Our Americas triple-header enters its final act this week at the pocket-sized rollercoaster that is Interlagos: it loops, it swirls, the crowd are loud, the weather is unpredictable and it always delivers drama. It's a circuit close to Fernando's heart, where he's won the Drivers' World Championship twice, and a track where we're looking to reset after a double DNF in Mexico.
Team Principal Mike Krack has a few things to say about the latter, and some positive news about our retention of Brazil's own Felipe Drugovich as our Test and Reserve Driver for 2024.
This is Mike on…
"We learned a lot in Mexico. Lance starting from the pitlane meant we could try a different configuration, which provided invaluable data for 2024. It allowed us to eliminate some unknowns with the ultimate goal of having a better baseline next year – starting from the pitlane with a different configuration gave us more valuable data than starting 18th on the grid with the configuration we'd been running through the weekend.
"Obviously, when the flag drops, you're trying to have the best possible race, rather than treating it as a test session. It worked out pretty well for Lance. He was driving a really good race, scrapping hard for the final points with Bottas, Hülkenberg, and the two Alpine drivers. A lot of hard work but it was good to see.
"As for Fernando, we were just not competitive in the race. He ran over the debris from the Pérez accident on lap one and picked up some damage. When the red flag came out, we were hopeful we could patch the car up – but it wasn't really possible and eventually, we decided staying out was doing more harm than good, so we pitted. Double DNF."
"How do you draw a positive from a double DNF? Well, we got a lot of data to analyse, and that process is already well under way. At a more human level, I'm full of admiration for the crew. It is tough for them: it's hard work, it's hot, the results haven't been coming and it's the third week of a triple-header at the end of a long season – but they keep going, keep supporting each other, keep doing excellent work with a rock-solid attitude.
"Everyone sticks together, everyone looks out for each other, everyone goes the extra yard. Yesterday, we had 12 people working on a floor to get it into the best possible shape, displaying the same level of enthusiasm for the task ahead as they would if we were coming here off a podium finish."
"Credit also to Lance and Fernando. A lot of other drivers are critical of their team when the results aren't coming to divert attention away from themselves – but neither Lance nor Fernando has taken that opportunity. Instead, both have expressed their faith in the long-term goals. Their commitment to the long-term project, combined with the attitude of everyone in the team are the real positives for me. I'd like us to have a car capable of fighting at the front and the first step is to fight ourselves out of our current situation as a single unit."
"São Paulo is a wonderful place if you're involved with the Grand Prix. There's always something going on during this race – at least, I can't count many uneventful races over the last couple of decades. The layout lends itself to drama and the weather usually contributes something too. There is always action – and that's what the passionate crowd deserves.
"The paddock and facilities are being modernised, but the character of the place doesn't change. It's a real, exciting racetrack, and we're delighted to be here, and not just for the food – though we were in a churrascaria the other night and, wow…"
"This is the final Sprint weekend of the season, and so once again we have the high stakes of a single practice session before parc fermé rules begin, and the added drama of potential rain.
"We have no new parts this weekend, and it's going to be important to concentrate on the basics, which is why we've arrived here with a known configuration for the car. Getting those basics right is the most important thing, and we're helping ourselves to do that by going into the race with a car configuration we understand. I think this should put us in a much better position than we were in last weekend – though in all honesty that isn't difficult."
"The great news this week is that we've extended our relationship with Felipe as our Test and Reserve Driver for 2024. Earlier this week, I figured out the mileage he's done since joining the team and it's around 6,000km since last September, split across the AMR21, AMR22 and AMR23 – which means he's got an excellent overview of the progression our cars have made. On top of that, he's done 20 days in the simulator.
"Felipe has been a really solid part of the team, and we're delighted he's sticking around. It gives us continuity but more than that, it gives us more access to a driver who's been instrumental in helping us develop over the last year. He's super professional, very flexible, and it's great that he'll be getting back into the car in Abu Dhabi for FP1.
"It would have been great to have him drive the car here at Interlagos, in front of his home fans, but it's just not possible in a Sprint weekend to allocate FP1 to another driver given the limited time in practice and the race drivers' need to get in every lap they can."
"I've become a lot more complete" – Felipe on his year in reserve and the task aheadRead Now
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