It’s in the lap of the gods…


I’ve been thinking. Yeah, I know, but bear with me. As the days get shorter, we approach the penultimate race of this extraordinary season of Grand Prix racing. The year 2010 will surely be recorded as one of the great seasons, and certainly it has been the most exciting since this century began.


We can’t wind the clocks back – actually, we’ve just done that in the UK as we move into our ‘winter’ time zone. But, if you skate back over the season so far, even a cursory glance at the races brings to mind one of the most oft-used words in the lexicon of motor racing. If. A short word, but one with so many ramifications.

If Massa had not been forced to allow Alonso to overtake at Hockenheim. If Alonso had not hit the barrier in Monte Carlo. If Button had not left the pits with his radiators blanked. If Hamilton had not crashed at Monza and in Singapore. If Vettel and Webber had not collided in Turkey. If Webber had not thrown it away in Valencia and in Korea. If…


It is a season almost defined by what ifs, and perhaps more so than for many a year. This may be explained by the constant pressure, the constant excitement, or the batch of top drivers in top cars we have right now. Whatever, not once since March has it been clear who would take the 2010 title. Not to me, anyway.

And, even more remarkably, it is barely any clearer as we approach the Brazilian Grand Prix. There isn’t a sport on earth that would not be revelling in such a cliffhanger. And you can bet your salary that Bernie Ecclestone, not to mention the television companies, are doing just that.

OK, it does look a tall order for Button and Hamilton. And to a lesser extent for Vettel, lesser because he has the best Formula 1 car we’ve seen this season. So, it’s down to the wire between Alonso and Webber, right? Wrong. Because we are going to São Paulo, where the weather is fickle and where there is almost invariably some kind of drama.

The great Grand Prix circuits, of which Interlagos is indubitably one, have the elements of drama, tragedy and comedy ingrained into the very asphalt itself. There is the grid, painted onto a steep gradient, and then there is the first corner. There are those long, long corners with their tricky cambers and terrible drainage. There is the crowd, a seething, passionate mass of people who just love this sport to bits. The rickety grandstand opposite the pits trembles with anticipation on the warm-up lap. I am not joking. The drummers and the dancers, draped in national flags, are there at dawn. It is Grand Prix racing at its gladiatorial best.


Yeah, but Alonso will do it for Ferrari, Massa will help him, and Webber will have some kind of stupid failure. Wrong. Anything can happen, as we wait for the lights next Sunday afternoon. What happens at Interlagos, I do believe, will decide the season. A week later, in Abu Dhabi, things will simply be quietly confirmed.

On paper, it has to be Webber. He has the best car and is the man in the lead. On paper, it has to be Alonso. He is the best driver. On paper, it has to be Vettel. He is the man in form, arguably the bravest.

Every Grand Prix at Interlagos is a wonderful event, a thrilling experience, and this year – one way or the other – will be one of the best of them all. If…

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