With an ever-greater number of Middle and Far Eastern countries vying for the honour of hosting F1 – and offering increasingly large sums of government money in order to do so – it appears the Brazilian Grand Prix's days on the sport's annual calendar may be numbered unless 'significant improvements' are made to the São Paulo circuit's dilapidated facilities.
Brazil has welcomed the top flight every year since 1972, and has produced some of the sport's best and most successful drivers of the likes of the late, great Ayrton Senna, fellow multiple world champions Nelson Piquet and Emerson Fittipaldi and grand prix-winners Rubens Barrichello, Felipe Massa and Carlos Pace – with hordes of knowledgeable and passionate fans to-boot.
On 28 of those 38 occasions, the race has been held at Interlagos, a circuit that has acted as a natural amphitheatre to some of F1's most thrilling and nail-biting final acts, such as Lewis Hamilton's last-gasp world championship triumph in 2008 and Kimi Raikkonen unexpectedly pinching the crown from under his McLaren rivals' noses a year earlier.
Having been scathing in his denigration of Silverstone in recent years, many paddock observers had expressed their incredulity that Bernie Ecclestone would conversely utter not a word of criticism about Interlagos, whose shabby, cramped and outmoded facilities pale in comparison with the state-of-the-art, plush venues that have sprung up in Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Bahrain, Singapore and Abu Dhabi over the last decade or so. Now, however, the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive has hinted that enough is enough.
“Long ago, in 1972, I believed in Brazil and brought F1 here,” the Englishman told the Estada de São Paulo
newspaper, “but I can no longer be questioned by the teams about the worst circuit in the championship. The future depends on significant improvements.”
With the Football World Cup and Summer Olympics due to take place in Brazil in 2014 and 2016 respectively, Ecclestone added that he hopes the international spotlight that will necessarily fall on the South American country will act as an impetus to similarly update some of its other sporting pantheons – and if it doesn't, then the contract ensuring Interlagos of a spot on the F1 schedule until 2015 could ultimately transpire to be worth little more than the paper it is written on.