Sao Paulo GP suspended over public funds legal dispute

Drivers line up at the 2019 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

A Brazilian judge has temporarily suspended the contract for the Formula One Sao Paulo Grand Prix due to a legal challenge regarding transparency and the use of public funds.

The five year deal is worth a reputed $18.8 million, with the event being organised by the Brasil Motorsport promotions agency, which is controlled by Abu Dhabi-based investment company Mubadala.

There was speculation that the race would be relocated to Rio de Janeiro – a move supported by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro – but this was laid to rest by the change in promoter from Bernie Ecclestone to Mubadala.

As a result of the shift in promoters the name of the event was also changed from the Brazilian Grand Prix to the Formula 1 Grande Prêmio de São Paulo.

However, the absence of bidding for the contract and the lack of transparency of Sao Paulo’s authorities, in addition to the $3.65 million the city of Sao Paulo is paying per year of the deal, has led to Judge Emílio Migliano Neto’s decision to suspend the event.

Neto said: “The facts reveal without a doubt, at least at this stage, that the principles of publicity and transparency are being violated in an explicit manner.

“For this reason also (the absence of bidding), there is a need to suspend the execution of the contract, to assess whether there were effectively resources to cover the expenses detailed in the signed agreement.”

The judge’s decision was supported by local councilor and lawyer Rubens Nunes, who remarked on Twitter: “F1 is important for São Paulo and for Brazil – I’m a fan – but that does not authorise the city to enter into contracts without a bid, under secrecy and with a company without ‘expertise’ in the area, created a few days ago for this.”

Following the legal challenge Sao Paulo’s city authorities have five days to submit relevant documentation in order for the race – scheduled by Formula One for 14 November – to go ahead.