Afternoon everyone, Spy here, 40,000ft over the North Atlantic; soon to be 40,000ft over the South Atlantic and counting down the hours to the end of the season and the nebulous possibility of a day off. With two races to go you’re allowed to dream a little; doing so any earlier is the sign of rank amateurism.
But first, Brazil!
Interlagos (or the Autódromo José Carlos Pace as pretty much no-one calls it) is famed for the enthusiasm of its fans and the awfulness of its paddock – but we’ve had renovations this year (the paddock, not the fans), so Spy’s heading down south with cautious optimism – though, as a traditionalist, the possibility of the Interlagos garages being nice is disturbing. Proper race tracks don’t need nice; they need oil and sweat and enormous spiders being hunted by even enormouser snakes in the girders above your lighting rig. Why else would we bring junior mechanics and long-handle brooms all this way?
Not that anyone’s going to be looking at the architecture – the track itself more than holds the interest. It’s does the decent thing, like all good racing circuits, by being carved into the side of a hill. It offers good overtaking opportunities of the heart-firmly-in-mouth variety and has an awesome sideline in sudden, vicious, unexpected rainstorms, which plays merry hell with those members of the crew who like a snooze/coffee/sly roll-up after the ‘final’ pitstop.
It’s also the site of some truly epic Championship battles. Apparently these are glorious moments to be savoured – but in Spy’s opinion the best championships are the ones you win with five races to go, with the only drama being whether or not you can get packed down and leave the circuit before the hotel bar closes. Drivers may have nerves of steel but in the garage the nerves are jelly. Title deciders are anxious, tense things and frankly if Spy wanted to be rolling around on the floor in stomach-churning terror, suffering nervous exhaustion and the fear-sweats he’ll do it the old-fashioned way the morning after a bucket of caipirinhas.
But enough of the happy memories, there’s a race on. There’s drama to unfold, and headlines to write.
Up Yours Grandad!
Williams have finally announced the worst-kept secret in F1: solid gold Lance Stroll will drive in 2017. This is going to be nice for Max Verstappen as he doesn’t have anyone his own age to hang around with. Or, perhaps Lance will do to Max what Max does to everyone else, and cheerfully refer to him as one of the old guys he’s always looked up to. In the background Daniel and Sebastian will be spotted high-fiving.
Question: can you call it silly season if it’s actually a quite sensible time of year for signing drivers? There’s a load of seats still up for grabs and the fun theory at the moment is that there’s one giant moving day coming soon. Like transfer deadline day, Spy Sports reporters will be foaming at the mouth while standing outside hospitality buildings faithfully reporting that nothing is happening. It’s like a daytime soap – but with less-realistic plotlines. The best bit is watching the mental gymnastics played out across the faces of drivers struggling to form sentences that pledge loyalty to their current employers while simultaneously suggesting other interested parties really should get in touch with their manager.
It’s possible to work for five days in São Paulo without ever having your plate darkened by a vegetable. This is the land of excellent, salty barbecue, the likes of which you won’t see again for 51 weeks, which is why everyone has their end-of-season knees-up here, rather than at the actual end of the season. Expect lots of paddock stories involving evenings out at the churrascaria and rather fewer about people being force-fed vitamin C supplements after a week of avoiding the salad bar. Not that it’d be easy to spot a case of scurvy: the symptoms are tiredness and mood swings – and at this stage of the year that’s pretty much covers the field.
There’s a new race control tower at Interlagos this year. After last week’s shenanigans it’s been made very, very clear that drivers do NOT want to see the inside of it after Sunday’s race.