Rio de Janeiro has given up its controversial bid to build a new Formula One race track and steal Brazil’s Grand Prix race away from Sao Paulo, officials said Monday. Rio, Brazil’s second city, had hoped to leverage its beaches, nightlife and glamor to wrest the high-profile race away from the concrete jungle of Sao Paulo, the country’s economic capital. But the project to build a race track in the Camboata forest — backed by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and ex-mayor Marcelo Crivella, his ally — triggered an outcry over its environmental impact. New centrist Mayor Eduardo Paes, who took office on January 1, lost little time scrapping the plan, which had already run into delays after a series of negative environmental impact reports.
“We need to be talking about recovering green spaces, not destroying them,” said city hall, announcing it had instructed the Rio de Janeiro state environmental institute (Inea) to shelve the permitting process for the race track.
It highlighted that the Camboata forest, on the city’s west side, is home to hundreds of species, including 14 threatened plant species.
The decision all but kills Rio’s bid to regain the Brazilian F1 leg, which it last hosted in 1989.
“This process was being led by city hall, and we are now formally saying we will not be pursuing it further,” a city official told AFP.
Formula One officials had already signed a deal last year extending their contract with Sao Paulo’s Interlagos race track until 2025.
That was taken as a win for Bolsonaro’s arch-rival, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, and a blow for the president, who had talked of bringing the Grand Prix back to Rio, his hometown, starting with the 2020 race — which in the event was suspended anyway because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Formula One held its inaugural Brazilian leg in 1972, at Interlagos. The event then switched to Rio in 1979 and from 1981 to 1989, before moving back to Sao Paulo.
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