When looking back over the past year, there are a few races that jump out to me as undeniable highlights of the season but there is one weekend that stands head and shoulders above the rest, the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
In Formula 1’s ever-expanding calendar it’s becoming increasingly easier to cast aside good racing in favour of a spectacle, I think the dramatization of shows such as Drive to survive and the news of Hollywood sinking its teeth into the sport has led to a sensationalised expectation being placed on the races themselves. This exaggerated expectation of what a Formula 1 race should be has led some to quantify the quality of a race based on how many crashes there were or how controversial it was as opposed to the actual racing that took place. Looking at the current trajectory of F1 I think it’s fair to say that as it continues to expand into the mainstream a more manufactured feel is to be expected and that’s not necessarily bad, as long as the heart of the sport remains. I think incorporating the Miami and Las Vegas GP’s actually work to the benefit of the sport but we also need the Silverstone’s and Monaco’s to maintain the rich history of F1. Right now, F1 appears to be straddling the line between maintaining the integrity of the sport and ensuring that they can make it appealing enough to reach a wider fan base. The Sao Paulo GP manages to consistently produce some of the best racing whilst also being full of surprises that will keep you on the edge of your seat for the entire weekend.
The Interlagos circuit specialises in creating constant classics in F1, whether it’s crowning hometown heroes such as Senna in 1991; wiping out the competition in 2003 or taking tight title fights down to the wire, as seen in 2012, there is no denying that if you are looking for the complete Formula experience this is the place to be. This circuit has been able to provide some of the most jaw-dropping racing in the history of the sport, withstanding the different generations of cars that we’ve seen across the decades and never failing to put on a show that has always been worth watching. Even as Formula 1 have adapted and made changes to cater to their new audience, which can feel contrived and artificial at other races, Brazil manages to turn these new components, such as the sprint races, into thrilling, history making moments that grip you from start to finish. Last year was no exception as Brazil gave us Kevin Magnussen’s maiden pole position and a new race winner in George Russell in what went on to be the best race weekend of year, unsurprisingly. So, what makes this track so good?
There are a few elements that make up the quintessential Brazilian GP, the first is the atmosphere. The feeling of a Sao Paulo Grand Prix is one of palpable excitement, the passion of the fans is electrifying and it sets the stage for the unpredictable weekend ahead. One of the most defining characteristics of the Brazilian GP is the ever changing weather that can give rise to absolute carnage during the course of a race, the clear blue skies can switch to torrential rain in an instant, shaking up any preconceived expectations that you may have had going in to the race. The volatile weather has a mind of its own, keeping the fans on their toes as well as the drivers. The final piece of the puzzle that makes the Sao Paulo GP is the track itself. The iconic track finds the perfect balance between maintaining that old school feel but also being modern enough to adapt to this new generation of F1 cars and provide the same quality of racing that we’ve come to expect around this track. Despite being one of the shortest tracks on the calendar it packs a punch. Opening with the Senna ‘S’, this presents a great overtaking opportunity which continues straight into the high speed Curva do Sol, drivers will then be able to open up their DRS down Reta Oposta in preparation for a possible overtake into turns 4 and 5, next the track shows its old school routes as it narrows down into corners of 6 and 7, which provide some of the best onboard shots, turns 8, 9 and 10 feel like a rollercoaster as they twist and turn, throwing the cars around the track. Drivers then can then pick up the speed into the long sweeping corner of turn 11 before braking into Junção, from here on out it’s pedal to the metal as the cars come down the home stretch to complete the legendary circuit. The design of the circuit creates magic and is as perfect as a Formula 1 track can be.
Interlagos will always be the best race on the calendar, as it’s hard to imagine a track that could even come close on such a consistent basis. There is no other track that I can think of that can create such a buzz even after the championship battle has been wrapped up, regardless of what’s at stake going into the Sao Paulo Grand Prix it creates championship worthy races that have defined some of the all-time great battles in Formula 1. It’s a staple that must remain in the sport for the foreseeable future and, in my opinion, it should be the final race of the season as you can guarantee that it would always end on a high.