Here at Interlagos, there is a new paddock to be enjoyed. It is a bit Heath Robinson but this is apparently because it is halfway through the revamping and next year the current pit building will have been revamped and there will be new garages, new media centre, new VIP hospitality and so on. It is about time. There has been talk of the need for a revamp for about 10 years but because the local organiser is big chums with Bernie Ecclestone, they have been able to dick and weave. Still, Interlagos is Interlagos, a great track, a place of great memories that go back 25 years, and even before that for those who can remember back into the 1970s before the race took off to Rio de Janeiro, with the rise of Nelson Piquet as the impetus. I did some of the race in Rio, but have never really felt much of an urge to go back. Sao Paulo is a place that has its foibles, but we are used to it now and it does get better each year. This year there were some very obvious signs of change. When we arrived in the airport, nothing was very familiar and it became clear that this was a completely new terminal. There was a huge amount of work going on to create a Metro line to the airport. Some things don’t change, however, soon the taxi had ground to a halt on the Ayrton Senna expressway. There used to be huge numbers of VW Beetles but today there are Chevrolets, Hondas, Fiats, VWs, Hyundais, Fords, you name it. The Rio Tiete remains a nasty-looking river with things floating in it that you don’t want to know about and the driving is “creative”. The taxi driver was zipping between lanes but it didn’t make a huge difference, although the eyes were opened slightly wider than normal when someone tried to drive through the door where I was sitting. Fortunately he managed to stop an inch or two from the car.
I think if I come back in another life, I think I will have to become a breeze-block manufacturer in Brazil. There seems to be a market for them and then I can become one of the country’s mega-rich people who flit about in helicopters and never have to set foot on the streets. The lift in the hotel in which we are staying says that if you got to the roof, you will find a “heliponto”, along with a swimming pool, but I didn’t venture up there yet. Looking out of the window, I can see no fewer than seven helipontos on buildings in the neighbourhood, and that is just looking on direction. I wondered if perhaps the big cheeses fly from building to building, rather than walk the 100 metres, a bit like that wonderful scene in LA Story where Steve Martin drives 35 ft to visit his next door neighbour.
Anyway, here we are for the penultimate race of the year. Everyone in the paddock is weary from all the long hauls in recent months, no-one is sleeping very well, a lot of people are coughing. People are a little more fractious. It is time for the season to end. A number of teams have been doing studies about the effects of the F1 calendar on their staff, because it is really taxing on the human body to be doing what we have been doing. It would be nice if the calendar-mongers could come up with a calendar that they actually lived, so they would understand, but the sad truth is that they don’t do all the races, they don’t care and they live in a world of private jets, helicopters and police escorts.
Still, the enthusiasm of Brazil for F1 seems as strong as ever, even if there seems to be less F1-related signage around town. The truth is that Brazil needs another winner to get the juices flowing again…