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Interlagos - Sao Paulo Grand Prix
  1. Motorsports
  2. F1

F1 Tracks: Interlagos - Sao Paulo Grand Prix

The Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, better known as Interlagos, has plenty to offer as a circuit, boasting a rich history and testing track conditions.

Formula 1 has been coming to this Sao Paulo suburb for nearly 30 years and while a lot has changed in that time, the level of passion from the fans and of on-track entertainment have remained high.

Its position at the end of the F1 calendar means the Sao Paulo Grand Prix is often a pivotal race in the battle for the drivers' and constructors' championships. 

On five occasions, the title has been decided in Brazil, including arguably the most dramatic finish of all time in F1 when Lewis Hamilton snatched the championship on the final corner of the race. 

Hamilton's pass wasn't made at one of the usual overtaking points, of which there are many at Interlagos, making a refreshing change from many modern tracks.

Overtaking is just one piece of a complex puzzle they need to put together at Interlagos, which runs anti-clockwise, making it more physically demanding, has a changing gradient, banked corners and is affected by altitude.

Where is Interlagos?

Interlagos translates as between lakes so it's no surprise to find the track lies between two man-made bodies of water in lakes Guarapiranga and Billings.

The circuit is located in the neighbourhood of Interlagos, a suburb of the Cidade Dutra district, around 21km south of the centre of Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city.

When was Interlagos first built?

The land was originally purchased in 1926 for housing but when that plan fell through, the decision was taken to construct a race track instead.

Work began in 1938 with the circuit taking inspiration from the three most popular tracks of the time: Brooklands in the UK, Roosevelt Raceway in the USA and Montlhery in France.

It was opened in 1940 but had to wait 33 years before Formula 1 would grace the venue.

How long is Interlagos?

The track has changed significantly since it made its debut in Formula 1 and has been drastically shortened from its original length of 7.960km to its current lap distance of 4.309km.

Many of the straights were removed from a track which had originally been designed for drivers to race at full speed for the majority of the lap.

The track was eventually deemed too dangerous and underwent a series of major changes before Formula 1 returned to the track in 1990.

Little has changed regarding the layout since then, although work has been carried out to improve the notoriously bumpy surface and surrounding facilities, like the pits and paddock.

When did Interlagos first host an F1 race?

In an effort to capitalise on a growing number of Brazilian drivers, F1 held a test Grand Prix at Interlagos in 1972 before officially adding it to the calendar the following year. 

The first three races were all won by Brazilian drivers with Emerson Fittipaldi taking the chequered flag in 1973 and 74 before Carlos Pace, who the track would later be named after, was victorious in 75.

The Brazilian Grand Prix would switch to Rio de Janeiro's Jacarepagua circuit in 1978 while renovations at Interlagos were carried out before returning for two more years in Sao Paulo, only for concerns about safety and the surrounding area to lead to a 10-year stay in Rio.

With Jacarepagua sinking into the swamp it was built upon, Formula 1 went back to Interlagos in 1990 and the track has been an ever-present on the calendar since, with the exception of 2020.

Who has won the most F1 races at Interlagos?

Michael Schumacher holds the record for the most wins in Formula 1 at Interlagos, chalking up four victories between 1994 and 2002.

Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Reutemann are tied for second on three wins, although Reutemann did win the test Grand Prix at Interlagos in 1972.

Home favourites Fittipaldi and Ayrton Senna have both achieved multiple wins at Interlagos, much to the delight of the fans.

What is the F1 lap record at Interlagos?

Former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas holds the current race lap record at Interlagos having gone round in a rapid time of 1:10.540 in 2018.

Bottas' former team mate Lewis Hamilton holds the record for the fastest lap outright having done a 1:07.281 in qualifying the same year.

Does Interlagos host any other events?

Given how long Interlagos has been around, it's no surprise the track has at one time played host to the majority of motorsport classes.

Currently, the venue stages rounds from the South American Touring Car Championship, the Stock Car Pro Series and NASCAR.

It's also set to welcome back the World Endurance Championship in 2024. 

Previously, Interlagos has welcomed everything from MotoGP, World Series by Nissan, F3000 to truck racing. 

What is the weather like at Interlagos?

While the race tends to be held at the start of the Brazilian summer, Sao Paulo is nicknamed 'the Land of Drizzle' for a reason. 

The area of Sao Paulo where Interlagos is located is known for its rapidly changing weather conditions, with sunshine quickly giving way to rain and vice versa.

Interlagos has staged its fair share of wet races, which has often added to the sense of drama at the circuit, and teams have learnt to expect the unexpected when it comes to the weather for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

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