CITY GUIDE: Nine things you didn’t know about São Paulo

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CITY GUIDE: Nine things you didn’t know about São Paulo

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship brings the electric circus to motorsport-crazy Brazil for the second year running, setting up in São Paulo for Round 4 of Season 10. Here are nine things you might not know about Brazil’s biggest city and birthplace of Ayrton Senna and Lucas di Grassi.

brasil graffiti


São Paulo is one of the world’s major metropolises. Designated an alpha global city, the capital of São Paulo state is the most populous in Brazil, the Americas and the Western and Southern Hemispheres with approximately 12.5 million inhabitants and 21.6 million in the wider urban area. That’s a busy paper round.

Rising stock

A city the size of São Paulo is ready-made to be an economic powerhouse. The city has the largest economy by GDP in Latin America and the 23rd largest in the world, representing over 10 per cent of Brazil’s entire GDP. The São Paulo Stock Exchange, known as B3 and found on Paulista Avenue, is one of the largest exchanges in the Americas, with a market capitalisation of almost $1 trillion. The B3 was the first stock exchange to adhere to the UN’s Global Compact, an initiative that encourages worldwide business to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies.

city tour sao paulo

Global São Paulo

The city is seen as the most multicultural in Brazil, home to people from over 200 countries and the largest Italian, Portuguese, Arab and Japanese diasporas in the country. Due to its size, there are actually more people with Italian ancestry in São Paulo than in any city in Italy, and this influence is seen in neighbourhoods such as Bixiga and Brás, with regular celebrations and festivals throughout each of the city’s hundreds of neighbourhoods.

Cultural centre

With all these varied influences, São Paulo prides itself on being a hub of culture and creativity: major events like São Paulo Fashion Week, São Paulo Jazz Festival, São Paulo Art Biennial and the Comic Con Experience are just a sliver of the city’s year-round celebrations, and São Paulo's LGBTQ Pride Parade is the second largest parade of its kind in the world.

Many of Brazil’s most celebrated living composers come from the city, with the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra widely regarded as among the best in the world.

sao paulo city scape

Home of sport

São Paulo has played host to an incredible array of sporting events throughout its history, thanks to the city’s unbridled passion for sport. The ATP Brasil Open is held in São Paulo every year, bringing the best tennis players in the world to Brazil, and the 1963 Pan American Games were held across the city.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a city in Brazil without a huge football following. São Paulo hosted the 1950 FIFA World Cup and was the venue for the 2014 World Cup opening ceremony – it also hosted five matches from the tournament. The city has three major domestic football clubs, each with long and storied histories. Corinthians is one of the most valuable football clubs in the Americas, while Palmeiras are current national champions and São Paulo are one of only three clubs to have never been relegated from the top division.

When it comes to São Paulo and sport, there’s also Formula 1's Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.

interlagos circuit aerial

Brazil’s racing credentials

Along with football, Brazil has a burning passion for motorsport, and any fan worth their salt knows the talents that have sprung from the country, especially three-time F1 world champion – and São Paulo’s own – Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian Grand Prix has been held at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in the neighbourhood of Interlagos on and off since 1973, and every year since 1990. Brazil’s adoring motorsport fans have seen four Brazilians win their home race, from Emerson Fittipaldi (1973 and 1974), José Carlos Pace (1975, and who the circuit is named after), Senna (1991 and 1993) and Felipe Massa (2006 and 2008). And where we all four drivers born? São Paulo.

The 2023 ABB Formula E Julius Baer São Paulo E-Prix is to be held at the Anhembi Sambadrome, a venue that hosted IndyCar between 2010 and 2013 as the first destination outside of the United States to host the racing series.

Electric homecoming

Brazil and São Paulo have strong links with Formula E. Felipe Massa has driven for Venturi, Bruno Senna for Mahindra and Felipe Nasr for GEOX Dragon (now DA Penske). Nelson Piquet Jr. won the inaugural Formula E championship in 2014/15, and the winner of Season 3, Lucas di Grassi, is a proud son of the city.

Di Grassi is thrilled to be bringing his series to his hometown. “I can’t wait to race in São Paulo," said the Mahindra Racing driver. ”It's been a dream since the first Formula E race for me, back in 2013. It has been close a couple of times and hasn’t quite happened but after 10 years of hard work and persistence it’s finally happening in Season 9 and for the start of GEN3.

di grassi podium brazil flag

“It’s very emotional for me to be racing there. I’m from São Paulo, I was born just a few minutes away and grew up there. It’s going to be amazing racing in front of my home fans. The circuit at the Sambadrome looks like it will be amazing and the thousands of people that like to join carnival and spend some time in Brazil will be able to stay for the race, Zero Summit and the big music festival happening all on the same weekend. I’m sure the passionate Brazilians will fill up the grandstands!"

Joining di Grassi on the starting grid will be NIO 333’s Sergio Sette Camara, and the driver from Belo Horizonte is just as excited to race in Brazil. "When I was a kid, I was watching Formula One," said Sette Camara. "The culture is very big in Brazil and the reason for that is it goes from grandparents to parents and into the children.

"I remember watching races with my grandpa, my father and my uncle and they were all influenced a lot by Emerson Fittipaldi; Nelson Piquet (Sr.) too. Of course, they pass that on to us kids and we really learned to appreciate our idols.

"The driver that was really at the top when I was a kid was Felipe Massa because he was at Ferrari, winning races. You saw that and thought ‘wow, he's driving the famous red car and winning races; that's what I can be - that's doable’. I really think he was the one that inspired me, alongside Rubens (Barrichello) because they were winning races and at the top level of motorsport when I was a kid.”

Formula E in South America

São Paulo is the fourth city in South America to host a Formula E race, after Punta del Este (Uruguay), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Santiago (Chile). The only driver to have claimed three wins on the continent is Sébastien Buemi – Lucas di Grassi has claimed five podiums, but is yet to climb to top spot. There’s surely no better place for him to do so than São Paulo.

The track

Formula E’s Brazilian track is in the Santana district of São Paulo, the neighbourhood where Ayrton Senna was born in 1960. It snakes through and around the Sambadrome, one of Brazil’s largest outdoor venues. Designed by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the 103,000-capacity stadium is famous for hosting Brazil’s leg of the IndyCar racing series, but also for the festival of colour and dance, the Carnaval de São Paulo.

Julius Baer Sao Paolo E-Prix track map

Formula E is racing in March for the first time since Season 5’s Sanya E-Prix, and will arrive at the end of Brazil’s rainy season. Drivers will have to be careful speeding along this track, as São Paulo averages nine inches of rain throughout the month – IndyCar was almost rained off in 2010 and was stopped mid-way for over half an hour due to the torrential weather.

SCHEDULE: Where, when and how to watch or stream the 2024 São Paulo E-Prix Round 4

The São Paulo E-Prix gets underway on Friday 15 March with Free Practice 1 at 16:25 local time.

WATCH: How to watch or stream Formula E's Sao Paulo E-Prix where you are

Then it's on to race day on Saturday 16 March as Free Practice 2 kicks off the day at 07:25 local, qualifying follows at 09:40 local with lights out on Round 4 at 14:00 local/17:00 UTC.

View the full schedule in your time zone and check the broadcaster listings or tap the Ways to Watch button above to find out where to watch all the racing action where you live.