Environmental concerns end Rio’s motorsport circuit plan

Rio de Janeiro has elected to end plans to develop a new motorsport circuit due to long-held concerns that newly-elected Mayor Eduardo Paes has held over the project’s environmental impact.

The Rio International Circuit has been at the heart of a tug of war over the long-term future of Brazil’s annual Formula 1 race between its existing home at Interlagos in São Paulo and the proposed new development.

Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, had been behind an effort to take the race to Rio, and F1 in October was said to have agreed a deal with motorsport investment business Rio Motorsports to stage races at a new circuit in Deodoro, a neighbourhood in the west of Rio.

Rio has F1 history, with the Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet staging Brazil’s F1 race on 10 occasions, most recently in 1989, before it was demolished and replaced by facilities built for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Plans for the new circuit had proved controversial as they would have required the removal of thousands of trees in the Camboatá forest. Paes returned for a third term as Rio Mayor on January 1 and had repeatedly stated his opposition to the circuit project, which was also eyed as a location for a MotoGP race.

Eduardo Cavaliere, Rio city hall’s environment secretary, said on Twitter yesterday (Monday) that Paes instructed him to cease efforts to get environmental licences to build in Camboatá. “(We are) officially giving up on the construction of the Rio International Circuit,” said Cavaliere.

In November, São Paulo officials announced an agreement had been reached with Formula 1 to extend the city’s race deal. This was confirmed in December, with a new five-year contract agreed with F1.

This year’s race in Brazil, the first under the new deal, will be held at Interlagos on November 14 under the banner of Formula 1 Grande Prêmio de São Paulo rather than the Brazilian GP. There will be a new promoter for the grand prix, Brasil Motorsport, a company owned by investment entities controlled by Abu Dhabi investment company Mubadala.

However, there is uncertainty over the status of the promoter agreement after a judge last month suspended the contract after a legal challenge connected to the use of public funds for the new race contract.

Image: Donatas Dabravolskas/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size