From 18’C on Friday to 25’C come race day, Andy Shovlin feels the weather conditions in Brazil could see momentum swing between Red Bull and Mercedes.
Although it is not yet a must-win situation for Lewis Hamilton in the championship race, the Briton 19 points behind Max Verstappen with 107 points up for grabs, both the driver and Mercedes understand the importance of halting Red Bull’s momentum.
The weather in Brazil though, may have the final say.
Friday evening’s qualifying could see a few drops of rain falling at the Interlagos circuit with the rest of the weekend forecast to be dry.
But while the temperature will ramp up, which Shovlin feels will suit the Red Bull RB16B best, intermittent cloud cover could bring Mercedes and Hamilton back into the mix.
“The weather is very unstable there by definition,” Shovlin, Mercedes’ trackside engineering director, said.
“You can have 50 degree track one day, and it can be a wash-out the next.
“I think if it is a hot circuit, then it is probably going to move it in their direction.
“A bit of cloud cover may well suit us, but one of the advantages they had [in Mexico] was they were able to go up a step on downforce from the rear wing they normally run to their max downforce wing.
“But actually for us, that’s the one we run normally. It’s just their car seems to have more downforce than us on identical sized wings, and I think that played into their favour.
“In Brazil that should be less of an issue, but it’s very hard to predict.
“Very much as we did coming [to Mexico] we’ll look at the weaknesses of our car, work out how to minimise them.”
For Ayrton. For all Brasil. 💚💛💙 pic.twitter.com/6B5sQLjFmT
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) November 11, 2021
Red Bull head into the final four races of the season looking good, Verstappen having taken his ninth win of the championship in Mexico.
Only once in F1’s history has a driver won nine races or more and not go onto win the World title. That driver was Hamilton, who lost to his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2016.
Shovlin however is adamant it is not over, especially as this year’s championship has seen momentum swing from Mercedes to Red Bull and back again several times.
As such the lead in the title race has changed hands six times already and with 107 points still to be won, it is not over.
“Normally this far into the season you see the performance settle down a bit, and the swings are still big,” Shovlin said.
“There will be circuits that will suit us. We had very strong races in Turkey and Sochi and plenty of strong races since the summer break. So it will be up and down, and we’ve definitely got our work cut out.
“I think on balance, they are a little bit ahead of us, but it’ll get affected by the weather, the track temperatures – those will all play a part.
“But the biggest thing will be the circuit characteristics and it seems that when we’re on an understeery track, we tend to go a little bit better.
“The last two races have been very much about rear tyre overheating, and you could say from what we’ve seen in the last fortnight, it’s very clear they have the advantage when we’re in that situation.”
Brazilian Grand Prix preview
As F1 heads to Brazil, will Lewis Hamilton close the gap to Max Verstappen and can McLaren take back P3?