Sao Paulo, Brazil (Interlagos) Track Guide

Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos)

Sao Paulo – Brazil

The Autódromo José Carlos Pace, better known as Interlagos, currently hosts the Brazilian GP, known today as the São Paulo GP, and is one of the circuits that has hosted the most races, being one of the favorites of drivers and fans.

The Interlagos circuit is 4.309 km long and is one of the few that is run anti-clockwise. It has hosted the Brazilian Grand Prix since 1972 and is one of the shortest and fastest circuits on the calendar, with constant ups and downs and changing weather, which makes for very interesting races.

Since its arrival in Formula 1, although it has not always remained constant, the Interlagos circuit has become one of the most emblematic of the category, producing some of the most historic moments. Therefore, today we will see everything about this important circuit.

Interlagos Circuit: Complete Data

Official NameAutódromo José Carlos Pace
LocationSão Paulo, Brazil
TypeRace Circuit
Track Length4.309 km (2.677 miles)
Race Distance71 laps (305.909 km)
Grand Prix Held40 (1972-1977, 1979-1980, 1990-2019, 2021-present)
Race Lap Record1:10.540 (Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W09, 2018)
Most PolesAyrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen, Rubens Barrichello, Felipe Massa & Lewis Hamilton (3)
Most WinsMichael Schumacher (4)

Interlagos Circuit: History

The Interlagos circuit is one of the oldest on the current Formula 1 calendar. It has not remained constant over the decades, but has undergone modifications, restructurings and changes.

The track was inaugurated in 1940, as part of a project of reform and construction of a modern and luxurious neighborhood in São Paulo, Interlagos, located in a region between two artificial lakes, Guarapiranga and Billings. The project was planned in the 1920s, but the Crash of 1929 caused it to be delayed.

Thus, a circuit of 7.960 km and 15 turns was built, full of ups and downs, a first section very fast and a last one more technical, which was intended to be one of the best circuits in the world. It was closed in 1967 to be remodeled by several European experts and reopened again in 1972 to host the Brazilian Formula 1 GP, influenced by the popularity of the Brazilian driver Emerson Fittipaldi.

In 1977, following the death of Brazilian driver José Carlos Pace in a plane crash, who won at this circuit in 1975, the circuit was renamed in his honor.

The 1972 version was used until 1980, when ground effect cars, more vulnerable to potholes, raised concerns about the safety of the track, full of potholes, inadequate barriers, deep ditches and embankments. After 10 years out of the calendar, the new layout, remodeled, shortened and having passed safety tests, returned to host the Brazilian GP, in a design very similar to that of today.

Since then, it has remained constant in the calendar (with the exception of the 2020 edition due to the Covid-19 pandemic), suffering slight variations in the layout. Until 2004, the Grand Prix was one of the first rounds of the calendar, but from this date onwards it moved to the end of the season, hosting numerous title showdowns.

Interlagos Circuit: Layout Guide

Interlagos is characterized by its hilly terrain, with steep climbs and descents that put more power demands on the cars’ engines, as well as physically on the drivers due to its anti-clockwise orientation, which pushes the drivers’ necks to the left, instead of to the right like most circuits on the F1 calendar.

The actual circuit, of 4.309 km, consists of 15 turns, and is in general a fairly fast circuit. The race starts in the “Tribunas” section, which is a long straight (not completely straight) going up and then down, connecting to the “S do Senna”, which is a pair of left-to-right turns with a downward slope. Then there is the “Curva do Sol”, a round-shaped large radius left turn.

The “Reta Oposta” is the longest straight of the circuit, followed by two left turns called “Descida do Lago”, which connects with a slower and twisty uphill section, with changes of inclination, composed of the curves “Ferradura”, “Laranjihna”, “Pinheirinho” and “Bico do Pato”, which is the slowest and most technical section of the whole circuit, as they are right and left turns that follow each other.

This section is followed by turn 11, “Mergulho”, a constant-radius left-hand turn that takes the driver straight into a harder left, “Junção”. Turn 13, “Café”, on the left, connects to the upclimb “Subida dos Boxes” (Up to the pits), which is a long-left turn with a 10% slope that leads to “Arquibancadas”, a left-handed pronouncement that can be done at full throttle, ending at the straight line.

This last section is the fastest section of the circuit, and despite not being a straight as such, it is treated as if it were, being one of the longest full-throttle sections on the calendar. This is the list of the corners with their names:

  • ‘S’ do Senna (Senna S) (1,2).
  • Curva do Sol (Curve of the Sun) (3).
  • Descida do Lago (Lake’s Descent) (4,5).
  • Ferradura (Horseshoe) (6,7).
  • Laranjinha (Little Orange) (8).
  • Pinheirinho (Little Pine Tree) (9).
  • Bico de Pato (Duck’s Bill) (10).
  • Mergulho (Dive) (11).
  • Junção (Junction) (12).
  • Café (Coffee) (13).
  • Subida dos Boxes (Up to the Pits) (14).
  • Arquibancadas (Bleachers) (15).

Interlagos Circuit: Onboard Lap

The following video shows Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap during the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix, obtaining a time of 1:07.931, more than four tenths faster than second-placed Max Verstappen. The Englishman, however, was disqualified because his DRS was not in compliance with the rules, but it is a smooth and perfect lap.

Interlagos Circuit: Weather

As mentioned above, the Interlagos circuit is known for its changing conditions. These changing conditions can be very abrupt and fast, going from light rain to heavy thunderstorms in a matter of moments.

It has offered dry and wet races, and races that have started in the dry and finished in the wet or vice versa, producing very unpredictable and entertaining races that have tempered the grid order.

Before the 2001 race, Rubens Barrichello had this to say about the crazy weather at Interlagos:

“A lot of factors have to be taken into account, from how practice goes on Friday and Saturday to the best set-up choice, and to what my Granny Isaura predicts for the weather. I trust her much more than the weather forecast, as she lives here!”

Interlagos Circuit: Curious Facts

  • Interlagos, in Portuguese is literally “between lakes”, because as mentioned above, it is located between the Guarapiranga and Billings lakes.
  • Pole position is not essential at Interlagos, as the changing conditions and overtaking opportunities mean that there are always many changes of position. Only 8 drivers have won in Brazil from pole position in the last 20 editions.
  • Four Brazilians have won at Interlagos: Emmerson Fittipaldi (1973 & 1974), José Carlos Pace (1975), Ayrton Senna (1991 & 1993) and Felipe Massa (2006 & 2008).
  • Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver at Interlagos, with 4 victories, in 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2002. However, Alain Prost has more Brazilian GP victories, six, but five of them were at the Jacarepagua circuit in Rio de Janeiro, which hosted races when Interlagos was being rebuilt.
  • The Interlagos track was one of the first on the F1 calendar to run anti-clockwise.
  • The Interlagos circuit is just 4.309 kilometers long. Among the current F1 circuits, only Monaco is shorter, but the Brazilian track is much faster.
  • Interlagos is currently the only circuit in South America to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix. In the past, Argentina has been the other South American country to host an F1 Grand Prix.
  • Ferrari is the most successful team at Interlagos, with 9 wins, the last one being in 2017 by Sebastian Vettel. It is followed by McLaren with 8, last winning in 2012 with Jenson Button, and Mercedes and Red Bull with 5 each.
  • Brazilian drivers, with 10 pole positions, have taken more poles than drivers from any other nation at Interlagos.

Remarkable F1 Races At Interlagos

1991 Brazilian GP

The second edition after the return of Interlagos saw the local hero triumph. Ayrton Senna went into the 1991 Brazilian GP having never won his home race.

The Brazilian started in pole position and led most of the race. However, during the final part of the race, he had a problem with the gearbox, losing fourth gear by lap 60, and then fifth and third, until he was only able to keep sixth.

Despite this, he came first, ahead of Riccardo Patrese’s Williams, completing a legendary home victory.

2006 Brazilian GP

The 2006 Brazilian GP was the last round of the championship, and Fernando Alonso was 10 points ahead of Michael Schumacher in the championship, so the German, who was competing his last race with Ferrari, had to win the race and the Spaniard had to fail to score to win the championship. 

Ferrari and Renault were also playing for the constructors’ championship. All this attracted more than 154 viewers. Alonso started the race in fourth position, while Schumacher started from tenth, and Brazilian Felipe Massa was the poleman.

Massa led the entire race comfortably, and while Schumacher climbed up the grid to fourth, Alonso moved up to second, winning his second straight championship along with the constructor’s championship with Renault. With his victory, Massa became the first Brazilian driver to win at home since Ayrton Senna’s victory in 1993.

2008 Brazilian GP

The 2008 Brazilian GP saw one of the most dramatic title showdowns in history, with the championship changing hands in a matter of seconds at the end of the race. Lewis Hamilton arrived in Brazil with a 7-point lead over Felipe Massa, so the Brazilian needed to win and Hamilton to finish sixth or lower to clinch the championship.

Massa completed the perfect weekend with a sublime drive, taking pole position and leading the entire race, which was in changing conditions and very chaotic. Meanwhile, Hamilton qualified fourth, and in the race was never higher than third, spending most of the time stuck in fourth or fifth position.

However, in the final laps, when the rain began to fall more heavily, Hamilton dropped to sixth, which was enough for Massa to win. The Brazilian crossed the finish line first and began to celebrate the championship. However, Hamilton, unbelievably in the last corner, overtook the position he needed, “stealing” the title from the Brazilian at the last moment in the most dramatic way possible.

2012 Brazilian GP

Once again, in 2012, we saw one of the tensest title showdowns of recent times at the Brazilian GP. This time, it was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel who were fighting for the title. Vettel came into the GP with a 13-point lead over Alonso, so the Spaniard needed to finish at least third even if the German failed to score. 

On Sunday, Alonso started from seventh position, while Vettel started fourth, which seemed very favorable to the German. In the race, however, Alonso climbed to fifth on the first lap, while Vettel had a collision that sent him to the back of the grid, with damage to the sidepod, although he was able to continue the race.

Over the next few laps, Alonso moved up to second position, while Vettel began his particular comeback up the grid. Vettel completed a superb drive, making one overtake after another, until his compatriot Michael Schumacher let himself through for sixth place.

Alonso finished second, and Vettel sixth, so the German won his third consecutive title by only 3 points over the Spaniard, after one of the most chaotic races in recent times.


For 40 years, the Autodromo José Carlos Pace, popularly known as Interlagos, has been hosting the Brazilian Grand Prix, which with its passionate fans, enthusiasm, great track layout and weather conditions has offered very exciting races, full of drama, tension and action.