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Brazilian Grand Prix History

Hugely popular in South America, motor racing adapted to the change from road racing to circuit racing and on into the more formalised Grand Prix circuit. Flagged up to the rest of the racing world by the likes of the legendary Argentinian, Juan Manuel Fangio, the reputation of South American drivers was passed on safely to the likes of the great Brazilians Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna (and many others).

The provision of a stage to display their macho talents was started in 1926 adjacent to reservoirs supplying the emerging city of São Paulo(hence Interlagos = between lakes). But progress was halted through lack of funds until 1938 with the circuit opening a couple of years later. Though racing under the banner of grand prix did take place it was the arrival of Formula One that was to focus world attention on Brazilian race tracks.

One of only five tracks run anti-clockwise, the development of the circuit in later years seemed linked to the global successes of the great Brazilian drivers. When Emerson Fittipaldi emerged, the city of São Paulo was determined to showcase his talents through the development of Interlagos, a circuit that had been in existence since 1926. A first Brazilian Grand Prix was held there in 1972.

Inter-city rivalry with Rio de Janeiro and her ascending star, Nelson Piquet, saw the event lost to the Jacarepaguá circuit in 1978-1989. São Paulo needed a new champion and they got one in the truly great, Ayrton Senna.

São Paulo officials set about raising the money to upgrade Interlagos at a cost of $15 million. It is now regarded as one of the most difficult and exciting circuits on the Formula One calendar. Heat, humidity and altitude offer further exhausting challenges to the drivers who are at least compensated by a track that offers several real overtaking chances notably at the Senna S and the Descida do Lago. Look out for the great corner at the Curva do Laranjinha.

Senna didn’t win the inaugural race in 1990 even though he led for most of the race until running into a backmarker, but did so in 1991 and again in 1993. His compatriots Fittipaldi, Piquet, Massa and Pace have brought Brazilian wins to a total of nine.

Always in the background is the race changing weather which caused chaos in 2003 and title changing drama in 2008 for Massa and Hamilton. So bring sun cream and a raincoat!

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