Wow! Strewth! Phew, what a scorcher! Have you come down yet?
It doesn’t get much better than Brazil 2008. Does it? Yes, we’ve seen some thrilling races over the decades, but this was surely about as gritty as it gets.
Don’t you just love the whole Brazilian thing? Great circuit, huge passionate crowd, just like it used to be. This is simply the only stage on which to play out the climax of a Grand Prix season. What follows is not a race report. We have all watched it at least twice by now, haven’t we? Or, 50 years after watching my first GP, am I just hopelessly hooked on this stuff?
Let’s get straight down to it. Did Timo Glock slow down to let Lewis Hamilton through to his first World Championship? We may never know. We do know now, if we ever had any doubts, that Sebastian Vettel had no such thoughts and this bodes well for the future, as the young German is the man most likely to be challenging Hamilton in years to come.
What else did we learn, once we got our breath back?
For me, Felipe Massa’s dignified and sporting acceptance of defeat was not only a revelation but also a fine example of sportsmanship in an age when such a thing is very thin on the ground. Think about it – he put the Ferrari on pole, emphatically, he won the race, emphatically, and were it not for Glock’s slithering Toyota, he would have won the World Championship. And yet the Brazilian, at his home circuit and in front of his countrymen, managed to accept that “this is racing” and that “we can still feel proud of what we have done”. That he was able to speak – and lucidly – at all was extraordinary.
This is not to take anything away from Lewis Hamilton. That he would one day be World Champion was inevitable. If not last year, if not this year, then one day it would come to pass. We all know about his exceptional talent and his consummate desire to win. Now we know he can keep his head and that has always been a vital component of becoming a great racing driver. He will, I believe, be an entertaining and interesting bearer of the world title, and few would deny that he deserves every last dollar and accolade coming his way.
At Interlagos, from the moment you step into this bristling theatre of sport, you know that anything can happen, especially when black clouds are moving across the skyline of São Paulo. And Sunday’s race was pure vintage Interlagos. This is as close as Formula 1 racing comes to the gladiators, the chariot racers and the bullfighters. Only the best conquer this place which is why, at the front of the field, we saw Alonso, Räikkönen, Massa, Hamilton and Vettel, a little group of racers who will keep our passion alive in the years ahead.
Before the race Martin Brundle cannily asked Mr Ecclestone how it is that, in recent years, the championship has come down to the wire in Brazil, the implication presumably being that it might be in some way orchestrated? Whatever the answer to this may be, the FIA should now decree that the Grand Prix season must finish in Brazil and that Interlagos must be preserved as a rare, living example of a theatre fit for the kind of drama that makes this sport such a gripping spectacle. I have somehow forgotten the processions of Bahrain, Valencia and Shanghai.
We should spare a thought for David Coulthard, yet again involved in the bumper cars at the back of the field. All things are fair in love and war, but this was not. As he said, “it might have helped to qualify a little higher up the grid”. Witty and straight to the last, DC bowed out alive and well, and that is good.
Lewis Hamilton is World Champion. The 2009 season is an open book. Rejoice.