The Brazilian Grand prix – Interlagos, so much history and so quirky

The Brazilian Grand prix – Interlagos, so much history and so quirky


It’s the biggest city in the Americas and almost certainly not the most beautiful. But, for Brazilians and for the world, Sao Paulo is also “the city” of Formula One. Of the 44 editions of the Brazilian Grand prix held to date (plus the opening non-championship race in 1972), only ten have been taken place at Rio’s Jacarepagua track, with all the others run at Interlagos, a suburb to the south of the city.

Half of all Brazilian drivers who have raced in Formula 1 come from the Paulista state: Emerson Fittipaldi, José Carlos Pace (after whom the circuit is named,) Ayrton Senna, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa, to mention the best known. The original layout was almost eight kilometres in length, running on past the current Esses, dedicated to Ayrton Senna. The drivers always complained about the condition of the track surface, which also moved around, as it is built on swampland. Today, it’s a case of the extreme opposite. The track is just over 4 kilometres. Its main straight is just 650 metres long, although the cars are accelerating all the way through its final part.

A few years ago, the look of the Paulista paddock also changed, with the narrow corridor between the garages and hospitality areas replaced with something more modern and spacious. What remains unchanged are the famous corner names: Bico de Pato (duck bill, because of its narrow flattened appearance,) Mergulho (the dive,) so called due to its sharp drop and Laranjinha (literally, small orange) because, for Brazilians, the “oranges” are inexperienced drivers and this tricky turn is not made for them…

Force India’s Chief Race Engineer, Tom McCullough, looks ahead to the Brazilian Grand prix

“The circuit in Interlagos is a proper old-school track that all drivers enjoy. At 4.309km, it’s one of the shortest laps of the season. It has fewer corners than in Mexico. And is the second quickest lap time of the year. The grid tends to be pretty tight and every mistake costs you positions.”

“It’s one of the few anti-clockwise tracks. There are plenty of elevation changes around the lap, including some which make the downhill braking zones particularly challenging. The infield section rewards maximum downforce. But to overtake you need to be quick in a straight line into turns one and four. So finding the right set-up requires a compromise. Though much lower than Mexico, we are still about 800m above sea level, which means the reduced air density results in less downforce and cooling capacity. Add in the rain, which is always a possibility around here, and there are all the elements for a very interesting race.”