Interlagos: The Ultimate Track Guide

Interlagos: The Ultimate Track Guide

Since its arrival on the calendar in 1973, the Interlagos track in Sao Paulo, Brazil has hosted some dramatic races. The passionate fans together with the old school nature of the track layout always make the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend one to remember.


FIRST F1 RACE 1973
TRACK LENGTH 2.667 miles
NUMBER OF LAPS 71
NUMBER OF TURNS 15
MOST POLES Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen, Rubens Barrichello, Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton  (3)
MOST WINS Michael Schumacher (4)

TRACK MAP


A SHORT HISTORY OF INTERLAGOS

The Interlagos track is situated nine miles from the city centre of Sao Paulo. The neighbourhood had originally been plotting a racing circuit back in the 1920s, but this didn’t come to fruition for quite some time. Brazil’s history with motor racing began in 1934, with races on the Gavea circuit in Rio de Janeiro. Sao Paulo itself held a street race in 1936, but this was marred by a crash which resulted in the deaths of six spectators.

The plot of land which the Interlagos track is situated on – Interlagos meaning ‘between two lakes’ – had been set aside in 1926 for building houses on. However, such was the environment, the plot of land laid empty for years as it was unsuitable for the houses to be built. The financial situation due to the stock market crash in 1929 was also a factor in the area laying dormant. It instead became home to a demanding race track. The idea for a permanent circuit in the area was mooted in 1938, and was built by a construction company named Sanson over the next two years.

F1’s first venture into Brazil came in 1972 – the same year which the country had their first Brazilian F1 World Champion – and Carlos Reutemann won a non-championship round. The event proved Interlagos’ capability of holding a race, and in 1973 the circuit became home to the Brazilian Grand Prix.

It’s an area where time seems to stand still, though the surrounding Sao Paulo area seems to get slightly more built up with each visit. Elevation changes, with the track dipping down during the mid-part of the course before rising again on to the pit-straight. The pit-straight itself can feel claustrophobic, as it is placed in a dip between the grandstand and the pit-lane, which both have high walls. The pit-lane here is one of the longest of the season.

South American drivers won the Brazilian Grand Prix on all but two occasions in the 1970s. The track was renowned for being unforgiving and the track surface was at times difficult to master. The state of the surface was a talking point in the late seventies, and the Brazilian Grand Prix moved to the Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio de Janeiro for 1978 while renovations at Interlagos were carried out. F1 returned in 1979 to a track which had been resurfaced and had new facilities. The two tracks – Interlagos and Jacarepaguá – were contracted to alternate hosting the Grand Prix, but the latter had begun to sink into the swampland it was built in, so the Brazilian Grand Prix remained at Interlagos for 1980. Some were still unhappy with the nature of the track’s bumpy surface and, with F1 now being presented to a global TV audience, some felt the unglamorous surroundings of the track did not fit with the sport’s image. Dissatisfied with the surroundings and the lack of safety, the Brazilian Grand Prix moved back to the Rio de Janeiro circuit for the rest of the 1980s.


🇧🇷 DID YOU KNOW?

The Interlagos track was one of the first on the F1 calendar to run anti-clockwise.


Interlagos has been the permanent home of the Brazilian Grand Prix since the sport returned to the track in 1990. When the track returned, it had been significantly shortened in length, from five miles to 2.7 miles, and renovations at the cost of $15 million had been carried out. There used to be an extra loop of the track which headed straight on at the first turn, before joining up with the current track at the Ferradura corner. The return of F1 to Sao Paulo was largely due to the superstar status of Sao Paulo-born Ayrton Senna.

Though more regularly known as Interlagos, the track is actually named Autódromo José Carlos Pace, in honour of Carlos Pace, a Brazilian driver who won at the track in 1975. The circuit was re-named in his honour after he was killed in a plane crash in 1977.

The track has seen little change since 1990, though the asphalt was taken up and resurfaced in 2007, with the pit entrance also being slightly altered to improve safety. Changes to the track were planned in 2011 following a number of fatal accidents in other categories of motorsport, but the changes – which included extending the run-off area at the exit of the final turn and moving the pits to the straight between the Senna-S and Curva do Sol – never came to fruition.

The Grand Prix used to be held towards the start of the season, but switched to the back-end of the calendar in 2004, and has since seen multiple championships decided in highly dramatic races. Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have all been crowned World Champions at this track.

The Brazilian Grand Prix has seen some controversy in recent years, with drivers and team personnel falling victim to a spate of targeted robberies. With Brazil’s struggling economy, the future of the Brazilian Grand Prix always seems to have some doubt over it. The Interlagos circuit currently holds a contract to host a race until 2022.


🇧🇷 WHY WE LOVE INTERLAGOS

The carnival atmosphere with the passionate Brazilian fans filling the grandstands always makes for a great welcoming for Formula One when it comes to Sao Paulo. The track is one of the best of the season, and proceedings can quickly be called into chaos by changeable weather.


POLESITTERS AT INTERLAGOS

Poles Driver
3 Ayrton Senna
3 Mika Häkkinen
3 Rubens Barrichello
3 Felipe Massa
3 Lewis Hamilton
2 James Hunt
2 Damon Hill
2 Sebastian Vettel
2 Nico Rosberg
1 Ronnie Peterson
1 Emerson Fittipaldi
1 Jean-Pierre Jarier
1 Jacques Laffite
1 Jean-Pierre Jabouille
1 Nigel Mansell
1 Alain Prost
1 Jacques Villeneuve
1 Michael Schumacher
1 Juan Pablo Montoya
1 Fernando Alonso
1 Nico Hulkenberg
1 Valtteri Bottas

GRAND PRIX WINNERS AT INTERLAGOS

Year Winner Team
1973 Emerson Fittipaldi Lotus-Ford
1974 Emerson Fittipaldi McLaren-Ford
1975 Carlos Pace Brabham-Ford
1976 Niki Lauda Ferrari
1977 Carlos Reutemann Ferrari
1979 Jacques Laffite Ligier-Ford
1980 René Arnoux Renault
1990 Alain Prost Ferrari
1991 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda
1992 Nigel Mansell Williams-Renault
1993 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Ford
1994 Michael Schumacher Benetton-Ford
1995 Michael Schumacher Benetton-Renault
1996 Damon Hill Williams-Renault
1997 Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault
1998 Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes
1999 Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes
2000 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2001 David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes
2002 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2003 Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan-Ford
2004 Juan Pablo Montoya Williams-BMW
2005 Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren-Mercedes
2006 Felipe Massa Ferrari
2007 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari
2008 Felipe Massa Ferrari
2009 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
2010 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2011 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
2012 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2014 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2015 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2016 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2017 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2018 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes