Formula 1's Best Moments at the Brazilian Grand Prix

Pole position qualifier Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and Haas F1 walks into parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 11, 2022 in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Pole position qualifier Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and Haas F1 walks into parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 11, 2022 in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Brazil is home to some of the most passionate drivers and fans in Formula 1 history, making its every Grand Prix a delight. This weekend, we’re heading back to Interlagos for the penultimate round of the 2022 Championship, and to celebrate, we’re going to look back at some of the greatest moments in the event’s history.

When it was first introduced, Brazil used to take place at the start of the year, but it has since been moved to the end of the season. As a result, we’ve had tons of fascinating battles in the country, several of which have decided World Championships.

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To say that no one would have expected a Haas to take a pole position in 2022 would be a severe understatement, but in a rain-soaked session for the Brazilian Grand Prix, that’s just what happened. Rain soaked the track in Q3, and Magnussen had secured the critical first position out of the pit lane. He managed to set a decent time just before the rain fell, securing him a shocking pole.

1973: An Inaugural Win

Back in the day, prospective F1 tracks used to have to host a non-Championship event as a “try-out” of sorts to determine the quality of the venue. So, 1973 wasn’t the first time F1 cars had raced at Interlagos, but it was the first time that race actually counted toward a victory.

Even better? That 1973 race was won by Emerson Fittipaldi, a native of São Paulo himself.

1975: Hometown Hero

Another Brazilian, Carlos Pace, went on to win the third Brazil GP in 1975 — but it was a deeply meaningful one. Despite multiple years in the sport, Pace only won a single race. The fact that it happened to be in his home country — with fellow Brazilian Fittipaldi in second place, no less — made it all the sweeter.

1991: Senna Finally Does It

Perhaps the most well-known Brazilian driver in F1 history, Ayrton Senna struggled to secure one of those home wins that Fittipaldi and Pace had secured. When that victory finally came for him in 1991, it would go down in history as one of the most incredible moments in the man’s storied career.

1994: Brundle’s Scary Accident

The 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix was the opening race of the season, and it was a little bit of a hot mess. On lap 35, chaos between some frontrunners and lapped cars led to a four-car pileup when Eddie Irvine and Jos Verstappen approached the lapped Éric Bernard and the struggling McLaren of Martin Brundle. Irvine and Verstappen both tried to overtake Brundle on the same side, resulting in a somersault from Verstappen, whose car made impact with Brundle’s helmet. Thankfully, Brundle escaped serious injury.

2001: There Goes the Leader

Poor ol’ Juan Pablo Montoya. One of the most impressive drivers of our time, and yet he’s been involved in countless ridiculous on-track incidents — including at the 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix. A rookie at the time, he managed to overtake Michael Schumacher and build himself a great lead... until he lapped Jos Verstappen. Verstappen initially let Montoya by but slammed into the rear of Montoya’s car during braking for Turn 4, putting both drivers out of the race.

2003: Chaos. Just Chaos.

How do you even describe the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix? While it was supposed to last for 71 laps, two huge crashes brought out a red flag on lap 56 — and then confusion struck. Kimi Räikkönen was originally declared the winner, but the Jordan team claimed that its driver Giancarlo Fisichella had actually been leading at the time of the red flag. Fisichella was ultimately awarded the victory.

Basically, Mark Webber lost grip on his overheating tires, crashing into the wall at about 150 mph. Debris was strewn across the track, and Fernando Alonso hit one of Webber’s detached tires, crashing into the wall himself. With all the chaos, stewards called the race rather than attempt a restart, but the whole “declaring a winner” thing was difficult considering the sheer amount of debris and two injured drivers.

2007: Raikkonen’s One-Point Win

For the first time since 1986, the 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix marked a three-way Championship battle heading into the final race of the season. Lewis Hamilton led the season with 107 points, just ahead of Fernando Alonso with 103 points and Kimi Räikkönen with 100.

At the end of the day, Räikkönen took both the checkered flag and the Championship win by a single point. With just two great finishes in the final two races, he had overturned Hamilton’s 17-point lead.

2008: Hamilton’s Dramatic Championship

Lewis Hamilton wasn’t ready to take his 2007 Championship loss lying down. Hamilton was pretty much set to win the Championship if he scored above sixth place, but Felipe Massa was ready to put up a fight.

Massa lead the race from pole position and finished first as rain began to fall and drivers dipped into the pits for a tire change. Hamilton ran wide, allowing Sebastian Vettel to take fifth place from him near the end of the race — and leaving Hamilton in sixth, out of contention for a title. Massa was already celebrating his Championship victory when the news came in: Hamilton had managed to pass Timo Glock, the only frontrunner who hadn’t swapped from dry-weather tires. With his fifth-place finish, he took his first Championship by a single point.

Oh, and Jenson Button’s car lit on fire after the race.

2012: One Hell of a Roller Coaster

Yet another spicy title decider took place at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, this time between Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. Alonso was the provisional Champion for much of the race due to a comfortable lead over Vettel, who started poorly. The two were duking it out in the upper-midfield until the end of the race, when Alonso took second place in the race while a slow stop left Vettel struggling to regain sufficient positions. The German driver managed to finish sixth — and it was just enough to take a victory over Alonso. It would be Vettel’s third consecutive Championship.

2016: Max Verstappen, Boy Wonder

In disgustingly wet conditions, Max Verstappen really showed his skill at the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix. With just 16 laps to go, a pit stop dropped Verstappen all the way down to 16th place, but the Dutchman displayed a level of World Championship-winning talent by carving his way up the field to finish third.

The 2016 event was also Felipe Massa’s final F1 race, and he was rewarded with applause as he walked down the pit lane after retiring from the event.

2021: Hamilton’s Comeback

The most recent edition of the Brazilian Grand Prix was a fascinating one. Lewis Hamilton started the sprint race in dead last; he had initially qualified first but was later disqualified due to DRS issues. He managed to battle his way up to the front of the grid during the sprint but was then handed a five-place grid penalty for exceeding his quota of engines. As you can imagine, a fifth-place start didn’t stop Hamilton from taking a dominant win.

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