‘The most sustainable thing you can do is not tear down any trees’: Lewis Hamilton hits out at plans backed by Jair Bolsonaro for new ‘zero-carbon’ Brazilian GP circuit in Rio de Janeiro forest to replace the iconic Interlagos

  • There are controversial plans to build a new racing track in Rio de Janeiro 
  • Formula One CEO Chase Carey said plans for the move had been finalised
  • The new Deodoro venue could hold more than twice the capacity of Interlagos 
  • The track organisers claim Deodoro will be the sport’s first zero-carbon circuit
  • But Lewis Hamilton is not supportive of the move and favours Interlagos 

Lewis Hamilton has criticised plans for a new Brazilian Grand Prix track to replace Interlagos as its construction will result in thousands of trees being cut down in Rio de Janeiro’s last forested area. 

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsanaro has backed the sport’s plans and said the new Deodoro circuit in the capital could hold 130,000 fans compared to 60,000 fans at Interlagos, based in Sao Paulo. 

Mercedes driver Hamilton, who leads the drivers’ standings by 44 points from team-mate Valtteri Bottas, has long been vocal about climate change issues and his views on this topic were clear. 

Lewis Hamilton has shown his displeasure at Formula One's plans for a new circuit to be built in Brazil - he was speaking ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in Germany

Lewis Hamilton has shown his displeasure at Formula One’s plans for a new circuit to be built in Brazil – he was speaking ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in Germany

Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro backs the plans for the new 130,000-capacity circuit in Rio

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro backs the plans for the new 130,000-capacity circuit in Rio

‘I was hoping I wasn’t going to get this question, because ultimately my personal opinion is that the world doesn’t need a new circuit,’ said the six-time world champion, who won at Interlagos in 2016 and 2018. 

‘I heard it is potentially going to be a sustainable race, but the most sustainable thing you can do is not tear down any trees, particularly in a time when we’re fighting a pandemic.  

‘I don’t think it’s a smart move. There’s a global crisis with deforestation.’

The plans have sparked a backlash from environmental activists, with #SAVEINTERLAGOS and #BrazilSaysNoToDeforestation gaining significant traction on Twitter. 

However, a letter written by Formula One CEO Chase Carey to Rio’s vice governor Claudio Castro was leaked last week saying that plans for the project had already been finalised, pending an independent review of its suitability.  The new venue could feature on the calendar as early as 2021.

Formula One CEO Chase Carey has told Rio's vice governor that the plans have been finalised

Formula One CEO Chase Carey has told Rio’s vice governor that the plans have been finalised

The 2016 Olympics saw the Deodoro complex hold events including gymnastics and hockey

The 2016 Olympics saw the Deodoro complex hold events including gymnastics and hockey

Interlagos has hosted 38 of the 48 Brazilian Grands Prix since the first race in 1972, but its contract finished this year and it was unable to hold a race in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The circuit seems unlikely to return, with relations strained between the track’s promoters and Formula One’s bosses Liberty Media, who discovered on purchasing the sport in 2017 that the promoters had not been paying a fee to hold the Grand Prix. 

Last year, Hamilton expressed his love of the current track.

Liberty Media fell out with owners of Interlagos (pictured) after buying the sport in 2017

Liberty Media fell out with owners of Interlagos (pictured) after buying the sport in 2017

Hamilton celebrates winning the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2018 having also won the race in 2016

Hamilton celebrates winning the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2018 having also won the race in 2016

‘I’m a little old school; I love the Interlagos circuit. There is a lot of money that goes into building a new circuit. We already have a historic circuit here. We don’t need to cut any more rainforest down, do any more damage.’  

The Deodoro organisers insist that they plan to plant trees near the site and replant trees that were removed to make way for the site. The organisers also want to make Deodoro the first zero-carbon circuit on the calendar. 

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