Passing zones make for exciting Sao Paulo course

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The 2.6-mile Anhembi Park circuit at Sao Paulo, Brazil — site of this Sunday’s Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle (11 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network) — is a sprawling street course that is punctuated by multiple straightaways that lead into passing opportunities.

It all starts at the Sambadromo main straightaway, which is shorter than the other straights on the circuit but is still long enough to provide a passing attempt if the driver is close enough. They’ll have to be quick about it, however, as the Sambadromo leads into a left/right complex known as the S of Samba. It’s a narrow spot and there’s been plenty of mayhem there in recent races, particularly on starts and restarts when everyone’s bunched up.

The next major passing zone comes at Turn 5, which follows a longer jaunt down the Avenue Olavo Fontoura that gives drivers more time to draft, set up, and pass for position at the right-hander.

But the biggest opportunity this course has to offer comes as drivers roar down the nearly one-mile-long backstretch. That extended sprint culminates with a sharp right-hand hairpin at Turn 11. Expect plenty of side-by-side jockeying through this particular corner; also, don’t be surprised to see the driver that gets passed going into Turn 11 attempt a crossover move that can help get the position back as they head down the Sambadromo.

Over the years, we’ve heard complaints of street circuits being too narrow and providing very little chances for passing outside of pit road. There are no such problems with this course, and you can expect Sunday’s event to be an exciting one.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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