If Formula 1 had a spiritual home then surely it would be here at Autódromo José Carlos Pace, better known as Interlagos, the venue for the always-wonderful Brazilian Grand Prix. The atmosphere here in the paddock is literally electric in a manner that anyone who has been here, as of course I have many times, will recognise instantly.
The crackle in the air comes partly from the passionate fans, partly from the tangible smell of history in the wind, and partly from the very real ghost that hangs above the place like so many gossamer curtains in my charming hotel room. I’m talking of course about the legend and my dear, dear friend Ayrton Senna da Silva.
There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of Ayrton and, if he was still with us, I’m sure that would be mutual. I remember once being in the McLaren motorhome and asking my great pal Alain Prost what made Senna such a fearsome and passionate presence out on the track. ‘You’re not allowed in here,’ Le Professeur quipped. ‘Get out!’ Al is such a character and much missed, although of course he is not dead.
Last night I dined alone at Benito’s, a delightful hole-in-the-wall Italian close to the track and very much a legend amongst those in the paddock. As I enjoyed my spaghetti vongole I felt in a very real sense that I was not dining alone but was watched over by Senna, or Ayrto as I called him though he asked me not to. My thoughts were interrupted when I noticed a certain 1996 World Champion who shall remain nameless coming out of the lavatory and approached him for a chat. ‘Oh for God’s sake, leave me alone,’ he jested before walking briskly out of the premises. Priceless!
As to who will take the infamous chequered flag here amongst the passionate Brazilian fans, I think it would be churlish to speculate. However, you’d be foolish to bet against either of the Mercedes unless you fancied an outside bet on the impressive Williams’ or the late charging Ferraris or a final push from the Red Bulls.
Whatever happens here in Brazil, rest assured I will be enjoying it from right in the thick of the action. Because remember, I’m here and you’re not.