For oh-so-many years it was Silverstone which bore the brunt of Bernie Ecclestone’s dissatisfaction over flagging circuit and spectator facilities.
But the recent programme of upgrades at the home of British motor racing has decisively moved the track out of the ‘danger zone’ so far as its future on the calendar is concerned.
Attention is being urgently focused elsewhere as Sao Paulo’s Interlagos track looks like the next to come under extreme pressure to improve its overall set-up.
Ecclestone played a leading role in taking F1 to Brazil in the first place almost 40 years ago when the first world championship was held at Interlagos in 1973, but now the commercial rights holder has indicated that unless ‘significant improvements’ are made to the track before the expiry of its current contract in 2015 then the race might be pulled from the calendar even before that point.
Ecclestone’s hard line with Interlagos – long overdue in many peoples’ minds - dramatically underlines that no race promoter can take anything for granted in the current climate with a seemingly ever-increasing number of Middle and Far Eastern countries queuing for a date on the F1 schedule.
When F1 first visited the ramshackle Interlagos track in the 70s its original five-mile lap made it one of the most wild and woolly circuits in the world, but although it was eventually shortened in length, pit and paddock facilities were rudimentary in the extreme.
On one occasion Jean Alesi’s Prost was very nearly hit by an advertising sign which fell from a gantry extending over the edge of the track while a couple of years back an electrical transformer in the paddock somehow managed to get itself charged with several thousand volts.
It was probably just as well that nobody touched it before the fault was rectified.
“Long ago, in 1972, I believed in Brazil and brought F1 here,” the Ecclestone told the Estada de São Paulo newspaper, “but I can no longer be questioned by the teams about the worst circuit in the championship. The future depends on significant improvements.”
Given Brazil’s enduring passion for F1, one can se certain that the Interlagos promoters and the Sao Paulo city fathers will find the funds necessary to get the job done.
One must certainly hope so. Interlagos may not to be everybody’s taste, but it is undeniably an integral part of the fabric of the world championship. It would be a shame if that was to end after all these years.