New doubts over F1 in Brazil as judge suspends contract
There is fresh uncertainty over the future of Brazil’s Formula 1 round after a judge in the country placed a temporary suspension on the contract for the grand prix in Sao Paulo.
Last December, it was announced that the Interlagos circuit had been granted an extended five-year deal to stage the Brazilian Grand Prix, to be renamed the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, with the 2021 race scheduled for November.
However, judge Emilio Migliano Neto has now taken the decision to suspend the contract pending further investigation following a legal challenge over the use of public funds and an alleged lack of a bidding process and transparency.
Sao Paulo officials have been given five days to submit requested documents for the contract.
Brazil Motorsport, a new organisation backed by the Abu Dhabi government, was set to take over the running of the grand prix, with increased financial backing from Sao Paulo having helped to secure the new deal.
However, there is opposition in the form of a public petition that was launched after it emerged that the city of Sao Paulo would be paying the equivalent of $3.65 million per annum over the next five years. Until now, public money has only been used for renovation work at Interlagos.
The judge’s notes read: “The facts reveal without a doubt, at least at this stage, that the principles of publicity and transparency are being violated in an explicit manner.
“For this reason also [absence of bidding], there is a need to suspend the execution of the contract, to assess whether there were effectively resources to cover the expenses detailed in the signed agreement.”
Brazil staged a Formula 1 round every year from 1973 to 2019, with Interlagos the home since 1990, although last year’s grand prix was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Formula 1 had been due to move the race from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro for 2021 after agreeing a deal in principal with a new promoter, pending government approval to build a new track.
However, following pressure from environmental groups against the construction of the circuit, this fell through, prompting Formula 1 to agree a new long-term deal with Interlagos.
Following the postponement of early-season races in Australia and China, and a rejig of the 2021 calendar, Formula 1 this week brought forward the Brazilian round by a week to 7 November.