Last year, David Coulthard brought down the curtain on a long and illustrious Formula One career as he drove the Wings for Life Red Bull car in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Having taken a win, three more podiums, five retirements and one disqualification at the circuit, DC knows more than most about the highs and lows of Interlagos...
“The first thing to note about Interlagos is that there’s quite a lot of elevation across the track, which you wouldn’t really know from watching on television. You’re straight into that off the start line with the run down to the Senna Esses, as Turns One and Two are now known.
You always struggle for grip as you drop down though this section, and Turn Two has a tight apex, that you continue to follow into Turn Three. In the dry it’s a flat-out corner; in the wet it’s a river crossing. Late in the race it’s also a corner that starts to be an issue for your neck muscles.
After that there’s a long straight which is quite bumpy. You’ll see the cars moving around quite a lot as they approach Turn Four. That’s a reasonable stop as you change down for third gear. Again, with this being an anti-clockwise circuit it’s a bit tough on the neck as you come through Four and Five, which is a constant radius, constant high-G corner, and then a burst of acceleration up the hill to Turns Six and Seven.
The interesting thing here is that the apex of Seven is essentially a blind brow; this morning [Friday] we saw Sébastien Buemi come over it blind and very nearly run into the back of a Force India. That can happen.
Then it’s a big stop, second gear down in the Turn Eight. Famously, the cars always cut across the inside curb, which demands a lot of stability on the front end to cope with the lateral loads under braking. It’s a short burst into another second gear left-hander at Turn Nine, which is a loooong hairpin that’s slightly cambered-in and so feels like a mini version of the old Nordscheife Karussell. You’re a little bit traction-limited as you blast out of Nine, up to fourth gear and then another big stop into Turn Ten. Ten, again, like Eight, requires you to brake and turn at the same time and you’re on the limit of that inside wheel locking up.
It’s a scrabble for traction out of Ten and then you start dropping down like a rollercoaster ride through Turn Eleven; flat-out going up through the gears, down to the bottom of the hill and another second gear big for Turn Twelve. That’s the last real corner as you begin to accelerate hard through Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen which take you up through the rise and down across the start –finish line.
All in all it’s a short lap in terms of lap time, it’s hard on the left side of the neck and it can be quite bumpy. Of course the last four or five races here have all featured rain at some point during the weekend, which makes it quite… challenging. But it’s a good circuit for drivers, one that they enjoy and it usually produces a good result.
Is it a better feeling to win at a real drivers’ circuit like this? Absolutely! I was absolutely delighted to win here in 2001. To win on this track was good, to do it after a good battle with Michael Schumacher doubly so. Actually, I think I should have been credited with the win in 2003 as well, which was given to Fisichella. I led for most of the race, pitted, and then on my outlap the safety car came out and the race was eventually stopped. The stewards did a count-back to decide who won. I was in the pits at the time, which meant they gave it first to Kimi and then, a week later to Fisichella and yes, I’m still pretty pissed off with the whole thing! But it’s a great track with a great history and I’m very proud to have won here…”