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Last Updated: Friday, 19 October 2007, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
City of extremes hosts F1 climax
By Adam Parsons
BBC sports news correspondent in Sao Paulo

Lewis Hamilton at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo
Hamilton is having his first taste of Sao Paulo this weekend
There is no sport where riches come more prominently than in Formula One, and there has never been a season in which that largesse has been more overtly displayed.

This has been the year when a fine of 50m was levied on a team, and when Toyota and Honda continued to burn through hundreds of millions of pounds for almost no reward.

And yet, with a heavy touch of irony, it all comes to a denouement in a city where plenty of people have nothing.

Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit is one of the few major sporting venues where you drive past overt poverty on the way to the gates.

It used to be more obvious, but some of the favelas have been moved away now to make way for new, dispiritingly bland buildings.

Yet peeking between them, and looking down on the motorways, sit rows of shacks and lean-to's, a grating reminder that this is a city of haves and have-nots.

Sao Paulo is a rather grimy, choked-up sort of place, but for Lewis Hamilton it could yet turn out to be paradise

You might imagine resentment would eke out, that the millionaire drivers and their assortment of Louis Vuitton-clutching hangers-on would be reviled and scorned.

But you would be wrong, for Brazil is a country that has long loved motor racing, and Sao Paulo is the focus of that adoration.

This was Ayrton Senna's home, and few have had so much talent and earned so much reverential attention off the back of it.

Modern Formula One does not have a driver like Senna in its ranks. There may never be a driver who combines sublime sporting excellence with that intangible aura of messianic greatness that seemed to swirl around the Brazilian. Yet here they still acclaim the greats. This is a motor racing city.

It's also a rather grimy, choked-up sort of place. Say you are going to Brazil, and people give you a wry smile, raise their eyebrows and wonder how you'll ever drag yourself away from the beach.

Well, perhaps if you are in Rio do Janeiro. But in Sao Paulo, where new roads seem to sprout like daffodils in Spring, the only sand you'll see is being hurled into a concrete mixer.

A cloud of smog hangs over Sao Paulo in Brazil
Sao Paulo is a hot, busy and polluted place for a title showdown
And yet, for Lewis Hamilton, this place could yet turn out to be paradise.

Interlagos, a circuit that he has never seen before, is where his title aspirations will be decided.

On Thursday night, he made his first public appearance in Sao Paulo, turning up to promote a drink-driving campaign endorsed by one of McLaren's sponsors.

He seemed cheery and confident, once again demonstrating the remarkable poise he has discovered at the age of just 22.

Only once did he seem slightly caught off guard - a Brazilian journalist asking him if he thought his popularity was enhanced because, as she put it, Alonso is so obnoxious.

Hamilton blushed slightly, laughed and said he would leave it up to others to decide.

606: DEBATE
"I've had a great year, and I've led the championship for a long time," he said, "but if I don't win the title then I've still had a great year."

Fine words, but I suspect it's only at public moments like this that Hamilton even countenances the idea of defeat.

"I'm very comfortable with all this," he said. "I feel I was born to do this."

But perhaps, as he left, he began to realise how his life has changed.

His car was pursued by an imposing mob of camera crews, photographers and reporters, blocking his path and taking an endless succession of shots.

Drivers are used to attention, but this was something else, something that even this calm young man must have found disconcerting.

Lewis Hamilton surrounded by photographers in Brazil
Hamilton has been besieged by crowds since his arrival in Brazil
As he passed me, I looked through the window of his car, and his smile had gone.

I suppose his sanctuary from all this fuss is out there on the circuit, where he spends most of his time concentrating on driving his car, interrupted only by the occasional burst of chatter from his team.

We have to believe him when he says he is enjoying the pressure, revelling in it even. Certainly his composure is remarkable.

On Friday, they were still painting kerbstones here, putting up posters and finishing dressing the circuit.

Sao Paulo is a chaotic place at the best of times, and when the Grand Prix starts it will probably grind to a halt. Everyone wants to see if Hamilton can do it; nobody more so than the man himself.



SEE ALSO
Brazilian Grand Prix photos
19 Oct 07 |  Formula One
F1 rivals ready for Brazil battle
17 Oct 07 |  Formula One
Brazilian GP - Friday practice
19 Oct 07 |  Formula One
The men who would be F1 king
17 Oct 07 |  Formula One
How Hamilton has changed
18 Oct 07 |  Formula One
The ways the F1 title can be won
17 Oct 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton ready for title decider
19 Oct 07 |  Formula One
The word on Lewis
18 Oct 07 |  Formula One
Alonso unhappy with race monitor
18 Oct 07 |  Formula One
F1 track guide
15 Oct 07 |  Formula One
No more slip-ups, vows Hamilton
17 Oct 07 |  Formula One
Briatore tips Alonso for F1 glory
17 Oct 07 |  Formula One
McLaren face scrutiny over Alonso
11 Oct 07 |  Formula One


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