Having been mostly held at the start or the end of F1 campaigns, no Brazilian Grand Prix has passed without drama. From its very birth, after being added to the F1 calendar in 1973, there have been many memorable events.
Last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel once more show why Ferrari can mix it with Mercedes. Yet, for the home crowd, it merely represented the absence of a home hero, with Felipe Massa retiring after the season’s end.
In 1975, another Brazilian by the name of Carlos Pace completed a hat-trick of home wins for his country. Felipe Massa’s Interlagos win of 2008 remains the last time a native driver won the Brazilian Grand Prix. [Source: Youtube]
In recent times, one such moment was Lewis Hamilton’s fifth-place finish at Interlagos in 2008, which (as then reported by the Independent) sealed the young prodigy’s first F1 title. Ten years on, with Hamilton (as of 18 October 2018) a 1/500 favourite on Betway to win the title, there is every chance that the Brazilian GP will be the one to confirm his fifth. In practice, however, this means that Brazilians no longer have an opportunity to cheer on a home hero.
Following the retirement of Felipe Massa at the end of the 2017 Formula One season, 2018 would mark the first time in living memory that no Brazilian driver had been on the initial roster. It is a situation seen (quite rightly) as intolerable, amongst a fanbase whose country can boast names like Fittipaldi, Senna and Massa amongst its litany of legends. Forty-five years ago, Fittipaldi was the man who first gave the home crowd a thrill never to be forgotten.
1973 – Fittipaldi brings it home
Fittipaldi won the opening race of 1973 in Buenos Aires, a venue at which Reutemann was expected to blaze to victory. Instead, Reutemann would end the day retired and unclassified, while Fittipaldi stood proudly atop the podium. However, with three different teams having the lead at least once in that race, this was far from the formality quite a few races are today, and credit is always given where due for that triumph.
However, it cannot be denied that the second race of 1973 did have a distinct air of formality about it. As pole-sitter, Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson was considered Fittipaldi’s biggest threat, and the two Lotus F1 teammates shared the front row after exceptionally strong performances in qualifying. Just one row behind, Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni was also a threat after an assured weekend.
The scene was set for another dramatic affair like Buenos Aires, but when the flag fell, Fittipaldi raced ahead of the chasing pack and stayed in the lead throughout the entire event. He would win it again the following year, with Carlos Pace then making it three home wins on the spin for Brazilian drivers in 1975. Brazilian drivers would win at their home circuit twice in each of the following three decades, keeping alive the belief in Latin talent on the racetrack.
The 1980s saw the Brazilian GP temporarily move from Interlagos. During that time, Alain Prost dominated the event. [Original content – no source]
1983 – Peak Piquet
It would be another eight years until the next win for a Brazilian driver on a home track. The interim years would be dominated by Argentine and French winners, with the last of them being Frenchman Alain Prost, who would utterly dominate the event in the 1980s. The front row at Jacarepaguá was a competitive one, with pole sitter Keke Rosberg of Finland starting alongside 51-time race winner Prost. Rosberg was troubled only by the eventually-disqualified Rosberg, eventually finishing a whole 51s ahead of the second-best classified driver Niki Lauda. Three years later, Piquet would win there again but, this time, as part of a Brazilian 1-2. The other man was one Ayrton Senna...
1991 – Senna-sational!
Prost would win at Jacarepaguá two more times in the four years following Piquet’s second win there, and also won the first race at the new Interlagos circuit in 1990. Senna’s dauntless racing style and daring manoeuvres seared his name onto the hearts of racing fans worldwide – Brazilian or otherwise. Right up until his tragic death in 1994, which prompted key changes in the sport, he almost single-handedly reinvented F1 as Box Office material. His first home win was a key component in him doing so and seen by many as his crowning moment.
As recalled by F1i.com, Senna finished in pole for qualifying and, while the early reaches of the race were a breeze for him, a failing gearbox would see him in a race against time, as well as rivals. It required every inch of his skill and expertise to control the car, but he held out to win by nearly three seconds ahead of Riccardo Patrese. Two years later, Senna was once more atop the Brazilian podium, but there would be no such difficulties this time, with the national hero beating Damon Hill by a whole 16s.