We were convinced we’d won, but the stewards thought otherwise, and gave it to Kimi Räikkönen and McLaren. We appealed, and were told a week later that the FIA tribunal agreed with us, awarding the race to my team. Giancarlo was then presented with the winner’s trophy at the next race in Imola; sadly, though, that proved to be Jordan’s last grand prix victory.
Interlagos is simply unique, being situated in a Sao Paulo suburb. It is the shortest of all permanent circuits, and thus has the shortest lap time of all. This in turn means the cars here cover more laps than elsewhere, save for Monaco. So the fans really get to see the cars often.
Talking of fans, here they are something else. Their enthusiasm is incredible, with every Brazilian Grand Prix Sunday being ne long party. Imagine F1 meets caipirinha meets Rio Festival, and you’re about halfway there.
Brazil is a great sporting nation, and over the years has delivered some incredible talents, including three world champions in Emerson Fittipaldi (two titles), Nelson Piquet (three) and Ayrton Senna (three). Add in Brazil’s plethora of grand prix winners, and a case could be made that it is F1’s second most successful F1 country after Britain.
That is not their only similarity: there are just two circuits where you can hear the fans above the roar of the engines: Silverstone and Interlagos. The rain doesn’t seem to faze them, either, and believe me when I say it can pour here. Sao Paulo’s late afternoon thunderstorms are totally unpredictable, with scorching sun giving way to drops the size of chicken eggs in minutes. I believe rain is forecast for Sunday…
In the past we were treated to some incredible championship showdowns here, with the most dramatic being the 2008 title fight between Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren driver came out tops by one point after snatching fourth on the last corner of the last lap in the last race of the season – it does not get much closer than that!
This year Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull have dominated proceedings, so the closest we’ll get to a showdown on Sunday is the fight between Jenson Button (255 points) and Fernando Alonso (245), the latter driving for PUMA’s partner team Ferrari, for runner-up in the championship. Ten points is equal to the difference between first and third place, but, as Fernando proved in Abu Dhabi with his fine second place, he just does not give up – so a battle royale between the red car and the silver McLaren surely awaits us.
All the signs are that Sunday’s race will provide a truly worthy end to a fantastic season, one which has been not only the longest on record, but also delivered a record-setting 800 overtakes in 19 races. That pans out at over forty per race, or better than one every two laps!
Yes, the year has been tiring, but with all the excitement the season has passed so quickly it feels like just yesterday that I authored my first blog for PUMA in Australia in March!