Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2019

Don’t tear down trees to build new Brazilian Grand Prix track – Hamilton

2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has criticised plans to build a new circuit in Rio de Janeiro to take over from Interlagos as the home of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Plans for the track in Brazil’s second-largest city are believed to involve clearing a large expanse of tree-covered land. Hamilton, a passionate advocate of environmental causes, said the development is not needed.

“Firstly I love Brazil, I think some of my biggest following is in Brazil,” he said in today’s FIA press conference. “The support I’ve had over the years has been immense.

“I was hoping I wasn’t going to get the question because ultimately my personal opinion is the world doesn’t need a new circuit. I think there’s plenty of circuits in the world that are great.”

Interlagos first held the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1973 and has done so continuously since 1990. However this year’s race, the last in its current contract, was cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

The proposed Rio de Janeiro venue has emerged as a rival to lure the race away from the Sao Paulo track. “I love Interlagos,” said Hamilton. “I have been to Rio and it’s a beautiful, beautiful place.

“Knocking down – I don’t know all the details of it – I heard that it’s potentially going to be a sustainable race but the the most sustainable thing they can do is not tear down any trees. Particularly in a time when we’re fighting a pandemic and there continues to be a global crisis around the world.

“With deforestation and everything I don’t think it’s a smart move, personally. Again, I don’t have the details of why, but it’s not something I personally support.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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54 comments on “Don’t tear down trees to build new Brazilian Grand Prix track – Hamilton”

  1. How is this track being financed?

    Considering Brazil’s economic crisis, and that of the rest of the world at the moment, I would despair if any of this was government funded.

    1. That’s a great question and the answer is… It’s very vague. In theory it will be privatley funded, but the organizers have “hinted” that they will need help from the local goverment, because besides the cost of building the track they need to pay the hefty fee to Liberty. Also, RJ is a bankrupt state and are legally prohibited from accruing extra debt, so..

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        10th October 2020, 19:57

        @mach1 @fw11b Bolsonaro is a good friend of the developers and Chase Carey has good relations with Bolsonaro. It’s a money racket. Not implicating Carey but Bolsonaro and his friend are definitely gonna make money on this. And say goodbye to the Amazon rain forest under that lunatic.

  2. According to https://www.grandprix247.com/2020/10/07/brazils-next-f1-track-faces-petitions/ it involves a complete deforestation removing 200,000 trees!

    1. I am shaking my head. I get it, it is located in Brazil’s most famous cities, but if it is to destroy 200.000 trees, I am done for this. I do wonder if there are tribes/natives living in that forest. However, I do question if they should go to Sao Paulo after what happened to Button in 2010 with the armed car, and to Mercedes in 2017.

      1. There’s a possibly more balanced article on racefans @krichelle, tho I have read that these replanting projects and promises often don’t get carried through, and anyway it takes decades.

        Apparently F1 have signed already, now it’s down to getting some kind of licence from an environment authority. But a forest in a city is a rare and wonderful thing, they should be treasuring it not cutting it down. Still, now Lewis Hamilton has said something so let’s hope that might make a difference.

        1. I mean on the race :)

      2. @krichelle No tribes as far as I know, the area is actually located bang in the middle of the sprawling outskirts (periphery) of Rio. It may be that the habitat is older forest and has some unique species of flora and fauna, I don’t know. Much of the forests around Rio were actually coffee plantations a century or so ago, replanted after the coffee industry moved away. Tijuca is the world’s largest urban park, located SE of Deodoro. What is certainly the case is that this area provides an oasis of greenery and oxygen generation among the concrete and urban pollution. I don’t get why it needs to be levelled for another circuit either. Nor is it likely to offer any better protection than Interlagos from armed crime, if that was one reason for moving away from São Paulo. Much more likely is that, as ever, a lot of money will be sloshing around and into certain pockets. That’s usually the explanation for most of Brazil’s large-scale projects. Or indeed anywhere else in the world. There are definitely for more important things that need building in Rio.

  3. Why should Brazil even have a GP in the first place and how did it survive as long as it did despite all the safety problems? I don’t think a country with these types of problems deserves a place in the championship.

    1. @jerejj well then you’d better add to the list Mexico, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Baku, Russia, Turkey, potentially even Spain.

      Some of those tracks I definitely wouldn’t miss. But I would miss Interlagos, Catalunya, Turkey (well, I do miss Turkey).

      1. @justrhysism Yes, every country has its pros and cons, but the others don’t have anything like what Interlagos/Sao Paulo has had over the years, not even Mexico City, at least not since F1 returned there five years back. Rio probably isn’t any better compared to Sao Paulo in this regard, hence why I question why should Brazil have a GP in the first place? I don’t think it ‘deserves’ to be in the championship with these types of problems that put travelling teams at direct risk.

        1. @jerejj Interlagos is a fun circuit but Brazil also has a large and passionate formula 1 following, one that has only grown in time. Even without Brazilians on the grid since 2017, TV viewership and general interest has only increased. There is a strong loyalty to the sport and Formula One needs to race in places that have this, especially ones outside of Europe.

          As for the violence, previous episodes have been unfortunate but there is a huge effort to avoid it happens again. I’ve been to many races at Interlagos and have felt safe. Also, I mean, Button was robbed at his home in France, there has been violence in other places. São Paulo may not be the safest city but it is far from a war zone (and it’s safer than Rio or Mexico City, for example)

          1. @fw11b8 Button resided in Monaco when he competed in F1, so the one in France must’ve been a sort of ‘holiday’ place or something. As for Sao Paulo being safer than Mexico City: Maybe, but despite this, teams haven’t been at risk there since F1’s return like they have in Sao Paulo.

          2. @jerejj yes it was a holiday home. Button and his wife were gassed and robbed of their possessions. Also recently, Pierre Gasly’s home was burglarized.

            Is São Paulo a safe place? No, and people should be aware of where they venture when visiting. But in my opinion it’s not violent to the point of not hosting a grand prix, especially one that has been run since 1990 without major incidents, attracts a large and loyal fanbase and is usually one of the highest rated races on the calendar, both in terms of quality of racing and tv viewership.

          3. @fw11b In Gasly’s case, it was probably his parents’ house as this happened in Rouen and he resides in Milan. Nevertheless, yes, robbing is possible elsewhere in the world as well, I give you that. I also see what you mean regarding the second paragraph, which is fair enough.

  4. Fair play for saying something, it would be much easier just to say “I don’t know, I just drive” like certain other drivers. Still, I presume he will get criticised for saying something.

    1. Just when we thought Lewis had run out of bandwagons, he goes and finds another one.

      1. and…. there it is.

      2. New bandwagon? He’s been on the environmental bandwagon for quite some time now. It’s why he sold his private jet and turned vegan among other things. This isn’t a new position to take.

      3. I don’t like Lewis, but he literally has twitted just a 3 weeks ago about Amazon forests. And I’m completely with him on this topic. I’d say more: this is hilarious how F1 is trying to produce a “green” image for itself and at the same time welcomes 200000 trees to be taken down for another Tilkedrome.

        1. I’m no huge fan of Lewis either, but if you think tearing down 200,000 trees to build a circuit in an economy that can’t necessarily sustain the facility is a great use of resources (both natural and man-made), then I think you have questionable priorities.

  5. Wow that number if accurate is a stunner. As the earth continues to find breathing more and more of a challenge.
    Knowing this many trees which directly in their existence are helping the earth breath, may be destroyed makes the Earth bear witnessed for this tragic loss of this Eco System.
    The Lure of a Grand Prix weekend is the ultimate experience for fans. The lure of the financial gain from this circus coming to your city is a hot hot ticket today.
    But the reality of the need for such destruction of vast amounts of life providing trees is wasted forever for such short term financial gain.
    But the nature of man is to grab too much before thinking.
    Making a lot of money from this plan.
    Must, must, must…convince F1 we will get rid of the trees so F1 doesn’t pass us by. Google racetracks and make a sandwich as you will be busy looking for the rest of the day.
    Go ahead Brazil show us the brilliance of your nations leadership

    1. It’s a stunner, but politicians don’t really care as long as it serves their myopic development agenda to show they have done something to satisfy some of their major vote bank. Here in India there were two separate projects that entailed cutting down of 200,000-plus trees in the Western Ghats mountain range (a Global Biodiversity Hotpsot) to double an existing railway line, and to build the country’s biggest hydel power plant (that would need more energy to pump water up than it would produce) in the hills of Northeast India, which is part of the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot AND in a major earthquake-prone zone. Many of my peers have been fighting against these projects in whatever capacities they can.

  6. Thanks, finally, Lewis. The boycott of this venue is worthy fighting for. in the https://www.racefans.net/2020/08/02/four-arrested-after-extinction-rebellion-banner-appears-in-f1-broadcast/ discussion, I posted

    If anyone of importance in F1 wanted to make a statement against a possible environmental tragedy, they have a chance this week. In Brazil, this week, they will have a hearing on the possible deforestation of an area outside Rio de Janeiro for the construction of a racetrack that could host future F1 events. If the plan goes forward, around 200,000 trees would be taken down from one of the last native forests in the area. The place is also a terrible choice because it is surrounded by low income neighborhoods and, like in Interlagos, thugs would harass and rob unsuspecting foreigners.
    F1 should make a statement against this potential environmental disaster. WONT RACE IN THIS PLACE.

    F1 MUST stand for a sustainable world.

  7. Why is there such a push from F1 and FIA to construct new circuits, especially when there are already so many good ones that you can maybe refurbish and touch-up slightly to bring them up to Grand Prix standards?

    If this Rio track comes through and there is a race in Saudi as well, I might find it hard to justify following a sport that pretends to care about greater issues only on the surface as long as it keeps their wallets happy. Cutting down forests and obliterating wild habitats will only exacerbate the chances of spreading of zoonotic diseases in the future, not to mention the whole host of other ecological and climate-related disasters that will follow.

    1. I understood the push is not coming from F1 per se @wsrgo, but rather from the side of Bolsano and his palls in Rio, while at the same time the regional government in Sao Paulo is “opposition”, so politics/government money being supportive in one place and not in the other is a factor.

      F1 would clearly race pretty much anywhere they are paying a lot (see Saudi Arabia, Russia, Bahrain, Baku …)

      1. + 1. The sport seems to have no moral compass whatsoever. It disgusts me really. It is probably one of the worst in the world for it’s attitude to corrupt and dangerous regimes or activities that damage the planet.

      2. @bascb You forgot to add Abu Dhabi and China in the mix of Saudi Arabia, Russia, Bahrain, and Baku, although I’m not entirely sure if Baku can be considered as a ‘lucrative’ event to the same extent as Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Russia, and China. These four have quite often been mentioned as such in the same context.

        1. yes, that list certainly was not exhaustive @jerejj. It seems the combination of autocratic regime with tendency to oppression & handing out money to whitewash/appear more civilized has a strong lure on F1.

          Although with Bernie gone, it is probably more about the simple lure of money (since they don’t have to bother with what the public thinks of the PR event for the leadership) than the sympathy with the regime.

      3. @bascb I agree that the drive to build a new circuit is mainly political, and is intended not only to bolster the President’s home state but also humiliate the governer of São Paulo, João Doria, who intends to run for President in 2022. having said that, there is a push from Liberty Media because Interlagos, under the terms of a deal celebrated under Bernie Ecclestone (who lives in Brazil now), is one of only two circuits that doesn’t pay hosting fees (the other being Monaco). So, from a purely financial viewpoint, Formula one actually loses money racing at Interlagos. The state government has promised to start paying fees, but Rio’s promotores have pledged to triple what São Paulo is offering, so Liberty is going to the highest bidder..

  8. Can’t argue with Lewis on this one

  9. Trees grow, especially in climates like Brazil has. If there is a concern that some will be cut down, one could plant an equal or greater number elsewhere. Maybe let the Brazilians handle it since the proposed circuit is in their country.

    1. They are letting them handle it. Doesn’t mean you can’t raise concerns about it.

    2. The problem is nobody does it. Have you ever read that reforestation is a problem in Brazil or elsewhere?

    3. you do know that it takes about 2-3 DECADES before trees grow back up, right @doug? And even then, planting a new forest does not replace what you lost from tearing up a piece of rainforest.

  10. Isn’t it great when they talk about a sustainable race but it involves cutting down a huge number of trees that surely have been there for who knows how many years? As Lewis says, the most sustainable thing they can do is to avoid cutting them. Specially when there are already a lot of tracks in Brazil and one that has been a great venue for F1 racing (the city might not be the ideal place, but…)

    I hope the race doesn’t happen there, specially after the massive fires in the Amazon forest early this year that destroyed a huge chunk of it

  11. f1 is in rio 99 9 % rio is popular town, in 80s was great circiut jacarepagua,moto gp also want races in rio but i think that wil be 2022 not next year i miss interlagos wonderful circiut,maybe is better one year rio next year sao paolo

  12. It’s peanuts.
    The number of trees cut down yearly in the rainforest is 3.5 to 7 billion.
    It’ is still a valid concern.

    1. Aw OK doesn’t matter then??? Just burn the planet because other people are doing it anyway?
      That is why we have a problem.

  13. Good, I hope they cut the trees down. I love Hamilton (been the main driver I supported since 2008), but yeah cut the trees for new circuit.

  14. Lewis is absolutely correct to draw attention to this. F1 must stop this. I hope they show a bit of backbone for once.

  15. What some people don’t seem to grasp is that it’s not just deforestation (removal of trees) that is the issue, but the loss of habitat for species that occurs as a consequence of this. It is habitat that cannot be replicated overnight. Delicate ecosystems cannot be relocated in the way trees can be replanted, even though they themselves take decades to grow. Habitat loss leads to species becoming endangered and ultimately extinctions. Delicate ecosystems have developed in these places over thousands of years, and once habitat is gone, that’s it. Wiped from the map. Planting trees somewhere new is all well and good, but that’s all they will comparatively be – trees, devoid of life. Bolsonara’s anti-enviornmental agenda is rotten to the core, and I honesty can’t stomach the thought of watching a Grand Prix at this track if it goes ahead or supporting a sport that turns a blind eye to that level of devestation. It would put me off for good. I’m a hypocrite enough for enjoying F1 in this era of massive climate catastrophy already.

    1. @newfangled +1. Couldn’t have said it better.

  16. Yes, yes there are already 46 FIA Grade 1 tracks (this is the highest grade, these can host F1 races), and 79 Grade 2 tracks (those are still considered modern and safe for high performance cars in a nutshell) according to Wikipedia. There are already many kinds of tracks, with many different characteristics.
    Many former legendary GP tracks are in the Grade2 and Grade3 category. (Ok Grade3 would be quite dangerous for F1, for example Nordschleife is Grade3, but many Grade2 tracks like Motegi is so modern, could be so much F1.) I think it would be more honest to build cars which are capable of racing well at already existent tracks instead of building tracks to cars. Leaders just should not buy everything what agents trying to sell (like overly compromised contracts, not so pure ideas, paydrivers). The world would need rationalization, moing towards more practical things. Real leaders instead of the ones who are often being led and sold by the will of sales agents instead of deciding on their own, and taking their salaries instead of responsibilities. Many former tracks got abandoned and taken back by the forest. Times, eras change so nothing guarantees that it will not happen to some of the modern tracks, while we already have a lot of amazing tracks. A great track for example like Albert Park is not a sinner because of consisting too much medium speed corners where the cars are already too fast to battle each other because of aero dependency (and already too high pace and too small room). If it will be too much about speed and laptimes and increasing the downforce, then many tracks will feel like this. Only increasing the track width, and designing stop and go tracks will not solve it for good. Too high G forces and changes of G loads will limit the pace anyway, unless the drivers will be fitted into some kind of “anti gravity chambers”, and tyres can’t take too much beating no matter how much they developed, so that limit is not theoretical at all. If motorsport moves toward electric propulsion, then cars can be more balanced (unless specificated to have a not balanced weight distribution… for example Formula E is or was far from 50-50 weight distribution intentionally IIRC… I dont’ know why, 50-50 would be funny), then the tracks with stop and go characteristics will not be that necessary.
    But F1 could be about internal combustion, and a good and fair sport, and as a good and amazing sport, a nice show by itself, it is the matter of decision. It’s so niche that there is no need of being road relevant, but there would be a need and possibility of being very entertaining. The technology is there for a long while, and many (and hopefully more and more in the future) of the customers are not buying based on adverts, packaging, or based on the activity of agents :)
    Btw despite of this I can enjoy modern F1 as it is, and I’m impressed how fast these drivers are. I loved the pre DRS era either, I was not bothered with the rare overtakes. There are a lot of layers and dimensions to understand and enjoy even with rare overtakes. Once I just stopped watching, and for a long time I was only reading news about it (a lot), but unlike many people, simracing for a while not moved me towards giveing up on watching it “entirely”, and to do it only by myself (because a proper sim with proper intentions is very amazing even if someone is just average or weaker, evein if initially it can be daunting, and the lack of feedback will be there unless one has a motion rig like machine what is unlikely for many), but the opposite, seeing Danny Ricc, one of my top favourites, at sector 3 of Monaco I said “this is plain crazy” and that sight brought back a lot of respect and interest towards what they are doing.

  17. Ah, every time Lewis gets his words printed more environment is damaged.

  18. What baffles me is how Liberty gets under the radar in this matter. There already are journalists at twitter sharing a copy of a letter from Carey to the acting governor of Rio informing him of the concluded deal with the promoters, thus putting some pressure over him. I know Liberty became people’s darling after they started posting repeated onboards all week long and, let’s not forget, imposed over women what they cannot do posing as something virtuous, but

    there is nothing more obnoxious than posing as eco-friendly whilst planning to deforest that huge area, let alone in a place which hasn’t even started replanting what was cut down from Jacarepagua circuit area due to the 2016 Olympic Games.

    Equally there is nothing more vicious than signalling alleged virtue only to get in bed with politicians and promoters under scandalous suspects of corruption, even more regarding a state where you get SIX former governors jailed for corruption. The same state that is financially ruined and with crime rates bigger than the Middle-Eastern wars.

    People always talk about Bernie, but I don’t think Liberty deserves any bit of indulgence so far.

    1. @niefer +1 The political base of the Brazilian president and his family is in these outlying areas of Rio city, rife with corruption, districts controlled by police militias, etc. Liberty are likely to be mixing with some seriously dubious types in pushing this through.

  19. Does Hamilton still have a collection of gas guzzling super cars?

      1. I don’t have a collection of super cars. What makes Hamilton think he’s entitled to owning them?

        1. Whether Hamilton owns supercars or not is irrelevant to whether the Brazilian government and the FIA should burn the rainforest.
          It also does not doesn’t mean he hasn’t a point.
          Do you think destroying the forest for this is good? If so make your argument, don’t deflect because you dislike the guy. That also is irrelevant.

  20. Liberty need to put aside their feelings on the Interlagos operators and re-sign that track for the future. It’s one of the better races on the calendar, there’s always good on-track action and good support.

    It’s all well and good giving fans a say on things like qualifying races, but ask if fans want Interlagos or a new track in Rio, I’m willing to bet the majority will want Interlagos to stay.

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