he Brazilian Grand Prix, more recently known as the São Paulo Grand Prix, has hosted the Formula One races for Brazil for many years alongside Jacarepaguá in Rio de Janeiro since 1972. Held in the Interlagos neighbourhood the Autódromo José Carlos Pace or Interlagos Circuit the setting is similar to many other Latin America circuits such as the the Autódromo Hermano Rodríguez in Mexico which is confined to a sprawling neighbourhood within a large and bustling city.
Unfortunately due to the quality of the circuit, races were not held at the Interlago Circuit for very long before drivers began to complain about the rough and bumpy surface causing the Brazilian Grand Prix circuit being changed to the new Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio de Janeiro in 1977 for the next year’s Formula One season. After a year, the return to the Interlagos circuit was not one filled with excitement as although the facilities had upgraded and some improvements had been made, there were still complaints from drivers about the bumpiness of the road. Additionally, over the few years that had passed since the Interlagos Circuit joined, Formula One had gained a rather prestigious and glamorous standard around the world. As a result the Interlagos Circuit and surrounding area of Interlagos and it’s increasing population did not meet the Formula One standards due to the more run down appearance of the circuit and area.
The dissatisfaction of the drivers came to a head during the 1981 Formula One season over the quality of the road and several safety concerns with the bumpiness of the circuit not being suitable for the fragile cars, causing mechanical problems for some cars and an overall unpleasant experience to drive for many of the racers. To add insult to injury, the saftey measures put in place for the Interlagos circuit were not up to the Formula One safety standards, namely the barriers and catch fences. After 1981, the Brazilian Grand Prix moved back to the Jacarepaguá circuit for the better looking appearance of the city and quality of the track.
Luckily, São Paulo native Ayrton Senna had many successes during his races from 1978 to 1990 in the Rio de Janeiro circuit that Formula One had city officials revamp and improve the Interlago Circuit with a $15 million investment. The aim: to shorten and smoothen the track. Thankfully this proved to be a very worthwhile investment as the circuit has become on of the most beloved circuits for being extraordinarily exciting and challenging for spectators and drivers.
Senna accomplished an emotional victory in 1991 with his first ever win at the Brazilian Grand Prix after a thrilling race where his McLaren rapidly lost gears towards the end of the race. Senna persevered despite only having 6th gear left making the remaining laps of the track extremely difficult and physically challenging to drive, so much so that Senna had to be extricated from his car he was so exhausted.
The original 7.960 km (4.946 mi) track of the Interlagos Circuit was filled with rapid corners in an almost scribble-like design until it was shortened to a more manageable 4.309 km (2.677 mi) with long straights and corners with ample advantages for overtaking. Many would say that the city investment was very much a worthwhile one as the Brazilian Grand Prix has been held at the Interlagos Circuit since 1990 and has become a favourite for many and a great opportunity for the surrounding city.