The promoter of the Brazilian Grand Prix said that Interlagos could have hosted the race this season despite the threat of coronavirus.
It was confirmed earlier on Friday that Formula 1 would not race at Interlagos this season due to the ongoing situation with the pandemic, alongside other rounds in the Americas in Mexico, Canada and the USA.
Race promoter Tamas Rohonyi, who has been involved with the event for 40 years, learned of the decision via a letter this week.
“First of all this cancellation caught us not by surprise, but I must say the justification, the reasoning behind it, we cannot accept,” he told Motorsport.com.
“They talk about the virus infection rate in Brazil, which is a bit like comparing California to Florida in a country like Brazil, which is of continental dimensions. We have all the numbers for the state and the city of Sao Paulo. This data has been submitted to the FIA Medical Commission by our own medical officer, who is by the way, its vice president. And they are very good figures. In fact, if you look at the figures of Sao Paulo, even Brazil, in a proportional base, compared to England, it’s much better.
“So when you read this cancellation notice we got from the FOM yesterday, it just doesn’t stand up. It’s clearly sort of an almost invented reasoning to cancel the race.”
The Interlagos race has been up for debate in recent years, with Brazilian president Jair Bolsanaro suggesting that they could look to move the Grand Prix to Rio de Janeiro.
Asked whether the Sao Paulo circuit could have hosted a safe race, Rohonyi said they had a “bulletproof plan”.
“Had they consulted not only my company, but the city government – Could you please present what your plan would be if we came? – they would have received a 100 percent bulletproof plan, which exists, so much so that the Interlagos circuit was open for racing last week.
“And also the FIA issued a very complex 10-page protocol instrument, saying how you run races in these circumstances, which we would have followed.”
“What I found really strange is that the whole approach is sort of rather simplistic. ‘Oh, it’s the pandemic, we’re terribly sorry, we don’t want to go, we cannot go.’ One of the reasons presented is that five teams expressed concern. Well, none of the F1 contracts say that we’ll go and race in your country if the teams feel like it.
“F1 promoter agreements have only one clause which would allow any of the two parties to break off the contract, and none of this is force majeure. We are taking legal advice because there are massive losses by the municipality, and by my company.”
“In my specific case, and I think it’s very, very similar in Mexico City, we run on a municipal circuit,” he added.
“And under the contract I have with them the municipality is responsible for maintaining F1 standards.
“So this year alone they spent $8m on upgrading the circuit. The whole paddock area has been covered, and lots of little stuff which people don’t see but is very essential has been done, like sewage and sanitary facilities.
“When you are a government official, and you spend public funds on whatever, if the justification for it is not rock solid, you can be sued by the public prosecutor, as it’s a breach in your official obligations. The government said to me, ‘Mate, you have a contract to run. So you’d better run.’ I’ll run if I can, but if I’m not allowed to run because F1 claims we cannot run, then it’s not my fault.
“So quite rightly, although they’re good friends of mine, the governor and mayor said, ‘Well, will this stand up in court?’”