The Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace at Interlagos in Sao Paulo hosts the final round of this year’s world championship, the fourth time in five years it has done so. More importantly, the title will be decided here for the fourth year in succession. But the race has actually appeared as the season-opener more often than the season-ender.
And its passionate fans have seen some great racing in the 35-year history of the race.
1973 – Interlagos has hosted the majority of Brazilian Grands Prix. But the early race of the 1970s and 1980s were held on the original iteration of the track: a much longer circuit, with bumps that were very similar to what the drivers experienced up to as late as 2006.
Defending champion and Sao Paulo native Emerson Fittipaldi ensured a Brazilian would win at home first time out, taking victory for Lotus. But if anything, the crowd seemed to be even more enthusiastic for the water literally being hosed onto them to cool down the hot sun’s rays.
1975 – More home glory for the Brazilians as Carlos Pace, a Sao Paulo local driving a Brabham, won the race. While Pace had lots of pace in the race, it took a bit of good luck on his part to get the win. Pole-sitter and early race leader Jean-Pierre Jarier had dominated the race so far, but an engine failure for Jarier opened the door for Pace.
Sadly, no other wins were to come for Pace. He would die in a place accident in 1977. The Interlagos circuit today is named in his memory.
1978 – After five years at Interlagos, F1 switched to the newly-completed Jacarepagua circuit in Rio de Janeiro. The atmosphere seemed to be more exciting: after all, this was the home of the world-famous Carnival.
Alas, the race wasn’t all that exciting: a lights-to-flag win for Carlos Reutemann in his Ferrari. Lotus’ ground-breaking ground-effect car wasn’t ready yet, so despite the win in Argentina two weeks before, neither Mario Andretti nor Ronnie Petersen made that much of an impact in the race.
In spite of the not-so-pleasant start, F1 seemed pleased enough to make Jacarepagua a regular on the calendar – but not until 1981.
1980 – It was the ‘yellow teapots’, indeed, that dominated the race. Renault’s turbo engines were impossible to match, but this time, they seemed to have better aero and decent reliability. Sure, Jean-Pierre Jabouille’s turbo conked out midway through, but Rene Arnoux’s worked till the very end.
The Frenchman, who was first noticed after that duel with Gilles Villeneuve at Dijon the year before, proved his rising star credentials were no fluke by taking his first Grand Prix win.
1981 – If there is one team on the current grid that most people would never associate with team orders, that would be Williams. After all, this was the team that allowed Jacques Villeneuve to challenge Damon Hill in 1996, as well as Nigel Mansell to take on Nelson Piquet in 1986 and 1987.
But back then, they were just like any other team in the pitlane, down to the team orders. After all, it was prescribed in Alan Jones’ contract that he was the lead driver. But unfortunately, Carlos Reutemann didn’t see the pitboard ordering him to let Jones by, leaving him to win. Must have been the umbrellas. Or maybe the rain…
1982 – From strikes to sliced ham: yes, after a two-race absence, Clive James makes his return for the end-of-season tribute. He also talked about the Brazilians going ecstatic when Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari spun out of the race. That allowed Nelson Piquet’s Brabham into the lead, and to a race win, holding off the Williams of Keke Rosberg.
But after this race lies a twist: both Piquet and Rosberg were disqualified for illegal water tanks, but this didn’t happen after the second round of the championship finished at Long Beach. The win thus went to Alain Prost’s Renault. FOCA, led by Brabham’s Bernie Ecclestone and supported by Sir Frank Williams, was disgusted. As a result, all FOCA teams boycotted the San Marino Grand Prix, leaving only the FISA-supporting teams (like Renault and Ferrari) to compete there. This inadvertently lay the groundwork for the feud between Ferrari drivers Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi.
By the way, I’m sure a spinning Ferrari is the last thing the Brazilians want to see this year.
1983 – Just like last year, it was another home win for Piquet. Just like last year, he finished ahead of Keke Rosberg. But unfortunately, Rosberg was, just like last year, disqualified from the final result. This time, it was due to receiving push start in the pits, which is banned.
Who would’ve thought that stewards were already that nosy 25 years ago? The more things change, the more they stay the same.
More thrills and spills from the 1980s and the 1990s tomorrow.
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