Race Facts – Brazilian Grand Prix

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History and interesting facts about the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Autodromo José Carlos Pace in the Interlagos suburb of Sao Paolo.

Interlagos was built in 1940, but didn’t begin hosting a regular round of the F1 world championship until 1973. The first three races were won by local drivers; Emerson Fittipaldi in 1973-74 and Carlos Pace in 1975. By the end of the decade however, the original 7.96km circuit layout (with its bumpy track surface and insufficient safety barriers) was removed from the F1 calendar on safety grounds and F1 found a new Brazilian home at the Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio de Janeiro.

After a significant renovation program, F1 returned to a safer, shorter (4.309km) Interlagos circuit in 1990. It has remained a constant calendar presence since then, holding some memorable and historic races, including the rain hit event in 2016. The track was resurfaced in 2014 as part of a larger planned redevelopment, but this has not extended yet to the pit buildings and facilities for fans, which are showing their age. Despite having a contract to hold the race until 2022, the circuit’s long-term future on the F1 calendar remains in doubt without this necessary investment.

Brazilian GP: did you know?

  • Five Brazilian drivers have won on home soil since the Brazilian Grand Prix became a part of the world championship in 1973. Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Felipe Massa took two wins apiece, whilst Carlos Pace won once.
  • Mark Webber celebrated his final F1 race by removing his helmet on the slow-down lap after finishing second at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2013
  • For most of its existence (until 2003), the Brazilian Grand Prix had an early season calendar slot. It only moved to a late-season slot from 2004, holding the calendar’s final race for 5 years until Abu Dhabi joined the calendar in 2009.
  • The circuit is located in the Sao Paolo suburb of Interlagos, which literally translates in Portugese as ‘between the lakes’. Even though the circuit was renamed Autodromo José Carlos Pace in honor of Carlos Pace, a Sao Paolo local who won his only F1 race at the circuit in 1975 but died tragically in a light air crash in 1977, many still refer to it as Interlagos.
  • Alain Prost is the most successful driver with six Brazilian Grand Prix victories between 1982-1990, five of which were at the Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio (his sixth and final was came at Interlagos in 1990.) The next most successful drivers in Brazil are Carlos Reutemann and Michael Schumacher, who each took the checkered flag four times.

1991 Brazilian Grand Prix

Local boy Ayrton Senna’s first F1 victory on home soil will go down in history as one of his most emotional, hard fought wins. After leading by a small margin for the first 50 laps of the race, Senna’s race took a turn for the worse when the gearbox in his McLaren began to fail and the skies opened. Senna was forced to fight his car in the slippery conditions for the remaining laps as he started losing gears. After winning by just 2.9 seconds from Ricardo Patrese, an exhaused Senna had to be lifted from the McLaren, an exhausted and emotional wreck.

2003 Brazilian Grand Prix

Wild weather produced one of the most unpredictable races of recent memory at Interlagos in 2003, handing Giancarlo Fisichella the first of his three F1 wins in controversial circumstances. The race was marred by a series of heavy crashes in the treacherous wet/dry conditions. Rubens Barichello looked set to take a hugely popular local win before his engine failed on lap 47. Seven laps later the race was red-flagged after Mark Webber (then Fernando Alonso) hit the wall heavily on the final corner. Confusion reigned after the race, with the initial decision to award Kimi Raikonnen the win (based on an interpretation of who was leading 2 laps before the race was red flagged) finally overturned after the results were examined by an FIA court in Paris five days later.

2008 Brazilian Grand Prix

The world driver’s title went down to the wire at the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, with local hero Felipe Massa up against a young Lewis Hamilton. Massa needed to win (with Hamilton lower than fifth) to claim the title. As is so often the case at Interlagos, weather played a big part in the day’s outcome. Torrential rain struck the circuit before the race got underway, delaying the start. Once underway, the race became all about strategy as the track quickly dried. Massa led and Hamilton fought back from seventh to a championship-winning fifth before rain struck again just five laps from the end, shaking up the running order. Massa won and was briefly on track to take the driver’s crown before Hamilton snatched a last gasp fifth position from Toyota’s Timo Glock on the final corner, doing just enough to claim his first world championship at the age of 23.

Brazilian Grand Prix facts

Circuit Name Autodromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos)
Race first held 1972
Track Length4.309km (15 turns)
Race Distance71 laps (305.909km)
Lap Record 1:11.473, Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams 2004)
2016 Results1st Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 3:01:01.335
2nd Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) +11.455s
3rd Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +21.481s

What was your favorite Brazilian Grand Prix? Leave a comment below!

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About the Author ()

Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of F1Destinations.com. He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He’s been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.

Comments (2)

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  1. Kiera Reilly says:

    Just discovered your sight, and I love it. Love your picks on the best three Brazillian GPs. I was only watching the 2003 and 2008 races, but the final GP that Senna won has to be included too.

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