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Sao Paulo Grand Prix: what time is the race? And why isn’t it called the Brazilian GP?

F1 heads to Brazil for the final Sprint weekend of the season. Can Lewis or Lando bag a win before 2023 is out?

Published: 02 Nov 2023

Nope, it ain’t the Brazilian Grand Prix any more. These days F1’s annual visit to Interlagos is known as the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, for contractual reasons we don’t fully understand. Anyway, it’s on the calendar until 2025 and that’s all that really matters.

There are just three races left this season, which means there are just three more opportunities left to beat Red Bull and Max Verstappen to the top step of the podium in 2023.

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Well, technically it’s four. Because this weekend is a Sprint weekend, which means there’ll be a mini race on Saturday as qualifying for the main event is shunted back to Friday.

Last year this format delivered emphatically in Brazil: Kevin Magnussen claimed a sensational pole position for the sprint race, while the grand prix itself provided a maiden victory for George Russell in a rare (these days) Mercedes one-two finish.

Fast forward 12 months and the state of play is thus: Red Bull and Verstappen wrapped up their championships many weeks ago, but Lewis Hamilton is still in the hunt for second and the man he is chasing - one Sergio Perez - is in a battle to save his seat for 2024.

Add in Ferrari’s battle with Mercedes and the smaller teams’ scrap for points (and therefore prize money) come the end of the season, there are lots of reasons to tune in this weekend.

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Here’s the full lowdown on the Brazi-, sorry, Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

What time is the Sao Paulo GP? And what time is qualifying?

The Sao Paulo Grand Prix starts at 5pm UK time on Sunday 5 November, but qualifying is on Friday 3 November at 6pm. As mentioned, this is the last of six ‘Sprint’ weekends in 2023, which means a shake-up to the usual running order.

That means Saturday consists of the Sprint Shootout (basically a miniature qualifying, if you’ve never watched it before) at 2pm GMT, followed by the Sprint race at 6.30pm. Expect that to last about half an hour, finishing just in time for Strictly. Get in.

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What’s the weather going to be like?

Mixed. There’s some rain forecast for Friday which could add some extra jeopardy for qualifying, although the threat of showers is less pronounced for Saturday and Sunday. This is Sao Paulo though: the weather can change just like that…

Where is the Sao Paulo GP taking place?

The grand prix is being held at Interlagos, which has hosted the Brazilian GP in all its forms every year bar one since 1990. And a few times before then too. It’s widely regarded as one of the best circuits on the F1 calendar, partly because the undulating, sweeping corners are a hit with the drivers but also because it tends to produce brilliant wheel-to-wheel action. Which is what we want.

If you look up the layout you’ll also notice the main straight isn’t actually straight, but rather continuously curved. So the drivers don’t get a single moment to relax on the pit lane. Which is also what we want.

How many laps is the Sao Paulo GP?

At 4.309km (2.677 miles) Interlagos is a relatively short track, so that means 71 laps are needed to hit the official grand prix distance of 300km. There are 15 official corners, although the last few blend into each other and are all taken at full throttle anyway.

The first two corners - known as the Senna esses, after the late, great Brazilian world champion - usually provide most of the overtaking, closely followed by the run down to Turn 4. Anyone who makes a switchback stick anywhere else on the circuit will probably leave the venue held aloft by the crowd.

Who’s going to win the Sao Paulo GP?

Not to be defeatist, but there have been 19 grands prix so far this season and Verstappen has won 16 of them. In the three he didn’t win, he was runner-up twice and fifth once. So you can see where this is going…

If not Verstappen, then Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes could all have a shot at victory if they nail their set-ups in the sole practice session before the competitive action begins. And who knows, maybe this will be the weekend Perez finally rediscovers his form, having crashed after one corner last time out in Mexico.

How can I watch the Sao Paulo GP?

Step one: turn on TV. Step two: watch race. What, you need more? Okay, your telly will need to be supplied with Sky Sports’ dedicated F1 channel, which you can get through Sky itself (duh) or via means of a Now TV subscription.

If you can’t watch live, then Channel 4 will air its highlights show on Sunday at 10.35pm, just after Celebrity Gogglebox for SU2C. Saturday’s quali and Sprint race highlights programme will air at 11pm.

What’s the Top Gear view on the Sao Paulo GP?

We love Brazil. The Interlagos track is one of those that we’d be desperate to drive if mere mortals were allowed, and the fact that the race delivers drama year after year is the main reason F1 keeps going back. Long may it continue. The only shame for us is that it’s no longer the last race of the season, which means the title showdowns - which we haven’t had for a couple of years now, in fairness - aren’t as spectacular as they used to be. All together now… “IS THAT GLOCK?” If you know, you know.

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