Rio circuit plans hit ‘Green’ barricade


Rio de Janeiro seeking new site for motorsport circuit Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

In the backdrop of financial dealings as regards São Paulo’s (Brazil) extended race contract with Formula 1 being unbolted, Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor, Eduardo Paes, has said he will hunt for a new site for the City’s proposed new motorsport circuit as it was a big ‘No’ for a new one planned in Deodoro, Rio, due to environmental issues. Paes himself was dead against the idea of a new circuit coming up in a forest area.

Sportbusiness stated that a topic of much discussion in recent months has been the long-term future of Brazil’s annual grand prix. Speculations ended when F1 confirmed in December 2019 that São Paulo would continue to host the racing spectacle until 2025.

Formula One (also known as Formula 1 or F1) is the highest class of international auto racing for single-seater racing cars sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The word formula in the name refers to the set of rules to which all participants’ cars must conform.

Sportbusiness added that in October 2019, F1 informed that it had struck a deal with Brazil-based motorsport investment business Rio Motorsports to stage events in Rio de Janeiro. reported that the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has always been in favor of switching to a new circuit in Deodoro, a neighborhood to the West of Rio. Deodoro is a former military base that was utilized for some events at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, including hockey, rugby sevens, shooting, BMX, mountain biking, show jumping, and the modern pentathlon.

Though an agreement was reportedly reached between F1 and Rio Motorsports, the idea of a planned new circuit did not go down well with an environmental group as it would be based in the Camboata Forest and for the circuit to be built, thousands of trees will have to be felled. further reported that a local Government official confirmed that plans to build the F1 circuit in a forest have formally been abandoned. Former F1 boss Chase Carey was keen to move away from Interlagos.

On February 1st, 2021, Rio’s Secretary of the Environment Eduardo Cavaliere confirmed that plans for the Deodoro track will not be going ahead, and that at the Mayor’s request he had written to INEA formally confirming that the licensing process for building the circuit is being “archived”.

A tweet by Cavaliere in which he tagged the World Champion Lewis Hamilton, stated, “Rio is racing for a sustainable future: Camboata Forest shall NOT be supplanted by Rio international race track. Under Mayor Eduardo Paes’s leadership, we have OFFICIALLY WITHDRAWN the construction’s licensing process.”

The Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet circuit held Brazil’s F1 race in Rio de Janeiro on 10 occasions, the most recent being in 1989, before it was torn down to make way for facilities developed for the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games which was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In November 2019, the Brazilian Grand Prix made up its mind to remain at the Interlagos circuit in São Paulo after local politicians claimed a new five-year contract had been arrived at with F1 – a deal which was ultimately confirmed in December 2019.

The Brazilian Grand Prix is a Formula One championship race which is currently held at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in Interlagos neighborhood, Cidade Dutra, São Paulo. Starting in 2021, the event was renamed to the São Paulo Grand Prix.

Paes returned to office for a third term as Mayor on January 1st, 2021, earlier having led Rio from 2009 to 2017. He has made it clear in no uncertain terms that any potential new motorsport facility will not sit in Deodoro. quoted Paes as asserting before ‘Rádio Bandeirantes’, “There will be no race track in Deodoro. My commitment to environmentalists, to the Partido Verde (Green Party), which supported me in the elections, is to identify a new area for this race track, a new location.”

The 2021 F1 race in Brazil, the first under the new deal, will be held at Interlagos on November 14th and is to be rebranded as the Formula 1 Grande Prêmio de São Paulo. The new promoter for the racing showpiece is Brasil Motorsport, a company owned by investment entities controlled by the Abu Dhabi investment company Mubadala.

Alan Adler, a senior functionary with extensive experience in the sports and entertainment field, has been appointed by Mubadala to spearhead the new collaboration with F1. No details were given as regards the financial terms of the deal in the official announcement made in December 2019. However, the Municipality of São Paulo, in its ‘Diário Oficial, has now disclosed that Brasil Motorsport will receive R$100m (€15.3m/$18.75m), R$20m per year, over the course of the five-year contract.

Track fallouts

If the track would have come up at Deodoro, the environmental impact would have been massive in the Camboata forest area, and though assurances were made by the authorities concerned to look into the environmental aspect by planting new trees, the plans were opposed tooth and nail.

In the case of a go-ahead, it would have had to get the nod from the State Institute of the Environment (INEA), and then the State Environmental Control Commission (CECA). could further gather that a letter dated September 14th, 2020, and addressed to the Acting Governor of Rio which was written by Carey and made public the following month stated, “I am writing to update you that we have now finalized race agreements with Rio Motorsports LLC to host, stage and promote Formula 1 events in Rio de Janeiro. These agreements are ready for execution and announcement by Formula 1 as soon as all necessary licences have been issued by the relevant authorities, INEA/CECA, in Brazil/Rio de Janeiro.”

After obtaining the licences proved to be an arduous task, Carey turned his attention back to Interlagos, and he sealed a deal pronto with a new promotion company that is backed by the Abu Dhabi Government. further learnt that the loss of Rio is F1’s third high-profile failure to get a new event up and running since Liberty Media took the reins in their hands, with Vietnam track plans shrouded in uncertainty following graft charges, and Miami race activities on hold as coronavirus continues to thwack the United States.

However, F1’s deal with the Rio promoter is not tied to the Deodoro venue, and in theory the race could be revived elsewhere in the City.

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