Hello Southern Hemisphere! Haven’t seen you since March. How’ve you been? Hopefully better than Spy. We’ve reached the point of the season where Spy’s a shambling mess, coughing and spluttering his way to the finishing line. Nothing unusual in that: at this time of year the paddock’s going through the cold and flu tablets like they’re gummi bears. Everyone is tired; everyone wants it. To. Just. End.
That’s not a reflection on Interlagos or Yas Marina, it’s just the nature of the beast. The back end of the season is heavily loaded with long haul journeys and the combination of a heavy workload, the constant switching of time zones and altogether too much aircraft air-conditioning leaves everyone wheezing like a grampus. It’s not so bad when there’s a title on the line. Even if you’re not personally invested, the sense that the season is heading to a climatic finale pulls everyone along with it. But we most-likely don’t have that this year. Thanks Mercedes, ruined another one for the rest of us.
I suppose Ferrari could pull of a miracle and somehow snaffle the Constructors’ title – but it seems pretty unlikely. If they did, it would be the comeback of the ages. Spy may have mentioned it before but it’s worth mentioning again: the Constructors’ Championship is the one that counts. The Drivers’ title is nice, it’s the one the driver covets, and maybe that extends to his closest circle of engineers – but for everyone else, the Constructors’ is the one you want to win. Perhaps it doesn’t mean much in the outside world – but we don’t spend much time in the outside world. F1 is a team sport and being the best team is what matters to everyone within the bubble. That handshake of congratulations, or the fractional nod of esteem from your mates* in other garages is what we’re all playing for.
We won our first title here in 2010. Had circumstances been slightly different, we’d probably still be out celebrating it now, but we had to hustle to Abu Dhabi** that season with two dogs still in the fight for the other title. We had a pretty good party in 2012 however, when Seb won the Drivers’ Championship in Brazil. That was quite the day. Drama is very nice for TV but in the garage, it’s very uncomfortable.
Despite the meat filled flyaways previous to these São Paulo is still our favourite place, to the extent most teams will still have their end-of-season dinner here, even though it isn’t exactly the end of the season. Generally, this tends to be on Wednesday evening, which means Thursday in the paddock tends to be very, very quiet.
You can always tell which group of people have spent the previous evening celebrating the end of the season: they’re the ones wearing the dark glasses inside, clutching a large bottle of water and looking like those desiccated mummies occasionally dug out of the Atacama desert. It isn’t just race teams though, there’s plenty of other organisations tucking into vast quantities of salty meat this weekend in their Churrascaria of choice. Broadcasters, scrutineers, even the press officers have their own night out. The latter have awards for the worst journalist and – possibly – most-difficult-to-work-with driver. Of course, being press officers, they’re far too discrete to tell anybody who wins. It’ll take Spy at least three minutes and possibly the promise of a blueberry muffin to wheedle that particular piece of information out of the relevant sources.
There is, of course, a race to be won this weekend, and there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t win it. The Autódromo José Carlos Pace doesn’t suit us quite as well as the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez but it’s not the worse circuit on which we could be racing. Max has the lap record and loves the place. Daniel has never finished better than sixth however… – but then he used to loath the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve until he won, and now it’s his bestie race track. It’d be nice if he got to show the same degree of fickleness in Brazil.
*or, even better, implacable enemies, which are sometimes the same thing.
**Never has the presence of pure evil been more apparent than in the decision to schedule Brazil and Abu Dhabi back-to-back… and going the wrong way.