With four races (and in our case, a Japanese tyre test) done in five weeks, topped by the madness of Mexico City, the past few days have been spent drinking tea in Enstone, coffee in Viry and washing every bit of team kit we own ready for the next race. Which happens to be yet another carnival of a Grand Prix: Brazil!
A party atmosphere is one similarity between Mexico and Brazil, with another being the sheer volume of people living in the two host cities. With a combined population of 20 million, which may or may not be equivalent to the number of times Max Verstappen has moaned about something this season, these two back-to-backs are physically HUGE. The Brazilians, especially, know how to party. They go [Brazil] nuts for everything and anything and we do too. The atmosphere at Interlagos is more like a football match, just at a race track and without the lousy, repetitive chants… “We love you Renault, we do”, “Oh when Renault go marching in” etc. etc. etc. Just lots of clapping, waving and positive vibes and everyone feeling blessed if we’re to speak like a five-time world champion.
As you know, we do love a good random fact, which brings us to ask: did you know the Brazilian Grand Prix has the same number of laps as the previous round in Mexico? 71. The only other time in 2018 the preceding race has had the same number of laps as the next Grand Prix was between Russia and Japan, both with 53 laps. You can now rest easy tonight, dreaming of all those laps. Round and round, you go.
Brazil is a motorsport-mad country and São Paulo is the hub, which best encapsulates that petrol-headed love. Interlagos, meaning ‘Between the Lakes’, is located 16km south of São Paulo. It’s an anti-clockwise circuit, high(ish) in altitude but more of a mere molehill in comparison to the Everest of Mexico City.
One thing that continues to amaze year on year is the amount of Formula 1 drivers who negotiate the streets of São Paulo on a daily basis. These wacky, wannabe racers rise to any challenge. Dinner at 7, but traffic is at a standstill? No issue for one of the locals behind the wheel, it’s Hülk/Sainz mode ON, DRS activated, as they weave through the road block and make it to their chosen destination (most likely Fogo de Chão if you want to do Brazil properly) with stacks of time in reserve.
Interlagos isn’t quite in the same league as Abu Dhabi or Bahrain, per say, for its facilities. Having been built in the 1940s, it has stayed true to that particular racing era over the years. But boy does it make up for it in the chills factor. It’s a truly special place to call the office for the race weekend, and when you cast your mind back to all the legendary moments to have happened around Interlagos, it always sends a shiver down the spine.
We’re not ones for breaking tradition, so food is next on the agenda. Brazil claim to be the best barbecuers around and certainly relish a bit of meat. To, a) celebrate a fun season and b) to savour some of the best dishes on offer, every year, the track-based team gather all together for a meal in São Paulo. It’s always a treat! We have to be on our best behaviour, though, and not down too many caipirinhas. There’s still the race to negotiate the next day. The mechanics are pretty adept at hiding a heavy head. Engineers? Not so much, they show their true colours at the Christmas Party.