Return, I Will, To Old Brazil…
Then, tomorrow was another day
The morning found us miles away
With still a million things to say
Now, when twilight dims the skies above
Recalling thrills of our love
There’s one thing I’m certain of
Return, I will, to old Brazil
I rarely start a post with a quote and when I do it signals a different kind of post, one that is off the beaten path of my usual fare. In this case the quote is a verse from an old standard that goes by the name of, you guessed it, “Brazil”. I first heard this early-Jazz-era song while watching Terry Gilliam’s post-apocalyptic, bizarre, and sometimes indecipherable movie of the same name back when I was a freshman in college. I have since heard it and sought it out many times and it is one of my favorite songs, period.
The F1 season ended in Brazil recently and while watching our three top race finishers on the podium, I could not help but think back to the beginning of 2010, when Red Bull, with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, was about to embark on a period of extreme dominance with a car that for all intents and purposes was in a class of its own. Ferrari and Fernando Alonso, together for the first time, were about to begin what was to become a David vs. Goliath battle, Fernando driving in a class of his own but with such an uncompetitive car against the aforementioned juggernaut that although amazing things were accomplished, the ultimate battle could not be won. This year in Brazil perhaps we saw the end of that phase, Webber ran his last race, the V-8 engines roared their final throttles and maybe Ferrari and Red Bull will have a minute of equal opportunity again with the new engine regs next year.
The race was for the most part similar to the last nine (count them, nine) races in which Sebastian Vettel and his RB9 were either on pole or next to pole and by lap five had already raced to a sizable lead at which point the race becomes a forgone conclusion and everyone shifts their attention to the other twenty-one cars on the grid. There was some hard but fair racing between Webber and Alonso, with Webber coming out on top which is the perfect way for Mark to contest his last GP in F1. And although it was the last race of the year with no real consequences, it was nice (at least for Alonso and Ferrari fans, including me) to see Alonso driving at a very high level and somehow, in spite of a very un-competitive car, to challenge for and win one of the podium steps.
Shortly after the race I heard my favorite love song to a country, “Brazil”, and started to think of it in the context of Formula One and our two main protagonists. Like a music video montage I saw Fernando Alonso winning his first driver’s title in Brazil with three races yet to be contested back in 2005. But more poignant still, his second World Driver’s title was also won in Brazil. This time it was at the season finale against a resurgent Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. I can still remember quite clearly Michael’s Ferrari off the racing line as the engine let go and then watching Alonso give a little wave of his hand as he passed by, as if to say better luck next time. If any one track on the F1 calendar is special for Alonso it surely must be the one at Interlagos.
For Sebastian Vettel the same famous track also has significant importance. Including this year’s win he is two for four at this classic circuit since 2010 when his remarkable journey with Red Bull started. This year, he won his ninth race in a row at Interlagos, and thirteenth for the season, racking up a few more records to his moniker. However, I am willing to wager those two wins and all the records together probably don’t compare to the sixth place finish last year that was just enough to secure his third drivers title.
In what was one of the best seasons in F1 that I can remember irrespective of who anyone favors, the championship went down to the last race (again) and Vettel lined up fourth on the grid, Alonso seventh. Webber was third and in front of him were the McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, by year’s end the fastest on the grid. If my memory serves me well the start was a wet one and it started to rain. Lights out, Vettel loses some positions and then calamity strikes when Bruno Senna and Vettel collide at turn four. Miraculously Vettel keeps the car from stalling and restarts in 22nd position. Twenty-second! Through a myriad of other driver errors, changeable conditions, luck, and some fantastic driving, Vettel manages to finish sixth, with a three-point advantage against Fernando Alonso. The title is decided and the season is over.
We have all read and heard drivers talk with romanticism about certain cars they had the pleasure to drive, special teams they drove for, teammates that presented a certain challenge, even eras get spoken about with a slight twinkle in the eye, the V-12 era, the turbo era (soon to be again), the ground effects era, etc. We also hear quite often from drivers about the tracks they favor. Some are so synonymous with the sport that one could not imagine them ever falling from the F1 calendar. Spa, Monza, Monaco, Silverstone.
I don’t think the Brazilian GP generally makes this favored track list, despite the fact that Brazil has produced three world champions (multiple times each) and boasts the largest viewing audience of any country, coming in at eighty-five million as compared to the UK’s paltry twenty-eight million. But I think it now must be a special one to both Alonso and Vettel. It is true the race in Brazil has moved around a bit and in that fact it is different than the aforementioned classics, but this probably does not bother our drivers in the slightest. Yes, both Alonso and Vettel must now have a very special connection to Interlagos, officially known as Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, just outside of Sao Paulo. It’s been magical for both drivers. Fernando won two titles there, Vettel’s won one. Who will it be more magical for? I guess we’ll wait and see. In other words, we’ll be back.
Recalling thrills of our love, there’s one thing I’m certain of … return, I will, to old Brazil.
-jp- (and you got to love the old standards)