History of the Brazilian Grand Prix 18 Oct 2004
The popularity of Formula One racing really took off in Brazil in the early 1970s, thanks largely to the success of one man - Brazilian driver Emerson Fittipaldi. The Interlagos circuit, in Fittipaldi's hometown of Sao Paulo, had originally been built in 1940, but it wasn't until the local boy 'made good' that it got to hold its first Grand Prix - a non-championship round in 1972, won by Argentine driver Carlos Reutemann.
For the following year the race was given full championship status and Fittipaldi rewarded his home fans by winning the inaugural event on what at the time was one of the longest circuits on the Formula One racing calendar at just under five miles. Fittipaldi repeated his success in 1974, before compatriot Carlos Pace made in three in a row for Brazil with victory the following year. The circuit was later to be renamed the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in his honour.
Niki Lauda took the chequered flag for Ferrari in 1976, followed by another win for Reutemann, also in a Ferrari, in 1977. For 1978 Interlagos lost the Brazilian round to a new circuit in Rio de Janeiro, where Reutemann again triumphed. It returned the following year, bringing an all-French win for Jacques Laffite and Ligier. 1980 was also a French-dominated affair with Rene Arnoux victorious for Renault.
In 1981 the race was back in Rio for the first of nine successive Brazilian Grands Prix at the venue. Reutemann was again victorious, but in controversial circumstance as he defied team orders and failed to move over for the fellow Williams of Alan Jones.
In 1982 Alain Prost took the first of his five wins at the Rio circuit, although controversy reigned again. Prost crossed the line third, but was then awarded victory after the Brabham of Nelson Piquet and the Williams of Keke Rosberg were disqualified for being underweight.
Rosberg's bad luck continued in 1983. As Piquet took the win, the Finn was disqualified from second following a push start during a pit stop. Prost took the chequered flag at Rio for the next two years, before another home triumph for Piquet in 1986. After a further two wins for Prost, it was Nigel Mansell and Ferrari who won the final Grand Prix to be staged at the circuit in 1989. Mansell's car had been plagued by poor reliability, but in the race Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger collided at the first corner and then Prost suffered clutch problems, leaving the Englishman to pick up maximum points.
The Brazilian Grand Prix returned to its current home of Interlagos in 1990, though the circuit had been dramatically revised. The new Senna S bend had replaced the original first corner and two more new link roads had cut the circuit down to 2.687 miles. However, it still remained a unique challenge, with its bumpy surface and unusual anti-clockwise layout.
Alain Prost continued his love affair with Brazil by winning the first race back at Interlagos, before Ayrton Senna became the fourth Brazilian to win his home race in 1991. Mansell was on top again for Williams the following year, with Senna winning in changeable weather conditions in 1993.
Michael Schumacher took victory for Benetton in 1994, in what was to be Senna's final home race before his untimely death at Imola that year. The mood at Interlagos was suitably restrained when Formula One racing returned to Brazil the following year for a race again won by Schumacher.
Williams triumphed in 1996 and 1997. Damon Hill took a dominant win in atrocious weather conditions the first year, with Jacques Villeneuve then taking the honours in the second. Mika Hakkinen ended the Williams reign in 1998 with victory for McLaren, a feat he repeated the following year.
Michael Schumacher put Ferrari on top of the podium in 2000, his third Brazilian victory. David Coulthard won the 2001 event in a race more memorable for Juan Pablo Montoya's dramatic first-corner pass on Schumacher's Ferrari. The Colombian proceeded to pull away from the world champion and looked set for victory before being accidentally hit from behind by the Arrows of Jos Verstappen.
Schumacher and Montoya were at war again in 2002, the Colombian losing his front wing in a collision with the rear of the Ferrari. From there Schumacher masterfully nursed his tyres as part of an inspired one-stop strategy which took him to yet another Brazilian win.
The 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix proved one of the most confusing races in living memory, the winner being changed three days after the chequered flag had fallen. It started under the safety car due to a mixture of wet track and lack of suitable tyres (under the since changed one wet tyre rule, the teams only had intermediates available) and claimed numerous high-profile victims, Schumacher included.
Mark Webbers accident was the one that finally brought out the red flag, with Jordans Giancarlo Fisichella leading on the road. The two lap countback rule was what caused the confusion. Organisers deemed Kimi Raikkonen the winner for McLaren. Only on the Wednesday after the race did the FIA rule there had been an error, handing Fisichella his first Grand Prix win.