My unmissable moment: Brazilian Grand Prix
Event: Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos
Date: November 24, 2013
TV: Sky Sports F1 HD
Forget Monaco: the best party in Formula 1 is held on the evening of the last grand prix of the year in Brazil writes F1 Racing‘s James Roberts. And he’s had the experience…
After 10 months of criss-crossing the globe, drivers, mechanics and engineers let their hair down in the sultry Sao Paulo night, just hours after the chequered flag has dropped on another season of racing.
It’s been five years since I last went to the Brazilian Grand Prix. That year I bumped into German driver Timo Glock at a post-race bash, laid on by Red Bull. He was nursing a bottle of beer and looking disconsolate. “Do you know Timo,” I said, “you’re the second most famous F1 driver in the UK tonight?” He looked up, shrugged his shoulders and replied: “Yeah, in Brazil also…”
Hours earlier the hapless Glock (on dry tyres) had run wide on the rain-soaked circuit at the last corner of the final lap and that error allowed Lewis Hamilton to snatch the fifth place he needed – to win the world championship.
Seconds before, Brazilian Felipe Massa crossed the finish line in first place and the packed grandstands went into delirious celebrations, believing he’d done enough to be crowned champion.
But when Hamilton passed Glock, the circuit and the whole of Brazil fell silent. The Paulistas couldn’t believe their hero had been upstaged by a 23-year-old from Stevenage at the very last corner after a year-long campaign. It’s without doubt the single most dramatic twist in the 63-year history of the Formula 1 world championship.
Once I’d filed my report, the night was filled with heady cocktails and disbelief at what had happened that afternoon. The locals trudged into the dark rainy night incredulous at the turn of events; the Autodromo Carlos Pace had once again produced a classic race.
Originally situated on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, the circuit has subsequently been swamped by the city. When the grand prix is in town the tiny F1 paddock is an enclave of enormous wealth, surrounded by deprived favelas and shanty towns. The contrast is extraordinary. And the concoction of noise and colour, with samba drumming and dancing in the grandstands on race day is unparalleled.
Later this month I’m returning to Brazil to watch more sporting drama unfold. It’s Felipe Massa’s last race for Ferrari and although he has never won the world championship (after coming so close), he’d like to beat Fernando Alonso one last time.
There’s another fascinating intra-team rivalry to look out for too. Mark Webber is calling time on his Formula 1 career and would dearly love to beat his nemesis (and world champion team-mate) Sebastian Vettel. This is his last opportunity. The title race might be over this year but someone will be celebrating on the Sunday evening in Sao Paulo. It’s just a question of whether I go to the Ferrari or Red Bull party that night…
James Roberts is associate editor of F1 Racing magazine
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