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Since its debut on the F1 calendar in 1972, the Sao Paulo Grand Prix has become an undeniable favourite among drivers and fans. It’s blend of fast straightaways and legendary corner layouts can create on-track drama at any moment – and it has hardly ever disappointed!
Giancarlo Fisichella takes wet and weird debut win – 2003
Undisputed chaos. That’s probably the best way to describe the 2003 Sao Paulo Grand Prix that saw 20 cars roar off the line but only eight managed to make it to the finish.
In weather that would have modern F1 drivers contained to their garages, the pouring rain at Interlagos made driving conditions almost impossible. Six drivers spun out in turn three, including a pretty livid Michael Schumacher, and with 11 laps to go, home favourite Rubens Barrichello retired with mechanical issues – setting the stage for one of the most chaotic finishes in F1 history.
After overtaking Kimi Raikkonen, Fisichella held the race lead with just 3 laps remaining. Mark Webber became the 10th driver to fall victim to the harsh conditions, spinning wildly and crashing heavily into the barrier. But before a safety car could be deployed, Fernando Alonso collided with debris from Webber’s Jaguar, resulting in a pretty heavy crash of his own.
The race was red flagged and never restarted, but Raikkonen was mistakingly declared the winner. After much deliberation, the decision was overturned and Fisichella was handed his first win a week later.
Ayrton Senna does the impossible – 1991
Despite already holding two world championship and the title of national hero, Ayrton Senna had still not completed one of life goals in F1 – winning a grand prix on home turf.
It all got off to a great start, as Senna led the field away from pole position, pursued closely by Nigel Mansell’s Williams. Things quickly swung the Brazilian’s way, after Mansell had a minor meltdown which included a puncture, a spin and then an eventual retirement, leaving Senna to waltz home to victory.
But fate wasn’t going to be so kind.
As the race reached its half way point, Senna’s gearbox began to fail, leaving his McLaren stuck in sixth gear. In heroic fashion, he soldiered on, screaming across the finish line and beating the rapidly closing Riccardo Patrese by just two seconds.
Lewis Hamilton’s Brazilian miracles – 2008 & 2021
It’s no secret Lewis Hamilton is a Brazilian at heart, idolising the aforementioned Ayrton Senna from the moment he stepped foot in a go-kart. So, it’s only right that the 7-time world champion is the talent behind two of the greatest miracle performances ever seen in Sao Paulo.
Miracle number one came in 2008, where Hamilton needed to finish fifth or higher in the final race of the season to take home his first F1 world title. Felipe Massa was the Brits only threat, and on home soil, the Brazilian led the pack from the start and never looked back. But it wasn’t so easy for the champion in waiting.
Rain once again caused untold chaos at Interlagos, forcing Hamilton to drop further back before crucially running wide at turn 12 and falling back to 6th. But on the final corner of the final lap, Hamilton passed Timo Glock to move back up into fifth and claim an impossible first world title.
Miracle number two struck Brazil in 2021, where after being disqualified from qualifying, Hamilton lined up in last place for the Brazilian Grand Prix’s first sprint race. With four races remaining in the season, Hamilton was still in reaching distance of his eighth world title, chasing down the Red Bull of Max Verstappen – but he needed to score big points to stay in contention.
In 24 laps around Interlagos, Hamilton raced all the way to fifth from the back of the grid, leaving many other drivers speechless over the Brit’s race pace.
Another grid penalty meant he started from 10th for Sunday’s Grand Prix but it was all child’s play to Hamilton, who cruised to the front of the pack and passed Verstappen with 11 laps to go and claimed a vital victory.
Raikkonen claims Ferrari’s last world title…for now – 2007
It’s been a difficult 15 years for the Tifosi but the 2007 Sao Paulo Grand Prix signify’s the last time Ferrari were officially at the top of the F1 food chain.
In dramatic fashion, Kimi Raikkonen overcame impossible odds, trailing McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso all season long. After a victory in China, infighting and poor strategy calls meant the McLaren duo were crumbling from within, allowing Raikkonen to take full advantage.
Qualifying third, the flying Finn had to win the race with the McLaren’s finishing third or lower to secure the title.
More infighting and a lock up from Hamilton on lap one meant he dropped to seventh and never recovered – eventually being lapped by Raikkonen. Alonso had struggles of his own, finishing third and gifting Raikkonen and Ferrari a sorely deserved world title.
Featured Image Credit: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images