Sao Paulo bids to keep Interlagos on F1’s 2021 calendar

Drivers wave to the crowd during the opening parade of the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)

Sao Paulo authorities made their case to Formula One owners on Sunday to keep the traditional Interlagos track on the calendar for another 10 years after its contract expires in 2020 and even had three-time champion Jackie Stewart join their pitch.

State Governor Joao Doria said in a press conference that a decision on the future of the race could be made in December after he delivers Sao Paulo’s offer to F1 CEO Chase Carey.

The track is facing considerable competition for the right to host the Brazilian GP from Rio de Janeiro, which has bid to replace Interlagos at a yet to be built track. The Rio proposal is supported by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro.

Flanked by Stewart and Carey, the Sao Paulo state governor said negotiations involve the payment of F1’s racing fee, which only the Brazilian and Monaco GPs currently do not make among the calendar’s 21 current races. Doria said that if it needs to start paying it, the fee will be privately funded, but did not give more details.

"This is the most adequate place to keep the GP," he said. "We have a tradition of 38 years, drivers like the track, they think it is one of the best in the world."

Carey said a decision on the future of the Brazilian Grand Prix may not be made until the middle of 2020. He added that the racing fee will not be the main consideration in deciding whether to keep the race at Interlagos or move it to the country’s postcard city of Rio.

Earlier this year Carey received Rio’s bid to build a track at a former military area where more than 200,000 trees are growing. No environmental licenses have been issued so far and construction is ongoing, but company Rio Motorpark says it can finish the project in 17 months.

"We certainly hope to continue racing in Brazil for a long time," Carey said. "We just recently completed our renewals for 2020. We are now turning to 2021, putting a calendar together."

After six-time champion Lewis Hamilton voiced environmental concerns over Rio’s bid, former driver Stewart also added his weight to Sao Paulo’s campaign to hang on to the race.

"What you’ve done here is great. It is Sao Paulo that has developed most of the (best Brazilian) drivers, there must have been someone here that was a great leader of karting," Stewart said. "I hope that it will continue. Brazil is an important place around the world, and motor racing is part of it.

"One of the few races I’ve not won in the world is this one," 80-year-old Stewart said, pounding his hand on a table. "Is it too late?"

Never say never but his odds are doubtless starting to lengthen.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.