The Boys from Brazil
On 11th February 1973 the first Brazilian Grand Prix to be part of the Formula 1 World Championship was held at Interlagos. From then on it was made a permanent fixture in the racing calendar.
Little did we know that one year later, the very same track would house not only McLaren’s first win from pole position, but also one of four wins to secure our first World Championship title in a season that saw McLaren and Ferrari enter the final race neck and neck on points.
In the 40 years since then, Interlagos has had nearly 4km removed for safety reasons, a name change to Autódromo José Carlos Pace (although it is still better known as Interlagos), and has been a victorious and significant venue for McLaren on many occasions.
Despite having 41 to his name, Ayrton Senna’s 28th win may well have been the closet to his heart. In 1991 Senna fulfilled his greatest wish: to win at his home.
Senna led from the start but it was by no means an easy race for the accomplished driver. For 59 out of the 71 laps he had Nigel Mansell’s Williams glued to his tail. On lap 61 Mansell’s gear box failed but this was of little comfort to Senna whose own gear box was failing one gear at a time.
In a feat that proved his excellent talent behind the wheel, Senna skilfully crept around the final lap in sixth gear with the added difficulty of a sudden rain shower. The Brazilian won by a well-deserved 2.9 seconds.
Two years later Senna would be victorious in Brazil once again, claiming McLaren’s 100th win.
The 1998 and 1999 Brazilian Grands Prix made up two of Häkkinen’s 13 wins that earned him the World Championship title two years in a row.
The 2005 Brazilian Grand Prix was the first one-two finish for McLaren since Austria in 2000. The race began with Alonso in the lead but it wasn’t long before Montoya took his chance to overtake. Räikkönen didn’t hang about for long and soon joined his teammate in the front as Alonso slowed down to 3rd.
In 2008 something extraordinary happened in Brazil. Ferrari’s Messa crossed the finishing line in 1st place giving him enough points to win the World Championship. But he couldn’t celebrate just yet. Messa had enough points if, and only if, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton didn’t finish in 5th position.
Meanwhile, Hamilton was racing around the final lap in 6th position behind Toro Rossos-Ferrari’s Vettel, and he certainly wasn’t giving up on that oh-so-precious 5th place. At the very last corner he swooped passed into 5th securing himself the World Championship title by just one point.
We owe our 182nd Grand Prix win to Jenson Button who beat Ferrari teammates Alonso and Massa to 1st place at Interlagos in 2012.
This was also the last time that Hamilton and Button, the first double World Championship winner line up at McLaren since 1989, raced together as McLaren drivers. Over the three years that they were teammates, the pair formed a close bond of friendship and mutual respect.
The 4.309km track might be the shortest of the permanent circuits, but it is by no means short of history. The 15 turns packed onto its unusually undulating surface have many stories to tell and as we head to Brazil this weekend, we remember those in which McLaren played its part.