10 key facts about the Brazilian Grand Prix

© Nacho Doce
With this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix approaching, the penultimate race in the Formula 1 calendar, let's take a look at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, known as Interlagos, and the surrounding city of São Paulo.

The race was first held in 1973, with Brazil's defending world champion Emerson Fittipaldi taking the checkered flag. Interlagos was very different in those days, with a much longer, winding infield, but the atmosphere was the same as it is today: Brazilian vibrancy and passion with the constant threat of rain.

A fan favorite on the F1 calendar, Interlagos is built in a natural bowl, meaning it’s hilly and unpredictable, with many difficult corners for drivers to navigate.

The track is 4.3km long, but is sweeping and fast, with the lap record being set in 2004 by Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya, racing for Williams.

Beautiful. 🌞🏁 #BrazilGP #F1 #Interlagos

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The circuit is unusual in Formula 1 terms as it is anti-clockwise; most circuits on the calendar run in a clockwise direction, meaning the stress on a driver's neck is on the left-hand side, not the right as it is at Interlagos. The track has undergone quite a few improvements in the last few years. It was resurfaced in 2007, eliminating the traditional bumps.

For this year's race, the circuit has a new team office building and an expanded paddock area, so the teams have more space to prepare the cars. In the past, the circuit's facilities were deemed "the worst circuit for the teams to work at" according to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Interlagos is near São Paulo, a city that is home to 11 million people, with the surrounding metropolitan area accommodating almost 19 million. It also has the dubious distinction of housing the largest slum population in South America. Poverty is an ongoing problem in Brazil, where there is a huge gap between the rich and poor.

Another major problem in São Paulo is traffic. During rush hour, the tailbacks last for 183 kilometers - that's only seven short of the Grand Prix's total distance. On bad days, they can stretch up to 295 kilometers according to traffic engineers.

Formula 1's current leading driver and new triple world champion, Lewis Hamilton, has never won the race. He did win the championship here, in 2008, when it was the final race of the season. On the last corner of the last lap, he passed Toyota's Timo Glock for 5th place and cemented his first world championship, triumphing over Brazil's Felipe Massa.

© Bruno Domingos

Brazil's last world champion, Ayrton Senna, arguably the best driver of all time, is an iconic figure in Brazil. Three million people attended his funeral in 1994 in São Paulo. You may still hear his name shouted by the passionate Brazilian fans as they cheer their drivers this year, Felipe Massa, driving for Williams, and Felipe Nasr, driving for Sauber.

The race is on Sunday 15th, starting at 14:00 local time, 16:00 GMT, or 11am EST.

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