CIRCUITS: INTERLAGOS (AUTODROMO CARLOS PACE)

Name: Interlagos (Autodromo Carlos Pace)

 

 © Inside F1, Inc.

The first races in Sao Paulo took place in 1936 when Carlo Pintacuda and Attilio Marinoni came out from Europe with Alfa Romeos but faced little opposition from the local drivers. In 1938 two property developers bought a huge tract of land to the south of the city and planned a housing development. One part of the plot was not suitable for housing and so they decided to build a racing circuit. The design was based on a track of the race track at Roosevelt Field in New York. The city expanded at a terrifying rate and soon the Interlagos racing circuit was engulfed by shanty towns.

It was not until the international success of Emerson Fittipaldi that Brazilians began to clamor for a Grand Prix. The first races were non-championship events in 1971 and 1972. The race became a World Championship event in 1973. Emerson Fittipaldi came home from Europe a World Champion and, having won in Argentina, proceeded to do the same in dominant fashion for his home fans.

Fittipaldi did the same thing in 1974, setting himself for a second World title by the end of the year, but when he returned to Interlagos in 1975 he had to make way for another local, Carlos Pace, who wrote his name indelibly into the Brazilian history books with his first F1 victory. To make it a perfect day Fittipaldi was second and Brazil's first homemade Grand Prix car - the Fittipaldi - driven by Emerson's brother Wilson made its first home appearance.

Sadly, Pace would never win another Grand Prix for he would die in a plane crash in March 1977. By then Carlos Reutemann had won another Brazilian victory, repeating the Ferrari triumph of the previous year when Lauda had been at the wheel.

For the 1978 GP Formula 1 moved off to the more glamorous Rio de Janeiro circuit of Jacarepagua but returned to Interlagos in 1979. Times had changed: ground-effect aerodynamics had arrived in F1 and the bumps of the Sao Paulo track were magnified by the cars. That day France scored a memorable victory with the Ligiers of Jacques Laffite and Patrick Depailler riding the bumps better than the rest.

There would be another French success in 1980 as the Renault team tweaked the turbos and outblasted everybody, Jean-Pierre Jabouille taking pole and Rene Arnoux winning the race -- his first Grand Prix victory.

By then, however, the slums of Sao Paulo were becoming too much for the beautiful people and in 1981 F1 took itself off to Nelson Piquet's adopted home town of Rio.

It was only when Piquet's star was waning and Ayrton Senna - a Paulista - was dominant in F1 that a new attempt was made to take the Brazilian GP back to Sao Paulo. A new mayor, Luiza Erundina, began talking to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and the city agreed to a $15m rebuilding program. Senna was approached and worked with the circuit designers. It was decided not to retain the old circuit but use sections of it, linked by new sections of road. The new track turned sharply left just after the pits and dived downhill through an S curve - which was later named after Senna.

The old pits were demolished and in their place rose a completely new garage complex. The work began late in 1989 and continued night and day through the winter in order for everything to be finished in time for the race. It looked like an impossible task but in 84 days all the work was done and the race took place in March 1990. It was not the perfect result as everyone had hoped because Senna's great rival Alain Prost won in his Ferrari but in 1991 and 1993 Senna won stirring victories.

After the Brazilian's death in Imola in 1994 interest waned although another local man Rubens Barrichello did his best to get the crowds excited again. When he signed for Ferrari for the 2000 season there was widespread hope that it would make a new era for the history of Interlagos. The authorities have worked hard to constantly improve the track and its facilities but Interlagos's biggest advantage at the moment is that there is currently no real alternative venue for F1 in South America.

Print