeo has been secured, a string of impressive performances after the summer break coming at a crucial point for the Italian.

His one-lap pace in particular has grown comparatively to team-mate Kimi Räikkönen, who has been up and down in form since the summer break.

As the team looks to move further clear of Haas in the constructors' standings, team principal Frédéric Vasseur insists the team can still get amongst the midfield in the remaining races.

“Everyone in the team is working relentlessly to push us forward and back into the points," said Vasseur. "The last few races have shown progress, but we know we still have some work ahead of us to get back to the front of the midfield.

"We can build on the positives and on our strengths in the confidence we can make another step forward in Brazil.”

 

Haas

Haas' Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen during the 2019 US Grand Prix

It wasn't home sweet home for Haas last time out Photo: Motorsport Images

Another race, another miserable result for Formula 1’s only American team and on home soil no less.

A trip to South America will not likely bring in a change of fortunes for them, but Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will be hoping for better than 15th and 18th respectively this time out.

Last season, the team scored a solid eighth and ninth-place finish, a result they would currently welcome, grab with two hands and run to Abu Dhabi with before the season is out.

 

Williams

Williams' Robert Kubica and George Russell during the 2019 US Grand Prix

Williams will have prospect Nicholas Latifi in the car for FP1 Photo: Motorsport Images

The Brazilian Grand Prix will be Robert Kubica’s penultimate with Williams after a torrid season for the team.

Kubica will be familiar with the circuit unlike the previous two rounds, with his last outing at Interlagos resulting in a ninth-place finish in 2010.

F2 driver Nicholas Latifi has been heavily linked with the currently vacant Williams seat for 2020 and will once again get an outing in the FW42 during free practice one in place of the Pole.

“I am excited to get another opportunity to jump back in the car in Brazil. It will be my third FP1 in a row, in such a short period of time, so that’s good for the rhythm," said Latifi.

“I drove in FP1 there last year, so I know the track and that will help me get up to speed.

“I’m looking forward to getting out there and experiencing it once again.”

 

 

 

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