Brazilian Grand Prix: Autódromo José Carlos Pace

2006 Brazilian Grand Prix
2006 Brazilian Grand Prix (Morio /

There are few more iconic racetracks in the world than Interlagos, situated in a suburb just outside of Sao Paulo. Whilst the track is officially known as the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, after Brazilian driver Carlos Pace who was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1977, many still refer to it simply as, ‘Interlagos’. 

The heat is often an issue with the race being held around early to mid-November. Temperatures are usually above 30 degrees and it’s also just at the start of the rainy season in Brazil, which means that some race shave been affected by wet weather. 

The track has seen several points within the F1 calendar, both opening the season but probably most famously closing the season. It currently lies as the penultimate race in the Grand Prix fixture list, with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix being the final one. 


Swap Start/End

Circuit Info

Location Length Corners Capacity Year Opened
São Paulo 4.309km 15 60,000 1940

Circuit Layout

F1 Brazilian Track Autódromo José Carlos Pace Track Map

What’s interesting about the design of the Interlagos circuit is that it’s run anti-clockwise. This may seem fairly trivial, but in fact it’s one of just a handful of circuits that are currently running that offer this layout, including that of COTA (USA), Yas Marina Circuit, Singapore and Imola. 

This creates a number of challenges for the drivers, mainly that of the fact the G Force that they are used to is moved to the left with right hand turns, but the course includes many left-hand turns, which moves the head and neck to right, providing a much different sensation. 

The track is probably most famed for the fact that it follows the lie of the land, which in turn offers a number of ascents and descents. The course has been set up to provide a tough test for both driver and car, which is apparent when cars and both climbing to peaks and then accelerating down. It can often cause drivers to miss breaking points due to the speeds they are carrying into corners. 

Another feature of Interlagos is that the surface in places is extremely bumpy. Formula 1 cars are synonymous with sitting extremely low to the ground and have very little travel in their suspension allowing cars to corner much flatter and at greeter speeds. The bumps mean that cars can lose traction fairly easily and provide a lack of grip. 

The combination of all of the above puts great strain on the cars, probably as much as any circuit in circulation at the minute. Drivers not only have to be physically fit to work the car around the track, but reliability in both gearboxes and engines needs to be paramount. The majority of races see a high number of retirements throughout, especially with cars that are maybe running their last engine or gearbox as the season draws to a close. 

The current track runs at just 4.309km, which is one of the shorter courses in the calendar. Its original length was actually that of 7.82km, but was reduced in order to comply with new FIA rules over safety concerns. Since 1973 a number of track changes have occurred, none bigger than the removal of three of the longer straights and the flattening out of some corners in order to make the track a little slower. 

Recent Winners

YearDriverCarFastest Lap
2017 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1.12.539
2016 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.25.639
2015 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.14.957
2014 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.13.619
2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1.15.624

Other Races

Formula 3 Racing
Formula 3 Racing Also Takes Place at the Track (Abdul Razak Latif /

The iconic track sees a good number of other races there over the years. The owners have been keen to limit them in more recent years, trying to ensure the prestige of the event when the Formula 1 role into town.

Other race formats have included, but aren’t limited to that of the FIA World Endurance Championship, 6 Hours of Sao Paulo, Stock Car Brazil, Formula Truck, TC 2000, Formula 3 South America and the Brazilian Formula 3 Championship, which is one of the few that are still running along with the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. 


Autódromo José Carlos Pace
Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Pedro Leiria /

Original plans for the land that the track is now situated on was first earmarked for development of housing. However, due to the fallout of the stock market in 1929, it was decided that this plan was no longer financially viable. The increased exposure of motor racing had been an area that the city of Sao Paulo had been keen to get in on, so the decision was made to instead create into a racetrack. 

Original Design

Construction on the circuit started in 1938 and was completed some 2 years later in 1940. The design was based on a popular circuit based in New York, known as New York’s Roosevelt Field Raceway. The renaming of the track came about in 1985 after the death of Jose Carlos Pace. 

Formula started to filter into the track by 1972 and the first race that was run this year was actually a non-championship race. The following year saw this race be elevated to a championship race and it’s widely regarded that this was the start of the love affair with Brazilians and Formula 1. 

Safety Concerns

By 1980, the track was starting to come under heavy criticism about both safety corners around the track and the state of the surface. Many people believed that a major crash or fatality was just around the corner, mainly down the fact that Formula 1 cars were becoming even more aerodynamic and offered little in the way of forgiving suspension. 

The FIA agreed with the safety corners and the track was removed from the 1981 calendar. In fact, over the next decade only 1 race was held there which was that of the Mil Mihas Brazil. 


Felipe Massa Celebrates 2006 Victory
Felipe Massa Celebrates Brazilian Grand Prix Victory in 2006 (Morio /

A $15 million investment into the track saw F1 return in 1990. The surface was addressed, and facilities were improved for both teams and spectators. The fact that local boy, Ayrton Senna was enjoying a rich vein of form in the sport certainly helped get the circuit back on track with several parts named after the great man, such as the Senna ‘S’ and even the karting track that runs alongside the main Grand Prix circuit.

The race track has seen many spectacular races over the years, but none more so than in 2008 when local boy Felipe Massa won the final Grand Prix to snatch the World Drivers Championship. Only for Lewis Hamilton to pass Timo Glock on the final corner to pick up the points he needed to win the championship by just one point.