The Brazilian Grand Prix is set to remain at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Interlagos after it was confirmed that a new contract has been signed with the circuit and officials in Sao Paulo.
Interlagos has hosted the race since 1990 and witnessed many notable moments over the years. Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel all be crowned world champion since 2004 when the race moved to an end-of-season slot on the calendar. However, despite being a favorite among fans and the drivers, the race was thought to be at threat due to the quality of the facilities at the circuit. Bernie Ecclestone suggested back in March that the Brazilian Grand Prix could move to Rio de Janeiro to coincide with the Olympic Games that will be held in the city in 2016, but a new deal has been brokered.
As a result, the race will remain at Interlagos until 2020 with the race officials agreeing to the construction of a new pit complex on the straight between turns three and four, which is a key part of the deal.
“The teams have long craved a better infrastructure to accommodate them,” Mayor of Sao Paulo Fernando Haddad explained to Globo Esporte. “The fans will benefit from a more modern race track that makes Interlagos and Sao Paulo the best place to host Formula One.”
Ecclestone also explained his satisfaction with the deal, although he did concede that the upgrades were pivotal in the agreement.
“I’m very excited that the mayor agreed to the investments we asked for many years ago,” he said. “If this does not happen, we would have to consider not having the race here. We are very happy now.”
Despite the future of the race being secure, Brazil is facing the prospect of not having a home driver on the grid for the first time in over forty years next season with Felipe Massa yet to secure his future in the sport.
Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”
The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.
“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”
Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.