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GP Week : Issue 214
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: THE SOUND OF THE CROwD OPINION That Interlagos is a special race, a special place, is something of a Formula One cliche. But cliches exist because they’re true, and for an F1 regular there is nothing on the calendar that can possibly compare with the privilege of walking on the grid at the Autodromo Carlos Pace. In the good old days of my career (so, ummm, 2013...) paddock people had the privilege of standing in the tunnel at Monaco as cars raced past, our organs thumping at 18,000 rpm as our bodies shook from head to toe. And while the tunnel is not out of bounds these days, that physical experience is one that was consigned to history with the birth of the sport’s new engine formula. Much as I like 2014’s hybrid power units, I nearly wept this year when I discovered I no longer needed earplugs when F1 cars were running through the tunnel. And so it is the magic of Interlagos that fuels the passion like nothing else, the shabby circuit held together by the passion of the fans who attend. In 2012, my first season with grid access, I climbed over a low cement wall and onto a set of narrow steps that lead down to the grid, jumping out of the way of team personnel loaded with jacks, trolleys, tyres, and dry ice, for those steps provide the only quick access from pit lane to race track. It felt like stepping back into an old era of Formula One, a time when racers’ girlfriends sat on the pit wall in floppy hats, holding stopwatches and keeping lap charts for the team. And then I was confronted by the roar of the crowd, amplified by Interlagos’ unique topography, a tilted bowl turned echo-chamber. In the main grandstand there were drums and tambourines, the crowd making music to go along with their chants. The enthusiasm was other-worldly. While it was the Brazilians – media and racers both past and present – who received the loudest greetings, every arrival to the grid was treated with a roar. It’s a memory that still gives me chills, yet one which I am lucky to be able to relive each year when November rolls around. This year ’s grid was particularly special, thanks to the presence of hometown hero Felipe Massa on the second row of the grid, and behind the wheel of a car capable of challenging for the win should either of the Mercedes drivers run into trouble. Every time Massa appeared in the pits, the main grandstand stood up as one and out burst a cacophony of screams and cheers. The noise became louder still when the diminutive Brazilian stepped into his Williams and left the pit lane for an exploratory lap of the grid. It was obvious we were in for a special afternoon from the man who celebrated a 30-second world championship on the Interlagos podium back in 2008. As luck would have it, I was standing right next to Felipe’s grid slot when he lined up his car for Sunday’s race. The cheers were deafening, and the enthusiasm palpable. All of the media in the vicinity – for the team members were far too busy actually working – beamed, infected by the Brazilian fans’ bonhomie. I left the grid with a spring in my step and a smile on my face If the grid was good, the podium was even better. Fans flooded the track, cheering until long after the post-race press conference was finished and team pack-up well underway. Thanks to the total lack of sound insulation on offer in the Interlagos press room, hundreds of race reports were written to the soundtrack of tens of thousands of jubilant Brazilians. Do coralho, Felipe! OPINION Kate WaLKer