|The start in 2011|
Brazil has a big few years ahead in sporting terms but one of its oldest international events is its Formula One race. Interlagos, deep in the heart of sprawling Sao Paulo, has been the host of the country’s Grand Prix every year since 1990, and before that for much of the 1970s.
The Jacarepagua circuit in Rio de Janeiro, which staged the Grand Prix in 1978 and between 1981 and 1989, is incidentally now being converted into Rio's Olympic Park ahead of the 2016 Games.
Interlagos is one of the sport’s most historic venues and has produced some of its most dramatic races, few more so than the conclusion to the 2012 world championship between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in greasy conditions last November.
A passionate Brazilian crowd creates an atmosphere more akin to a soccer stadium than a Formula One circuit; the race tends to either sell out or get close, such is the home support for local drivers – from Ayrton Senna to Rubens Barrichello and now Felipe Massa.
By modern-day Formula One standards, facilities are basic at best; the circuit is cramped into the city, making significant revisions difficult. Jim Wright, though, believes they stand up against other venues in the country.
"People talk about the facilities in comparison with other Formula One races," he says, "but I think for a Brazilian facility it’s perfectly acceptable. I’ve had the fortune to go to some of the huge football stadiums there and by comparison it’s perfectly adequate, there’s no problem at all.
"I think the biggest problems there are the fact it’s crammed into a very small land mass and things like car parking and access are poor."
Formula One’s popularity in Brazil – as well as hosting a race the country represents one of the sport’s largest television markets – makes the Grand Prix each November an attractive proposition for the corporate sector, even if Wright believes pricing is an issue. "It is very, very high for that marketplace," he says with particular regards to corporate hospitality prices, which unlike most Grands Prix are not totally controlled by Formula One’s central management and are partly set by the local promoters. "I think that does put people off. But corporately, you do see some very big brands there. It seems to be sold out or nearly sold out every year and it’s very important strategically for Formula One to be in Brazil."
Mark Gallagher, too, is a fan. "It’s a fabulous market," he says. "Sao Paulo is a vibrant city and the circuit of course is delightful as a race circuit. The infrastructure from a corporate guest point of view, for what I would call the international corporate guest, is not as good as we’ve come to expect at other venues. It needs further upgrades.
"I think for the Latin American market it’s good, but I do think it needs some investment to take it on to the next level. [Formula One’s] presence and commercial relevance in Sao Paulo and Brazil is just so strong that Brazil ought to have a very bright future."
That bright future will require a contract extension at the end of the 2015 season, a process which will be handled by the Sao Paulo city government and Tamas Rohonyi, the Hungarian businessman whose International Promotions company runs the Grand Prix locally.
Unusually, International Promotions has historically retained a portion of the trackside sponsorship and hospitality rights which are, in all but a few cases, gobbled up by Formula One’s central management. F1 Black Book
Race Stats since 1990
|2011||Vettel||Webber (2)||Red Bull||Renault|
|2010||Hulkenberg||Vettel (2)||Red Bull||Renault|
|2009||Barrichello||Webber (2)||Red Bull||Renault|
*wins from poles are marked with red
1st place 8
2nd place 9
3rd place 3
5th place 1
6th place 1
8th place 1
*17 wins from first row, 6 wins from other places
Most wins by teams
3 Red Bull
Most wins by engine suppliers
*active drivers, teams and engine suppliers are marked with the red color