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.


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. I can`t wait to see Vettel vs Webber and Hamilton vs Alonso at the start ! I don`t want to see any collision between the championship contenders , and I hope the race result will be : 1 Vettel , 2 Hamilton , 6 webber and 8 Alonso ( or DNF )!

    1. That would be nice! ;) And Hülkenberg 3rd or 4th!

      1. Lets say 3rd. He deserves podium

  2. Although it was a great pole lap from Nico, I can’t see him keeping the lead for long with the Bulls charging behind him.

    A good start and defensive driving could see him backing the pack up until he pits. Nico can afford to be aggressive in his defending, while everyone else cannot afford a DNF.

    The question is how Ferrari and McLaren play their blockers. Both Massa and Button will probably need to sacrifice their races to be an advantage to their team mates (given their positions). However even if Jenson starts on hard tyres and runs long, it might not be enough if the front is quick enough (but Nico could change that if the Bulls decide to pit early).

    All in all, looking forward to another great race at Interlagos.

    1. If Button is going to be used in that way the best bet is to start him on medium tyres and hope he can stay close enough to Vettel/Webber/Alonso that they delay their pit stop. Of course this rests on the assumption that when Hamilton takes his pit stop Button lets him past.

      1. DeadManWoking
        7th November 2010, 0:17

        The McLaren’s straight-line speed should allow him to pick some cars off at the Senna S.

        Button was 6 kph slower than Kubica, Hamilton and Vettel in the Qualy speed trap:


        1. qualy speed trap means nothing since they were no where near the rev limit as it was raining:

      2. We have seen very long first stints work this year, so it could be a valid tactic to use considering his starting position.

        I don’t want to see deliberate blocking going on, but it could make the pit wall work like crazy. RedBull have already suggested Jenson has been used in this way, so maybe McLaren might factor that in.

        I’m sure Jenson will let Lewis past if that is what’s required (there appears a healthy respect between the two of them).

        1. The long stints have worked this year to get you a few places from the midfield, but for Button to win (which is his aim), he’s going to need more than simply a contrary strategy.

          I think he should start on the soft tyres and wait for any Safety Car or rain (mind you it looks to be dry). Either of those happening early would ruin a long strategy.

      3. If Button is going to be used in that way the best bet is to start him on medium tyres and hope he can stay close enough to Vettel/Webber/Alonso that they delay their pit stop. Of course this rests on the assumption that when Hamilton takes his pit stop Button lets him past.

        Actually, I think that if Button wants to help Hamilton, the best thing he can do is simply race. Work his way up the field and place highly enough to be ahead of a rival or two.

        1. I agree, Hamilton would be best helped by Button finishinig in front of Alonso to get him another 2 points down.
          For him to do that, i would fancy him doing either a short stint on the softs and be close enough to get in front of someone after their stop (like Webber in Singapore) or do a long first stint to get in front of the 4-5 cars starting in front of him.

          All of this will only work if he is fast enough and does some good overtaking. It will feel a bit of a revival from last year to him, only with less reward at the end.

          1. i would fancy him doing either a short stint on the softs and be close enough to get in front of someone after their stop

            I think that would be the best tactic for Button to use. Just eat up all the grip from the softs and pit. He might have traffic though.

          2. The problem with that is that he doesn’t seem to have the easiest time making passes. And doesn’t seem to want to risk things as much as Lewis would…

            Although Lewis risking things sometimes costs more than it gains… :/

    2. I think Nico could be in with a good chance of holding off the Bulls for a frustratingly long time. Remember he is on a full dry setup as opposed to the championship contenders behind who’ve opted for a compromise. I suspect all this will mean that while he won’t be quicker than the Red Bulls, he won’t be a full second off their pace either..

      1. That’s something to bear in mind, Horner confirmed they were running a compromise setting before qualifying started. Also the championship contenders may not want to make too many risks and if Hulkenburg keeps parking it on the inside to go defensive it would be a brave man to try and go all the way around the outside of him.

  3. Since Vettel, how shall I put this, lacks finesse when trying to overtake, its him I’d be keeping my eye on if I was The Hulk. There may well be tears at the first corner, although undoubtedly it would spice up the championship race even more. But the race is shaping up to be an absolute cracker, whatever the end result will be.

    1. Vettel, how shall I put this, lacks finesse when trying to overtake

      I think an award for Diplomatic Comment of the Day is needed here…

      1. dyslexicbunny
        7th November 2010, 1:56

        Second! The comment’s just spit your drink out funny.

      2. LOL, fully agree.

        Nice comment Pink Pirelli!

    2. People forget Vettel started 15th, finished 4th here last yeard? And would have been 3rd before Hamilton had Kovalainen not touched Vettel’s front wheel making it harder to change in the pit stop.
      He lost almost a second there and got out just behind Hamilton.
      People forget so quickly. Hamilton on the other hand is great at slicing rear tires, running in to people and so on and so on.

      1. Maybe Hamilton will slice Webber’s tire at the start…

      2. yeah, but he didn’t gain all those positions by overtaking people. Unlike Button, weirdly

        1. He made a bloody good pass on Barrichello around the outside of one of those hairpins though. Strange how people always forget that one.

      3. People forget so quickly. Hamilton on the other hand is great at slicing rear tires, running in to people and so on and so on.

        And you have allowed Monza and Singapore to let you forget how good Hamilton is at overtaking. Vettel occasionally can do it, like at Siverstone, but that turned out to be the exception, not the rule.

        1. And I was thinking Hamilton was that way long before those races, so no, I’d say they rather proved my point rather than be the starting point for it.

          1. Well, considering that Hamilton is one of the drivers who has made the most overtakes for position out on the track, it just means your view on his driving is wrong.

            Oh and Vettel is just superb at either crashing into people when overtaking (Belgium 10, Turkey 10), or waiting behind slower cars for far too long (Turkey 09, China 10, Canada 10).

      4. I wouldn’t mind him finishing 4th this year again after getting off track in a badly executed move to a. get past the Hulk at the start or b. keep behind Webber/Hamilton/Alonso at the start and falling back to 15th ;-)
        But he certainly will not be able to get past that many people again without actually overtaking some of them on track this year.

      5. People forget so quickly. Hamilton on the other hand is great at slicing rear tires, running in to people and so on and so on.

        So has Alonso this year. In Turkey he gave Petrov a puncture and at Silverstone he gave himself one.

        1. That was because Alonso had the corner, and 3/4 of his car ahead and Petrov didn’t yield.

      6. I guess we can safely describe Vettel as a loose canon ball.

  4. Should be immensely interesting. What its looking like to me is whoever has the best launch has the better chance at overtaking the Hulk with limited damage(all moot of course if the aforementioned hulkster has an absolute blitz of a start)
    I think Vettel probably pips him, leaving Hulk and Webber side by side, Lewis probably waiting in the wings to seize the opportunity should any silliness happen.
    Itll be MASSIVELY interesting thats for sure.

  5. Hulkenberg showed in Monza he defends aggresively, so in tense ambiance some collision may happen.
    Vettel will try to overtake him just during the start, and probably Webber. Then Hamilton will seek his opportunity.
    For me, Vettel and Hamilton are most possible triggers of collision with Hulkenberg.
    Everyone of them will be tempted to overtake on the long straight, that gives plenty of opportunity. It will be a thriller.

  6. i am praying for an incidnt free start but the longer hulky stays upfront the more exciting the race will become. I hope he will hold on to it as long as possible! the dc contenders cannot afford to give him a chance to the top prize tomorrow, they will take action for sure. if hulky holds on to it for the first laps the guys behind him are gonna be on top of each other eliminating any car advantage and they will be very impatient. I bet bernie had an orgasm when he saw the quali results.

  7. I foresee carbon fibre on the track.

    1. Right then lets have a go at this psychic stuff. “I predict that Vettel will pass Hulkenberg down the straight to turn 4 and that Webber will tangle with him in the twisty bit (not on lap 1). I also see Hamilton on the podium and a Ferrari driver let down by something” (Spooky voice ends.)

  8. the first corner will be amazing, i think hulk will try to keep the lead at least one lap .. hope hamilton wins tomorrow and button gets some points if things go well

  9. “Hulkenberg showed in Monza he defends aggresively, so in tense ambiance some collision may happen.”

    I seem to remember he did this via the regular use of cutting the corner and “escape routes”. There were some of us who believed he should have been penalised for that.

    1. dyslexicbunny
      7th November 2010, 1:57

      Indeed. I was surprised nothing came of it, especially when Mark complained over radio but it is what it is.

    2. But I would forgive the Hulk for using every piece of track if he were to fend off the championship leaders for the major part of the race.
      This would mean them not driving away from the field and enable the likes of Alguersuari, Rosberg, Petrov, Schumacher, Massa, Kubica, Kobayashi, Button and Barricello to play a significent role in the race outcome.

  10. Lately Mclaren have been slow off the grid.
    They don’t necessarily lose a place, but often they tend fall back a little on take off.
    I have a feeling Vettel will get Hulkenberg before the first corner, or it will be carbon fiber everywhere.

    1. I like the expression of your last words.

    2. From Seb we can expect anything xD

  11. I’m hoping for VET to win, HAM 2nd, WEB 5th, and ALO 10th or DNF in the interest of the tightest points spread heading to Abu Dhabi. In any case though I can’t wait for the start tomorrow. It’s gonna be a classic.

    1. If that would be the case give a thought for Button to make him at least get over the 200 points after this race. I would like RBR to have some work to do for that constuctors title.

  12. Vettel doesn’t have anything to lose and nor does Hamilton.

    They both need to make up points.

    I think Hamilton could win the race tomorrow because if he attacks Webber, i can’t see Webber putting up a huge fight.

    Hulkenberg is a massive joker in the pack. Its going to be great, the first lap is going to be carnage!

    Jenson Button driving through the field might be entertaining as well. If he actually has the car to do it.

    1. Oh He’s got the car for it – just look at LH – has he got the willing is my only question, JB will finally have to actually overtake some folks on sunday though I’m sure He’ll do his usual trick and just drive round complaining about the balance of the car while LH drives the wheels of the same car…

      1. No, It isn’t a question of willing. There’s much more to it; firstly to who’s orthodoxy did Button have to move away from towards his own direcion in terms of set up? it was Hamiltons. It’s not a matter of Jumping in at a fellow drivers’ car and competing on equal grounds. Here in Australia we had Mark Skaife jump into Craig Lowndes’ car for the Bathurst race ( and believe me it wasn’t exactly Skaife’s best showing in terms of race pace)

        I guess what I’m trying to get at is this time for the initial design of the 2011 challenger Jenson is around to have the car moulded around him as well as Lewis.

        Jenson is a superb overtaker. Mind you he didn’t get to where he is now without dominating other categories of openwheeler formulaes. Mclaren isn’t in a desparate financial position so Jenson is racing there for a reason.

        Whether, Hamilton is better than him I don’t care; so much as you compare Jenson to Him as if he’s a thoroughly incapable driver then i must beg you look at the bigger picture

    2. Jenson will have to repeat his drive of last year, only the reward will be a bit less as a podium will be the maxium he could get instead of the world championship this year.

  13. Fantastic article Keith..
    I think Hukenberg will surprise a few people and keep the lead for awhile but won;t have an answer for Red Bulls horsepower.. It will be a tight bunch upfront. Can’t wait..
    Here’s to a great race..

  14. With the well demonstrated self destructive nature of Red Bull, and the fact that Vettel, Lewis and the Hulk have more to gain than lose, I think the initial turn-in to the Senna S will be decisive in the WDC.

    I’m expecting Vettel to break late on the inside of the Hulk, who’s likely to turn-in early in a blocking attempt, a recipe for disaster. Webber will either attempt to go round the outside, and end up a casualty, or cut in on the inside and collect Lewis (who you would expect to have another quick getaway and make a run up the inside).

    All of this leaves Alonso to keep a cool head, stay back out of trouble and calmly drive around the carnage.

    Either that, or the entry’s clean but the exit ends in tears with clipped wings and spinning cars, or again through turn three. As a Webber fan, I’ll be holding my breath until at least turn four, if not the entire race.

    1. I would not bet on that happening. Sure, if Vettel or Webber has a very good start and the Hulk does not, they will fancy an attempt to get past.

      But otherwise all of these guys will just want to keep the others behind them and Alonso as far back as possible.

  15. Prisoner Monkeys
    7th November 2010, 2:10

    If Hulkenberg’s previous starts have been anything to go by, I don’t think the title contenders will have anything to worry about. At least three of them should be able to get by him into the first corner; the only one who might have trouble is Alonso since he’s two rows back … and we all know what the guy two rows back from Hulkenberg did last time he got a bad start.

    1. You are right, both Williams have had a lot of bad starts this year. But if we look at the starts of the guys behind the Hulk, both Red Bulls have not been the best of starters this year either.
      That would mean they will be looking more to keeping Alonso and Hamilton behind than getting past the Hulk unless he is extremely slow of the line.

  16. 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.

    1. 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.

  17. 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.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      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.

      1. 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.

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

  19. 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……..

  20. Prisoner Monkeys
    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.

    1. Did he qualify on inters?

      1. 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).

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

    2. 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.

  21. 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?

    1. 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.

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

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

    1. 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.

  24. 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!!!.

    1. 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.

  25. When is the race UK time?

  26. 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…

    1. Williams claim that Hulkenberg doesn’t have a wet set-up – it’s everyone else who does.

  27. 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…

  28. 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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