Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Interlagos, 2010

Rookie pole sitter a worry for title contenders

Brazilian Grand Prix pre-race analysisPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Interlagos, 2010
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Interlagos, 2010

Nico H???lkenberg’s surprise pole position raises the prospect of a fascinating battle between him and the four championship contenders lined up behind his Williams on the grid.

And with Jenson Button trying to battle forward from 11th it promises to be another action-packed race at Interlagos.

The start

So how well will H???lkenberg get away from his pole position? Williams haven’t been making the best starts this year, but H???lkenberg hasn’t been struggling quite as much as Rubens Barrichello has.

H???lkenberg will enjoy the benefit of starting on the racing line which, even with the rain that has fallen, will still provide an advantage.

That gives him a decent chance of making it as far as the first corner in the lead – after all, the Red Bulls haven’t been the quickest cars off the line this year.

The four championship contenders have to weigh up the importance of seizing any opportunity to pass H???lkenberg – who is likely to be around a second per lap slower than them in race conditions – with the imperative of not ruining their race by risking a collision.

A key question here is how robustly H???lkenberg chooses to defend his position. We’ve seen drivers lose front wings trying to pass rivals on the Reta Oposta straight (Kimi R??ikk??nen last year, Juan Pablo Montoya in 2002).

Will H???lkenberg let the title protagonists by and concentrate on getting a big haul of points to ensure Williams move ahead of Force India in the constructors’ championship?

He may not have much of a choice – the Williams has not had great straight-line speed this year.

Hamilton, fourth on the grid, will surely be doing everything he can to keep Fernando Alonso behind, as that’s his best chance of keeping his championship hopes alive.

Strategy

All the drivers in the top ten did their best time on super-soft tyres and will have to start the race on them.

The only exception is Vitaly Petrov, who didn’t improve on the time he set on intermediates. Fortunately he won’t be forced to start a dry race on intermediate tyres – he will be able to choose which compound he uses.

So will Jenson Button, 11th on the grid behind Petrov, who may take the opportunity to gamble on starting on medium tyres.

But given the high likelihood of a safety car deployment a better bet for him may be to start on super-softs and pit for mediums at the earliest possible opportunity, The McLaren’s straight-line speed should allow him to pick some cars off at the Senna S.

What the front runners do with their strategies will again be influenced by the H???lkenberg variable. If he manages to hold some or all of them up it could throw their plans into disarray.

As ever, they’ll have an eye on how the traffic situation behind them evolves. According to Williams, total time loss for a typical three-to-four second pit stop is 19.5-20.5 seconds.

Traffic will likely come into play in a big way too. Interlagos is short and narrow, and catching a slow car in the twisty middle part of the lap is bad news.

However the weather is not expected to play a role in the race – after Saturday’s rain a dry day is forecast on Sunday.

How do you expect the Brazilian Grand Prix to unfold? Have your say in the comments.

And don’t forget to keep an eye on how the race will affect the championship using the F1 Fanatic Championship Calculator.

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