The Brazilian Grand Prix
A Brazilian Grand Prix was first held in 1972 at Interlagos, although it was not part of the Formula One World Championship. Typical of European motorsports at the time, this race was done as a test to convince the FIA if the Interlagos circuit and its organizers could capably hold a Grand Prix. Like most major circuits used for Grands Prix in Latin America such as the Hermanos Rodríguez Autodrome in Mexico City Interlagos was (and still is) located in the confines of a sprawling urban neighborhood in a very large city. The following year, however, the race was first included in the official calendar, and it was won by defending world champion and São Paulo native Emerson Fittipaldi. In 1974, Fittipaldi won again in rain soaked conditions, and the year after, another São Paulo native, Carlos Pace, won the race in his Brabham, followed by Fittipaldi. 1977 was won by Reutemann, but the drivers began complaining about Interlagos’s very rough surface, and the event was then relocated for a year to the new Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio de Janeiro.
After a year in Rio, the race returned to Interlagos, with new and upgraded facilities for the next two seasons; this race was won by Jacques Laffite to complete his and Ligier’s conquest of the opening South American rounds in Argentina and Brazil. But the Interlagos surface was still very bumpy. The original arrangement from 1978 onwards was to alternate the Brazilian Grand Prix between the São Paulo and Rio circuits; the 1980 race was originally supposed to be held at Jacarepaguá but parts of that circuit (which was originally built on a swamp) were beginning to sink into the soft ground and the circuit disintegrated badly, so the 1980 Grand Prix was to be relocated to Interlagos. But by this time, the population of São Paulo had risen from 5 to 8 million over the space of 10 years; the area surrounding the track was becoming increasingly run-down and surrounding the circuit did not look good for Formula One, which thanks to worldwide television exposure was becoming something of a glamorous spectacle. Formula One was originally supposed to come back to Interlagos for the 1981 season after the track surface there would be repaved; it turned out that F1 came back a year too early. The drivers were dissatisfied with the safety conditions of the very bumpy 5-mile Interlagos circuit which had not been changed after the previous year’s improvements. The ground-effect wing cars of that year had a tendency to bounce up and down thanks to the suction created by the cars’ wing-shaped underbodies, and they were more stiffly suspended than before; so these fragile cars were barely tolerant of such a rough track and were very unpleasant to drive. The bad surface was so rough that the bumps caused mechanical problems for some cars. Also, the barriers and catch-fence arrangements were not adequate enough for Formula One. Jody Scheckter attempted to stop the race from going ahead but this did not work and the race ended up being won by Frenchman René Arnoux. With Formula One’s more glamorous image being better suited to the better-looking city of Rio de Janeiro, the F1 circus went back to Rio again and the circuit went on to host the 1980s turbo era.