Bolsonaro claims Rio F1 race agreement, São Paulo hits back

Confusion surrounds the future of the Brazilian Grand Prix after President Jair Bolsonaro claimed the country’s annual Formula One race will move to Rio de Janeiro in 2020, while promoters for its current home in Interlagos, São Paulo, said they are confident of extending their current deal.

Speculation has mounted in recent weeks that the race could return to Rio. Bolsonaro yesterday (Wednesday) said an agreement is in place to develop a new circuit in Deodoro, a neighbourhood in the west of the city.

“São Paulo, as there was public participation, a huge debt, became unfeasible for the permanence of Formula One there,” Bolsonaro said, according to the Reuters news agency. “Then we came to Rio de Janeiro, and the racetrack will be built in six to seven months after the start of the work, so that on the occasion of Formula One next year, it will be held in Brazil, and in Rio de Janeiro.

“The hotel industry is certainly happy with 7,000 direct and indirect jobs that will last forever. Rio de Janeiro wins and Brazil wins…without any public money.”

Bolsanaro went on to further outline the plans via his Twitter account, stating that F1 will be involved in the Deodoro development, which will bear the name of F1 legend, and three-time world champion, Ayrton Senna. However, despite his comments regarding a timeline for development of the new circuit, it will reportedly take 16 to 17 months to develop, not six to seven.

The President added: “After our victory in the elections, Formula One, which was leaving Brazil, decided not only to stay, but also to build a new race circuit in RJ, which will be named after the idol Ayrton Senna.

“Therefore, thousands of jobs will be created, benefiting the economy and the population of the state. It is important to emphasise that the investment will be totally private, with zero cost for the public coffers.”

The Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet racecourse held Brazil’s F1 race in Rio on 10 occasions, most recently in 1989, before it was demolished to make way for facilities developed for the 2016 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

However, despite Bolsanaro’s comments, São Paulo appears determined to fight to retain its place on the F1 calendar. “There is a contract in force with the company responsible for the organisation of the F1 Brazil GP, valid until December 2020,” read a joint statement issued by the state and city governments of São Paulo.

“Since November 2018, the city of São Paulo has been working for the renewal of the F1 Brazil GP contract in the city of São Paulo, starting in 2021. There is a belief that good understanding will prevail. The government of the State of São Paulo are unaware of any obstacle that might prevent the renewal of said contract.”