I admit I’m a bit biased when it comes to Interlagos, but boy do I love the Brazilian Grand Prix. There’s something about the weekend that always stirs the soul and makes you feel glad to have been part of it. Sure, the traffic in Sao Paulo is appalling. The facilities at the track, even with the upgrades to the Paddock, could be a little better. But who cares about minor details when you arrive at a place that lives and breathes motor racing and where the drivers are revered as heroes.
Interlagos for me, is one of the highlights of the season and always will be.
So when I say that this weekend we didn’t just witness the race of the season, but also one of the great drives in recent memory, know that I’m coming from a starting point of utter enjoyment, even before the race got underway.
There’s so much we could talk about when it comes to this year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, but one man stole the headlines, as indeed he’s done quite often in his short time in the sport. I notice that some fans have compared his exploits in the Sao Paolo rain as Senna-esq and not just fans either. I bumped into Christian Horner as he was leaving the circuit, and found the Red Bull team principal still buzzing with what he’d just witnessed.
“As good as Senna at Donington in 93” I asked. “Oh yes,” he replied. “Special wasn’t it?”
And it was. So, stand up Max Verstappen, and take a bow fella. On a day where 21 Formula 1 drivers more than earned their money and showed us all why they are the best of the best. One Dutchman rose head and shoulders above the rest and put on a display of skill, courage and entertainment that will live long in the memory. I say 21 drivers, sadly Romain Grosjean didn’t even make the start, so bad was the standing water in places.
So bad was it that Kimi Raikkonen lost control of his car in a straight line and so bad that one driver admitted to me afterwards that at times he couldn’t see where the main straight was going. “If it was a continuous straight line it would have been okay” he told me. “But it isn’t and you really couldn’t see where you had to turn at times.” “Scary?” “Oh god yes, proper brown trousers stuff!”
Think about that before you join the chorus accusing the drivers of being wimps or the sport for not being macho enough anymore, just because the race started behind the safety car, or the conditions got so bad the action had to be stopped at times. I wouldn’t say that any of these drivers are too scared to go out there and race, if they think that the conditions are too bad, it’s based on experience that you or I don’t have. However, I will concede that in the many messages relayed over team radio about the weather, the odd agenda would have been at play too. Let’s face it, there were times in the race where it would have suited some drivers for it to be stopped and others for it to carry on. Do we need better wet weather tyres then? Would that have cut out the need for the Red Flags or the delayed start? To that, I don’t know the answer, but I have heard that opinion being expressed from some within the sport.
But will we remember the frustrating periods where the Safety Car led the race or where the race was halted? Of course not, we’ll remember how Verstappen pounced on Kimi Raikkonen, or Nico Rosberg in the early stages. How he went hunting for grip around the outside of corners and found it. How despite being asked to do an awful lot to make up for the fact that he was on the wrong tyres at times, he answered in brilliant, swashbuckling style. He was 16th and yet still managed to fight back to stand on the podium, what an achievement. I checked with the team where he would have come if he didn’t have to make the final stop for inters and was told that 2nd was probably the best result they could have got. He wouldn’t have caught Lewis.
Max would have had a terrific scrap with Nico Hulkenberg, had the Hulk not sustained that puncture behind the Safety Car. Told to get his head down by the team and that 7th was still possible, he did, and it was. Shame because that could have been his first podium, it really could. For Force India though a terrific day as they pretty much sealed 4th in the Constructors Championship. Meanwhile an even better day for Sauber as they all but bagged 10th place and the multi millions in prize money that means to them. Your heart goes out to Manor, because for every winner, there’s always a loser, and to Williams, where emotions were evident all weekend long and where Felipe Massa bowed out in Brazil with a guard of honour in the pit lane and many many tears.
I’ve never seen a sight like it and it’s a good job nobody came into the pits to get in the way of his return to the Williams garage. To see him crash out of his final home Grand Prix was horrible, but what followed was just a joy to witness. First Mercedes, then Ferrari and then his Williams crew came out to applaud one of the sport’s most loveable characters. Finally his wife and young son made their way into the pit lane and that embrace, well trust me there was a tear in both mine and Martin Brundles eyes in the commentary box.
Maybe one day they’ll do the same thing for Verstappen somewhere. You get the feeling that he’s set for a long career in the sport and a high chance that unlike Felipe sadly, he’ll have a world title or two to his name.
And talking of titles, the Drivers’ Championship goes down to the wire then. In a way it’s a shame that we haven’t got double points this year for the final race. That way it really would be winner takes all in the finale. But I didn’t like double points then and I can’t argue for them now.
But I would argue that nothing is certain until the Chequered Flag and that anyone who thinks Nico has his first title in the bag is a little over confident. Certainly the man himself won’t be. Nico has all the pressure on his shoulders now, Lewis really has nothing to lose. So let’s look forward to the ‘Showdown at Sunset’ ladies and gentlemen. It’s Nico against Lewis in the final race once again, ‘Abu Dhabi 2’ if you like and may the best man win.