Rookie pole sitter a worry for title contenders

Brazilian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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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77 comments on Rookie pole sitter a worry for title contenders

  1. qazuhb said on 7th November 2010, 2:18

    What if the guys at Ferrari decide for an Alonso’s engine change? He could avoid first lap trouble but would need to pass Button if he wants a big points finish.

    • BasCB said on 7th November 2010, 9:19

      Why would they do that? The engine they put in his car on saturday has so far only done Monza and Alonso would be just fine watching his back and not crashing into anything in front of him to keep it in 4th place tomorrow. That will keep him right where he needs to be to win the title.

  2. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 7th November 2010, 3:00

    P5 is not a very good place to start for Alonso if the race is on wet as when you have that Senna S you may get hit by somebody from behind or collect someone in incident in front but it will be a great race to watch today.

    Nico should race aggressively not sure what the team will say, he can charge & risk it or play it safe & collect the maximum points that is possible.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 7th November 2010, 5:21

      No, he shouldn’t race aggressive. When he gets aggressive, he gets loose – look at what he did in Monza. He was scrappy and all ovr the place, he kepy missing the first chicane in particular.

      • BasCB said on 7th November 2010, 9:22

        Missing the chicane was more to do with his brakes giving up though.

        I agree with you that Nico would not need to drive agressively, if he just concentrates on getting away from the line fine to be the first in the corner and choose a moderately defensive line after that it will be a while before the guys behind him sort themselves out and fancy a move on him.

  3. And with Jenson Button trying to battle forward FOR 11th ??

  4. The News Limited newspapers in Australia ran the world’s most confusing graph in the saturday papers this weekend. But underneath was the caption “Two top three finishes will be enough for Alonso to win the title.”

    Some first-class journalism once again……..

  5. Prisoner Monkeys said on 7th November 2010, 5:23

    It will be interesting to watch Petrov – he gets his choice of tyres. Maybe his rubber will be fresher by only a few laps, but he could throw a curveball.

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 7th November 2010, 5:58

      Did he qualify on inters?

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 7th November 2010, 6:18

        The article says he set his fastest time on intermediates. Because of that, he gets his choice of tyres so that he’s not forced to race in the dry on wet tyres (just as drivers who qualify in the dry and race in the wet aren’t obligated to run slicks).

        • Adam Tate said on 7th November 2010, 10:01

          I think he could be a factor, if anything he could be key in holding back Massa and Button from helping their team mates.

    • BasCB said on 7th November 2010, 9:25

      It does add some nice strategy options for him. Would trying to go for a good start on mediums, then keep it going right until the end be a good one?
      It depends on the start (he does get away fine, if he doesn’t happen to tangle with someone on the start) and on safetycar periods.

  6. CapeFear said on 7th November 2010, 5:36

    wouldn’t Mclarens best option be mediums. Jenson push as hard as possible to keep within 10 seconds of the front runners, take the lead and slow everyone down as long as possible except his team mate?

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 7th November 2010, 6:28

      No. It doesn’t work like that. The tyres won’t be good enough to last that long. His best chance is to try and time it so that he’s coming around as one of the other title contenders and engage them in battle so that their grip is wasted on running defence. You’re naturally slower when you’re defending, so if Button can force someone to concentrate on him, it can open up a big enough gap that Hamilton only has to worry about attacking those in front of him. The problem is that the longer the title contenders wait to pit, the less grip Button will have, and the less time he will have to run interference.

  7. Go Nico! This is going to be an INTERESTING race!!

  8. Damon said on 7th November 2010, 8:29

    I’ve got a feeling that Kubica will pull-off a Senna, Donington’93 style!

    • Maciek said on 7th November 2010, 9:04

      Feeling, or more like wishful thinking? Sure would be cool, but I would rather this race get played out between Hulkenberg and the main contenders.

  9. Lewis H said on 7th November 2010, 9:22

    hoping for Hamilton to win, followed by NONE of the championship contenders. Vettel and webber are bound to come together. Alonso will hopefully get caught up by Button. Abu Dhabi shall decide that Hamilton is the 2010 F1 champion!!!.

    • BasCB said on 7th November 2010, 9:27

      That would be no fun. Why not a Button win with Hamilton second and the Hulk in third, or give it to the Hulk and let Hamilton come home in second.

  10. When is the race UK time?

  11. i think williams have made an error by choosing a wet set up, in the race we will see them struggle. any team which has gone for a perfect dry set-up will gain many places in the race…

  12. Even if it’s because Hulk defends too aggressively, If one of the top drivers take him out, they will be my least favourite driver for the next three years…

  13. this is going to be a classic
    webber and vettel going to be great at the first corner fernando and lewis…….we are gonna need five eyes.

    lets go racing people

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