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The Brazilian Grand Prix: one of the most celebrated races on the Formula 1 calendar

The Brazilian Grand Prix: one of the most celebrated races on the Formula 1 calendar

Posted by Juan Gavasa on November 07, 2014

The Brazilian Grand Prix, held near São Paulo, is one of the most celebrated, festive and historic races on the Formula One calendar. The Brazilian fans are enthusiastic, making for a major event every time the race comes to the Interlagos circuit, with Brazilian flags waving and spectators descending on the circuit in hordes.

Unfortunately, however, for fans looking for activities anywhere except on the track — which is 25 kilometers, or about 16 miles, south of the city center in a somewhat dangerous suburb, with shanty towns, or favelas, not far from the track — there are no special events, no concerts, no fan attractions.

The Brazilian Grand Prix is in fact the only race on the Formula One calendar at which there are no such extra fan activities, either in the circuit park area or in the city. But that does not mean that the only race in South America is of little interest for those seeking something other than the racing.

The race’s host city has much to offer as a travel destination. São Paulo is the largest city in South America, with a population of 20 million, and has a vast array of cultural, dining and music offerings as well as a number of other activities to take part in during a visit for the race weekend.

The racetrack, meanwhile, has one of the best spectator viewing setups of any circuit in the world, as it is laid out on naturally dish-shaped terrain that extends beneath the grandstands.

Track Action The Formula One practice sessions on Friday start at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Saturday morning practice runs from 11 a.m. to noon, with qualifying on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. The race starts at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Of the competitions in the support races, the Porsche Challenge and the Porsche Cup will run each day.

Track Fan Activities Local bands sometimes play at temporary tent facilities or cafes outside the circuit, so check out the periphery.

Next to the circuit is the Interlagos karting track, which is worth a visit to see where many Brazilian Formula One drivers got their start. Those who once raced karts there include Nelson Piquet, Emerson Fittipaldi, Ayrton Senna and Rubens Barrichello.

For spectators who plan to stay on after the race, there is a special event a week later at the Interlagos circuit: The Ayrton Senna Institute is organizing an Ayrton Senna Racing Day, which is a charity marathon around the track to raise money for the underprivileged. A park around the circuit can be used for walking, running or cycling, but it is usually closed during circuit events.

With the area’s constantly changing weather conditions — the word Interlagos means “between the lakes” — it is advisable to bring all-weather clothes: a hat, coat, sun protection and umbrella.

Special Events in the City This year the race coincides with the end of the São Paulo International Motor Show on Sunday. This is an obvious visit for car lovers, and takes place at the Anhembi Exhibition Pavillion in São Paulo.

Nightlife and Tourism The best neighborhood for nightlife in São Paulo is Vila Madalena, which is easily accessible by subway or taxi. It is full of nightclubs, bars and restaurants featuring live music. The Jardins neighborhood, close to Vila Madalena, is good for shopping, while the Ibirapuera Park is a preferred spot to take a break from it all.

The city has hundreds of movie theaters and nightclubs, more than 70 museums and a dozen cultural centers, 70 shopping centers and hundreds of thousands of stores, as well as 15,000 bars and 12,500 restaurants serving more than 50 kinds of cuisine. The meat barbecue restaurants, known as churrascarias, are a local institution. Fogo de Chão is the most traditional one, and it is frequented by Formula One personnel. The popular cocktail caipirinha, Brazil’s famed cachaça-based drink, is worth a try.

The countryside around São Paulo is beautiful, replete with rainforests within driving distance. The Nossa Senhora Aparecida Cathedral is a one-hour drive north of the city.

Ayrton Senna, the three-time world champion who died in a racing accident at the San Marino Grand Prix in Italy in 1994, is buried in the Morumbi Cemetery in São Paulo. Many fans visit his grave there.

Soccer fans can visit the Morumbi Stadium, one of the largest in the world, which is home to the São Paulo Football Club.

Where To Stay There are more than 50,000 hotel rooms in São Paulo, so finding one — whatever your budget — should not be a problem.

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