Rio de Janeiro abandons plans to build F1 circuit

Plans to build a Formula 1 circuit in a forest on the outskirts of Rio have formally been abandoned, a local government official has confirmed.

Former F1 CEO Chase Carey was keen to move away from Interlagos, and a deal to run the race in Rio was formally agreed last September.

However, the development plans faced hurdles, and in December F1 announced a new contract to keep the Brazil race – to be known henceforth as the Sao Paulo GP – at its traditional home.

The proposed new venue was at Deodoro, a former military base that was utilised for some events at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, including hockey, rugby sevens, shooting, BMX, mountain biking, show jumping and the modern pentathlon.

The construction of the track would have had a major impact on the Camboata forest area, and despite promises to tackle the environmental issue with the planting of new trees, the plans faced considerable opposition.

They had to be approved first by the State Institute of the Environment [INEA], and then the State Environmental Control Commission [CECA].

In a letter to the acting governor of Rio dated September 14 and made public the following month, Carey said: “I am writing to update you that we have now finalised 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.”

When getting those licences proved difficult, Carey switched his focus back to Interlagos, and he quickly concluded a deal with a new promotion company that is backed by the Abu Dhabi government.

On Monday, 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.”

In a tweet that he tagged to World Champion Lewis Hamilton he wrote: “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 Under Mayor Eduardo Paes’s leadership we have OFFICIALLY WITHDRAWN the construction’s licensing process.”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 loss of Rio represents F1’s third high-profile failure to get a new event up and running since Liberty Media took control, with Vietnam looking unlikely to ever proceed after a corruption scandal, and Miami on hold during the pandemic in the face of strong local opposition.

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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