PRIXVIEW – Sao Paulo Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Round twenty brings F1 to one of the highlights of the season Interlagos in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo. Officially called Autódromo José Carlos Pace, the circuit has always been referred to by its former name from when it was built in the late 1930 retaining the nae Interlagos until 1985.

Interlagos translates into English roughly as ‘Between two lakes’, which were built in the early 20th century to supply the city with water and electric power, the circuit has been home to classic title deciders over the last two decades. The circuit is a technical circuit which requires more downforce and driveability.

The current 2.667-mile circuit opened in 1990, built in a natural bowl the flowing circuit follows the natural tertian of this part of the city. The Circuit is also one of few anti-clockwise circuits which places more stress on the driver’s bodies. The circuit features electronic corners the Senna S, Descida do Lago, and Juncao where some of the best overtaking opportunities.

Adding to the challenges are the inclines, grass run-off areas, bumpy track surface and unpredictable weather. Anything can happen, mixed conditions are also common being in a region of the world where weather can change in minutes from a warm sunny afternoon to torrential rain.

Like Mexico City, this is another circuit at high altitude which sometimes can act as a performance leveller. The circuit is one where racing is good and close, but anything can happen because this is a circuit lined with grass and gravel, as the hilly nature means rivers can develop around the circuit, it’s a classic circuit which drivers love to drive.

Red Bull and Max Verstappen will be the favourite given the way he has dominated this season but this is a more technical circuit where you need a car which is good in the corners because there is only two main ‘straights’/ flat out section, between Curva do Sol (Turn Three) and Decida do Lago (Four) and the climb up the hill from Jucao (Twelve) through thirteen, Subida dos Boxes (Fourteen) and Arcquibancadas (Fifteen) before breaking for the Senna S (One).

This leads to one of the key overtaking spots as cars brake into the first corner after a largely flat-out final sector. The more technical sector from. Ferradura (Six) to Mergylho (Eleven) requires the opposite with the car needing to have good cornering and m

This circuit on paper and historically has been more difficult to overtake if we get stable conditions thanks to its twisty final sector. The circuit can be split in two, the straighter section and the old twisty section in the old infield section. The snaking in-field section with some challenging camber changes, before slinging back up the hill and through the banked final turn.

The atmosphere of Interlagos is one which breaths F1, one which some believe still should be the final race of the season. Between 2004 and 2013, expect 2005, 2009 and 2010 was often the final race leading to dramatic and action-packed title-deciding races, many would love it to return to that slot.

The first world championship Grand Prix at Interlagos was in 1974, this circuit has always favoured local men, with Emerson Fittipaldi winning the first race followed by Pace himself. While both Ayrton Senna and Felipe Massa having two wins each, memorably 1991 and 2008 were two of the greatest races at Interlagos.

Pace was killed in a plane crash in 1977. Attached to its facilities there is a kart circuit named after Ayrton Senna.

Fittipaldi was the first winner of his home Grand Prix, Sao Paulo-born drivers have always gone well in their home city, Pace who the circuit of named after winning in 1974. When the race returned to Interlagos in the 1990s, Senna took his only home win in 1991 and 1993, Felipe Massa in 2006 and that dramatic 2008 title decider.

1977 was won by Reutemann, but the drivers began complaining about Interlagos very rough surface, and the event was then relocated for a year to the new Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio de Janeiro. It returned to Interlagos two years later with  Jacques Laffite to complete his and Ligier’s conquest of the opening South American rounds in Argentina and Brazil.

The following year and until 1989 the race moved to Rio, at the now demolished Jacarpagua, now the Barra Olympic Park after being demolished in 2007. The tropical conditions in Rio made the race one of the most physically demanding of the season with drivers often collapsing at the end of the race.

The races in Rio were dominated by Alian Prost with the Frenchman earning the title ‘King of Rio’, he took four wins at the circuit. Including beating teammate Ayrton Senna who started on pole in his first race for McLaren in 1988, and finishing second the Brazilian would be later disqualified for switching to his spare car after the parade lap had begun. The 1989 event was the last race at Jacarepagua.

The current layout of Interlagos was introduced in 1990, with the 2.6-mile circuit retaining its reparation for chaos and dramatic races. But it was Prost who bet local rival and McLaren teammate Senna to victory a hugely unpopular winner given the crash with Senna at Suzuka the previous season.

Senna’s victory the following year is seen as one of the greatest drives in the sport’s history, throughout the race his gearbox failed in the closing stages making the car much more difficult and physically demanding to drive, but he still eventually won holding off Williams driver Riccardo Patrese. His exhaustion was so high that had to be extricated from his car.

The Brazilian’s second home win would come in 1993, before crashing out in his final home race when battling with Michael Schumacher. Schumacher would go on to win three more times and the final race of his career was at Interlagos in 2012. The circuit is no stranger to dramatic final races, in the mid-2000s several titles went down to the final races.

Between 2004 and 2013 Interlagos was often the final race of the season, creating some memorable title deciders. Fernando Alonso took both his championships here in 2005 and 2006, he became the then-youngest champion in 2005 when he was third to clinch the title with two races remaining.

2006 Schumacher’s final race before his first retirement suffered a puncher which dropped him to the back but he was able to recover to fourth with Alonso second he was able to take his second title. While Felipe Massa became the first Brazilian since Senna to win their home Grand Prix.

The 2008 title decider recently returned to the headlines, it has been acknowledged that the FIA were told of the Crashgate scandal in but decided to cover the scandal up. Going into the final laps rain fell forcing a late change to inters, while Massa won the race and nearly the title Lewis Hamilton in one of the most dramatic climaxes to a season, got past Timo Glock into fifth at the final corner on the final lap to take the title by one point.

The following year it was the same story England v Brazil v Germany, this time in a climax to a fairytale season for Brawn, realistically it was about Jenson Button needing fifth to beat another local Rubens Barricello.  Button played the long game while Vettel made a poor start, the Englishman but the end of lap one was just outside the points but his better pace saw him overtake several cars. At the second stop, Button and Hamilton both leapfrogged Vettel, but the Brawn was stuck behind Heikki Kovalainen.

Meanwhile, results of others were going Button’s way, Barrichello was forced into an extra stop after inadvertently damaging the Brazilian’s tyre, causing a puncture and forcing him to pit. He resumed in eighth, with Vettel’s fourth placing meaning that, barring a dramatic turn in events, Button would be the 2009 World Champion even if he retired.

Button’s fifth place from fourteenth on the grid was enough for him to secure the 2009 World Championship, becoming the tenth British champion and the first British champion to succeed another since 1969 when Jackie Stewart succeeded Graham Hill as World Champion.

The next title decider was another classic in 2012, it put Vettel up against  Alonso as they fought for their third title. But Vettel made a poor start dropping him to last after spinning off at the Senna S on the opening lap, dropping him to last. But it was a hugely impressive drive by the German who managed to overtake several cars getting up to sixth though Alonso was second, Vettel still took the title by three points.

The beginning of the hybrid era, as with many circuits, the race has been dominated by Mercedes. 2014 saw Hamilton, now an honorary citizen of Brazil, finishing second behind Rosberg it was the same result in 2015. The Englishman finally took victory in a wet race which saw multiple accidents and Max Verstappen take a maiden podium despite dropping to sixteenth, take a maiden podium in fifteen laps.

Vettel would win again after setting the pace and getting a good start in 2017, he passed Valtteri Bottas into the first corner. The race saw numerous first-lap crashes, with Romain Grosjean losing the rear and clipping Esteban Ocon, while Stoffel Vandoorne and Kevin Magnussen also retired due to a collision on the first lap.

Since 2018 this race has been won by either Verstappen or Mercedes

Race & Circuit Guide

Round 20 of 22
Race Formula 1 Rolex Grande Premio de Sao Paulo 2023
Venue Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Interlagos, São Paulo, Brazil
Configuration 2000
Circuit Length 4.309km (2.677mi
Sprint Laps 24
Race Distance 103.416km (64.248mi)
Race Laps 71
Race Distance 305.879km (190.064mi)
Lap Record Race 01:10.540 (Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+, 2018)
Outright N/A
Most wins drivers Alain Prost (6)
Most wins manufacture McLaren (12)

Fast facts

  • Interlagos is the only circuit to have hosted the sprint formats since they were introduced in 2021
  • The city of São Paulo itself where Interlagos is located is known by the nickname “Land of the Drizzle”.
  • Since their return to the sport in 2010, Mercedes never failed to see both of their cars not finish until Valtteri Bottas retired from the 2019 event. At least one of their cars has scored in all of the past ten Interlagos races.
  • Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz recorded the first podium finishes of their careers at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. It was the first time that two drivers have taken their maiden podium finish in the same race since the 1994 German Grand Prix.

Event timetable


Local (BRT)



Practice 11:30-12:30 14:30-15:30
Qualifying 15:00-16:00 18:00-19:00


Sprint Shootout 11:00-11:45 14:00-14:45
Sprint 15:30 18:30


Race 14:00 17:00

What happened in 2022?

Kevin Magnussen took a surprise sprint pole position beating Ma Verstappen to pole by two tenths after Q3 was cut short after George Russell got caught out in changeable conditions crashing on the final runs. Magnussen was the only driver to get a final run in before Russell brought the session effectively to a close as the weather deteriorated with eight minutes of Q3 to go he became beached in the gravel and that brought out the red flag.

The crash for Russell prevented others from improving, but it was not the only error Ferrari sent Charles Leclerc sent him out on the dry tyres which left him unable to maximise the best of the conditions at the start of Q3. Mercedes probably failed to take advantage of conditions which have previously favoured both drivers.

Despite his crash in qualifying, Russell bounced back coming from eighth to take pole for the Grand Prix. It was a strong first half before he fought and past Verstappen taking the lead after being the only driver to gamble on the medium tyres, before pulling off a similar move to teammate Hamilton the previous year to take the lead.

Verstappen finished a second ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez, but there will be questions for the team after they have dominated the second half of the season why they made that decision to start on the slower medium tyres, while everyone else was on the soft tyres, but it did give him a better launch.

Russell managed to convert pole and the sprint win into a Grand Prix win beating Hamilton by a second and a half. It was a similar drive to Sakhir 2020 when he controlled much of the race before it unravelled with a botched stop. Russell’s victory was partly helped by Verstappen and Hamilton colliding at the start dropping them to the back.

For both Mercedes drivers, it was a brilliant drive as they fended off a late attack following a second safety car with ten laps to go, the team gave both drivers a chance to fight for victory, but Russell managed to hold off Hamilton in the final ten laps to take victory. Carlos Sainz pulled away from teammate Charles Leclerc during the final stint.

But both Ferraris looked to struggle for pace to challenge Mercedes with Sainz dropping three and a half seconds behind Hamilton by the end of the race. The Spaniard’s attack wasn’t helped when he was forced into an early second stop when a visor tear-off got caught in a rear brake duct, pitted out of the way, and Hamilton caught and passed Perez with twenty-six laps to go.

Race Result – 1) G. Russell, Mercedes, 01:38:34.044 | 2) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, +00:01.529 | 3) C. Sainz, Ferrari, +00:04.051

What to watch for?

Max Verstappen goes into this weekend unsurprisingly as the favourite, in Mexico he beat his own number of wins in the season, he has been strong at every kind of circuit this season. However Interlagos is one of those circuits which is unpredictable for the reasons above and teams need to be wary and reactive to that.

Verstappen can be beaten this season, this has a variety of factors at play we are again at altitude and this is a roughly seventy-second lap meaning cars can trip over each other both in qualifying and the race. Being on track at the right time is key also because of the weather which bubbles up very quickly as we are in ‘the land of drizzle.’

Safety cars and red flags are common throughout the weekend because of the factors above, that can make for an interesting qualifying sessions, in my view its somewhere in the middle in terms of importance. While you can overtake in Sao Paulo its not easy and you do need to take risks to gain position. The complexity of the factors at play could be compared to a street circuit.

Mercedes looks I believe to be Red Bull’s closest challengers but they need to be smart if they want to win, strategy is key given the various factors we have in Interlagos. Qualifying hasn’t appeared to be as key as it once was, this has become a race in the last decade where we have had better and more overtaking on track.

The midfield as we been saying a lot during this season has been tight, McLaren I still think are the favourites for fourth after Aston Martin struggled in Mexico City. Again Lando Norris was a star performer coming back from a disappointing qualifying to fifth, that McLaren has been incredibly strong recently. If we get changeable conditions he is a driver to watch.

This weekend is one of big rewards but also big loses and we know that for the smaller teams, they have been able to fight midfield teams in a very tight fight for the final points positions.

2022 vs 2021 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest


Race Time

Fastest Lap


01:11.853 01:14.604 01:13.106 01:10.881 01:11.674 30:11.307 01:38:34.044 01:13.785


+02.803 +02.197 +04.373 +02.813 +03.302 +01:02.252 +06:12.807 +14.832


01:09.050 01:12.407 01:08.733 01:08.068 01:08.372 29:09.559 01:32:22.851 01:28.617

2022 Lap time comparison

Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Race. Time
01:12.040 +00.187 01:14.918 +00.312 01:13.403 +00.297 01:11.318 +00.437 01:12.059 +00.385 30:11.307 +00:00.000 +00:00.000 01:38:34.044 +00:00.000 +00:00.00
Red Bull
01:11.853 +00.000 01:14.788 +00.184 01:13.613 +00.507 01:10.881 +00.000 01:11.877 +00.203 30:15.302 +00:10.494 +00:00.497 01:38:44.100 +00:10.056 +00:02.522
01:11.857 +00.004 01:15.851 +01.247 01:14.486 +01.308 01:10.950 +00.069 01:12.357 +00.683 30:15.799 +00:03.995 +00:03.995 01:38:42.485 +00:08.441 +00:00.495
01:12.955 +01.102 01:15.851 +01.247 01:13.106 +00.000 01:11.377 +00.496 01:12.263 +00.589 30:36.931 +00:25.624 +00:12.491 01:08:55.582 Retired N/A
Aston Martin
01:12.157 +00.304 01:16.263 +01.659 01:14.398 +01.292 01:12.210 +00.797 N/A +00.000 30:41.525 +00:30.218 +00:01.450 01:38:57.596 +00:23.552 +00:01:000
Alpha Tauri
01:12.467 +00.614 01:15.636 +01.032 01:14.371 +01.265 01:11.675 +00.794 N/A 30:45.477 +00:34.170 +00:03.952 01:39:05.911 +00:31.867 +00:01.968
01:12.554 +00.701 01:14.604 +00.000 01:14.663 +00.177 01:11.587 +00.510 01:12.425 +00.751 31:03.063 +00:51.756 +00:01.056 01:38:43.603 +00:09.561 +00:01.120
01:12.314 +00.461 01:15.684 +01.080 01:13.954 +00.848 01:11.410 +00.529 01:11.674 +00.000 30:40.075 +00:28.768 +00:03.144 01:39:03.943 +00:29.899 +00:00.574
Alfa Romeo
01:12.466 +00.613 01:16.047 +01.080 01:15.197 +02.091 N/A N/A 30:53.070 +00:41.763 +00:00.604 01:38:57.596 +00:22.552 +00:03.862
01:12.633 +00.780 01:16.181 +01.577 01:14.324 +01.218 01:11.631 +00.750 N/A +00.000 31:28.157 +01:16.525 +00:22.865 01:39:10.060 +00:36.016 +00:04.149


White Hard (C2)

Yellow Medium (C3)

Red Soft (C4)

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