Brazil has been hosting a round of the Formula 1 World Championship for over 40 years, but a lack of investment and security concerns place a question mark over the event’s long-term future.
Interlagos was built in 1940, but didn’t begin hosting a regular round of the F1 world championship until 1973. 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.
By the end of the 1970s, the original 7.96km Interlagos layout (with its bumpy track surface and insufficient safety barriers) was removed from the F1 calendar on safety grounds. Formula 1 found a new Brazilian home at the Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio de Janeiro, which held ten races between 1978-1989. 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, many rain affected.
The track was resurfaced in 2014 as part of a larger planned redevelopment, but this has not fully extended yet to 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, while the fact that Brazil is now without a driver in F1 certainly doesn’t help matters. The event’s reputation has also been impacted by security incidents at the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix, when several teams were robbed at gunpoint as they were leaving Interlagos. The 2020 running of the race may be the last at Interlagos before the event moves to Rio de Janeiro.
- Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver at Interlagos, having won four times. Sebastian Vettel could equal his win tally here in 2020.
- Ferrari are the most successful team at the Interlagos track, winning nine times in total.
- 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.
- Brazilian drivers have taken more poles than drivers from any other nation at Interlagos. A Brazilian has started from the front here on ten occasions.
- In 2019, Max Verstappen’s Red Bull became the first Honda-powered car to win at Interlagos since Ayrton Senna’s McLaren in 1991.
- 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.
- Alain Prost is the most successful driver at the Brazilian Grand Prix, with six victories between 1982-1990, five of which were at the Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio (his sixth and final was at Interlagos in 1990.)
- The 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix was the last time an F1 race was won by over a lap.
- Since their return to the sport in 2010, Mercedes never failed to see both of their cars reach the chequered flag at the Brazilian Grand Prix until Valtteri Bottas retired from the 2019 event. At least one of their cars has scored in all of the past ten Interlagos races.
- Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz recorded the first podium finishes of their careers at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. It was the first time that two drivers have taken their maiden podium finish in the same race since the 1994 German Grand Prix.
Memorable Moments in the Brazilian Grand Prix
1991: Senna wins at home: 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. The almost superhuman effort it took Senna to hang on for victory by just 2.9 seconds from Ricardo Patrese took it’s toll. Senna had to be lifted from the McLaren, an exhausted and emotional wreck.
2003: Chaos in the rain: Wild weather produced one of the most unpredictable races in 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 Barrichello 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. The initial decision to award Kimi Raikonnen the win was overturned after the results were examined by an FIA court in Paris five days later.
2008: Down to the last corner: The world drivers’ title went down to the wire at the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix. A young Lewis Hamilton was the favorite, but local hero Felipe Massa still had a chance if he won (with Hamilton lower than fifth.) As is so often the case at Interlagos, weather played a big part. Torrential rain struck Interlagos, delaying the race start. Once underway, it was a race of strategy as the track quickly dried. Massa led and Hamilton was sitting in a championship-winning fifth before rain struck again just five laps from the end, shaking up the running order. Massa won and thought he’d done enough before Hamilton snatched a last gasp fifth position from Toyota’s Timo Glock on the final corner, claiming his first world championship at the age of 23.
2012: Vettel wins the title against the odds: Brazil provided another tense season finale in 2012, when the title was to be decided between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. After a poor start, Vettel spun on the first lap, collecting Bruno Senna’s Williams and causing damage to the Red Bull. The German was able to continue; albeit way down the order. Meanwhile, Alonso was in a podium position; which was exactly what he needed to become World Champion. Vettel’s afternoon was far from done though, and he began a comeback drive through the order. Soon enough, Vettel was behind Alonso once again. More pit-stop drama ensued but eventually, the Red Bull driver got himself into sixth place; which was enough to claim a third consecutive title.
2016: Verstappen shines in the wet: The 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix was held in the wet, and Max Verstappen stole the show with an epic drive. The race, which lasted over three hours, had to be red-flagged due to the poor visibility and treacherous track conditions. When the racing finally got underway, Verstappen pulled off a number of epic overtakes, using parts of the track which no other drivers dared to venture onto. He even had a slide due to aquaplaning – which he miraculously saved! Even an ill-timed pit stop couldn’t stop him from claiming a podium finish.
Brazilian Grand Prix facts
|Circuit Name||Autodromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos)|
|Race first held||1972|
|Track Length||4.309km (15 turns)|
|Race Distance||71 laps (305.879km)|
|Lap Record||1:10.540, Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes 2018)|
|2019 Result||1st Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:33:14.678|
|2nd Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +6.077s|
|3rd Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +8.896s|