We like to think of ourselves as an intelligent and sophisticated bunch of motor racing superheroes but there’s members of the crew who, however often you try to explain it, just can’t understand how Interlagos can be only two hours behind Milton Keynes Mean Time and yet still be a 12-hour flight from home. What they can grasp, however, is that with all the Europe-bound flights not leaving until Monday afternoon or evening, they can have a lie-in on Monday morning. Those have been in short supply lately.
There is, of course, a class of people in the F1 paddock unfamiliar with the delights of the high-vis packdown and thus habituated to the Sunday evening departure. With the race overrunning by around an hour and 45 minutes, Interlagos being on opposite of the southern hemisphere’s largest city to the airport, and São Paulo traffic being a brutally dystopian nightmare, it was all a bit knife-edge. Spy’s spies at check-in report that, while things weren’t quite so panicky as the Great Montréal Stampede of 2011, the paddock’s great and good weren’t above brutally trampling their fellow travellers to get to the gates on time. Special exemption, however, is given to Mercedes’ crisply-attired senior engineers who refused to clamber over the bodies of women and children and meekly went to the back of the massive queue. They’re probably still there.
But what a race! A missed flight is surely a small price to pay for the privilege of being able to say I was there. This was the day that 22 of the finest drivers in the world took a billion dollars-worth of technologically-advanced machinery and drove it blind into a river. And then did it again another 70 times for good measure. Spy’s expert opinion is that we were one safety car away from race control calling the whole thing off. That’s just about as abysmal as it can get and still be viable for a grand prix.
The funny thing is, it didn’t rain that hard. At Silverstone or Spa it wouldn’t excite comment, we’d have bolted on the Inters and had the drivers get on with it – but the designers of Interlagos were obviously unfamiliar with the concept of drainage, and when you have a flat-bottomed car with 3mm of clearance driving at 200mph onto a surface under 5mm of running water, bad things happen. Spy’s abiding memory of the race is Big Nige out in the pitlane, determined to complete the obviously impossible job to keep the box dry, Canute-like in his endeavour – if King Canute had been armed with a squeegie mop, obviously. We should have sent Ole. At least he’s Danish.
Check out Spy's gallery from the Brazil Grand Prix weekend below...
Drainage isn’t the only thing the Interlagos designers forgot. Spy’s previously-expressed hope that the renovations to the paddock might have made it a pleasant working space were merely misplaced boyish enthusiasm. Nothing has really changed; we’re still in the same ratty little garages we’ve always been in – though we should be thankful for small mercies. The ladies and gentleman of the press were left dumfounded to discover that the worst press room in F1 has been replaced by something… worser. From their previous cramped eyrie above the pitlane they’ve been relocated into a windowless box buried under the track. Spy would use the word ‘dungeon’ but rumour has it the new press room comes equipped with a popcorn machine – which isn’t quite the same as thumbscrews, is it?
Finally, on a sad note, you may have seen that Christian dedicated our result at Interlagos to Mark Simpson. We received word while in Brazil that Mark had passed away following a long illness. Simo’s official job title was Senior Garage Technician – but really he was one of those guys who makes the paddock tick, well-known and popular up and down the pitlane. We gathered on Saturday evening to remember him, Christian and Jonathan said a few words. Seb joined us; they were very close, as were Simo and DC before that. He will be greatly missed and his family are in our thoughts today.