Sao Paulo Move Over: F1 Brazil Grand Prix Headed to Rio

Brazilian Formula 1 race fans are bracing for a change that’s headed to Rio de Janeiro. The F1 Brazil Grand Prix, which has been held in Interlagos, Sao Paulo since 1990 is making the transition to the world’s most famous beach town, Rio de Janeiro in 2020.

Brazilian president confirms the transition

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s President, has confirmed the Brazil Grand Prix will take place in Rio. The reason for the one-year lapse from the announcement date is the current contract is in place to host the event in Interlagos in 2019. The announcement came as a major victory for Brazil as Formula 1 was set to leave the country and be hosted elsewhere in South America following the contract’s expiration. Hosting the event in Sao Paulo cost the country too much in government funding, making it difficult to keep the popular event going. However, the popularity of the sport in Brazil makes it a major draw for such a popular market like Rio de Janeiro.

Sao Paulo Formula 1 Track:

Rio de Janeiro Formula 1 Track:

This won’t be the first time Rio de Janeiro is host to an F1 event. In 1980, Jacarapagua circuit was host to the Brazilian Grand Prix, and hosted a total of ten times from 1979 to 1989 prior to being moved to Sao Paulo. The 2020 transition back to Rio de Janeiro will serve to welcome the sport back to its original home in the country. The track remained intact until 2016 when the site was torn down to construct a stadium for the 2016 Olympics which were held in Rio.

New event, new circuit

In addition to the transition from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, a new race circuit is also being built for the inaugural race in 2020. The circuit will be completed before the end of 2019 and is being constructed 100% through private funding. Therefore, it won’t cost the country any money to build, yet will bring in new jobs and a great deal of surplus in tourist dollars given the sport’s popularity. In addition to job creation, the hotel sector will also thrive during the race weekend with tourists flocking from different regions of the country, South America, and worldwide, to watch the popular F1 race. The new circuit will be designed by Hermann Tilke and will be named after Ayrton Senna.

Why transition now?

Interlagos was the first home to a Formula 1 race in Brazil in 1972. In 1973, Formula 1 officially added the race to the annual race calendar. The site has been a popular race destination, and home to the race annually since 1990. Numerous reasons exist for the transition from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro. The main reason being the financial struggles which are taking place, given the country’s current political state. The lack of public financial support, alongside the high debt amounts which are present, means Sao Paulo is no longer a viable host location for the race.  Notorious crime rates in Interlagos were also a prominent force driving the country to move the race track to a different destination. In addition to several fans being robbed, many employees have also been threatened at the circuit as well.

Why stay in Brazil?

Apart from the sport’s popularity and rich history in Brazil, it’s the only F1 Grand Prix event hosted in South America. If the Grand Prix were removed from the circuit, it would leave a major void in the country and continent. The current format of the Interlagos track is a 71-lap course, for a total of just under 306 km for the race. The country has a rich history of prominent racers which have left their marks on the sport. Although the current field doesn’t have any Brazilian racers set to take part in the Brazilian GP, the country is a popular host to the racing event and one which fans from around the world attend since its inception in the country.

Although some supporters are still trying to thwart the move to Rio, and the state’s government is making every attempt to keep the race in Sao Paulo, the contract’s expiration with F1 in 2019 might make it difficult to prevent the transition. These facts, along with the potential increase in tourist dollars, safety concerns, and the draw of the world’s most famous beach destination, are some of the key indicators that F1 fans will be headed to Rio, not Sao Paulo, for the 2020 (and beyond) Brazilian Grand Prix.


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