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Feeling the tension at Interlagos

By Adam Parsons
BBC Sport in Brazil

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It was raining, I was surrounded by Brazilians, and I was also supposed to be affecting an air of neutrality, but there are times when you just have to cheer - so I did.

Lewis Hamilton, somehow or other, had contrived to end the race as world champion, and it was time to punch the air and give a holler.

My delight wasn't greeted by an air of friendly camaraderie, not least because everyone - and I do mean everyone - watching on at the Interlagos circuit thought the title had gone to Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian drove so brilliantly and Hamilton had somehow managed to end up in sixth place with one corner to go - but, well, you know what happened next.

The BBC is taking over as Britain's F1 broadcaster next year, but in Brazil we were still classified as outcasts, denied the accreditation you need to get into the paddock.

In the midst of pleasure at Hamilton's triumph, I did feel sorry for Massa and his fans

The prospect of Hamilton winning the title, however, was simply too good to ignore so, thanks to some creative thinking, we found a hotel room that offered a view of the pit straight and the corners at the end of the lap.

It is, in truth, a lousy hotel, but the view on race day is splendid and so it was there that I stood on the balcony and watched the race unfold.

A few metres away was another balcony, this one full of excited and excitable Brazilian fans; ahead of us, on the other side of a wire fence, thousands upon thousands of people stood and watched the action.

I had spent the previous two days looking for Lewis Hamilton fans in Sao Paulo, and I found very few.

There was, curiously enough, a large group of ardent Lewis supporters who had flown in from South Africa, and a very occasional cluster of Brits, but they were overwhelmingly outnumbered by Massa fans.

Sao Paulo is Massa's city and the red of Ferrari was everywhere among the crowds and in the streets around the circuit - caps, T-shirts, bicycles and a few faces all painted scarlet to help inspire their hero.

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The morning of the race was warm and sunny, blue skies overhead and optimism sweeping the streets.

The Brazilians who were operating our technical equipment were all convinced Massa would win both race and championship.

There were banners in the crowd imploring both Rubens Barrichello and Nelson Piquet Jr - or Nelsinho, as the locals have it - to crash into Hamilton and force him out of the race.

And Fernando Alonso got big cheers on the basis that he clearly doesn't like Hamilton. Half the crowd, I suspect, really did expect Alonso to drive straight into the back of the Briton at the first corner just to teach him a lesson.

The partisanship was overt and when the mechanics came past our position, pushing trolleys laden with tyres towards the starting grid, there was cacophonous applause for the Ferrari crew.

But when their McLaren counterparts emerged onto the track, they were booed and whistled all the way. To their credit, they simply smiled and kept walking.

Then, of course, we got that curious rain shower just before the start, a shower that only lasted a matter of a few minutes but caused the start to be delayed, tyres to be changed and tactics altered.

Ferrari fans at the Brazil Grand Prix
The majority of fans at the Interlagos circuit were backing Massa
In the stands, the tension increased - even the most blinkered Brazilian knows that Massa's reputation for wet-weather racing is not exactly in the Michael Schumacher league.

Yet it was Massa who led away from the start and not for a moment did I think he wouldn't win the race.

In fact, while this race is being acclaimed as the most exciting the sport has seen, the honest truth is that most of it was the exact opposite with Massa out in front and Hamilton seemingly untroubled in fourth or fifth, content to take it easy.

The fans weren't sure how to feel - Massa heading for a brilliant victory, but the title heading to Hamilton.

But with less than two laps to go, the grandstand to my left suddenly erupted when Sebastian Vettel passed Hamilton to push him down to sixth.

From then on, it was all Brazilian smiles until my little burst of cheering coincided with the message getting out that it had all gone wrong for them.

In the midst of pleasure at Hamilton's triumph, I did feel sorry for Massa and his fans. How cruel to think you'd won the title, to have 10 or 20 seconds of utter jubilation, only to discover that it had been an illusion.

Massa seems a whole-hearted racer, but I wonder if he and his loyal supporters will ever come this near to the title again.

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see also
Last-gasp Hamilton takes F1 crown
02 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Ecstatic Hamilton revels in glory
02 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Brazilian Grand Prix photos
02 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton destined for greatness
02 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Reaction to Hamilton's F1 title
02 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton's rise to the top
18 Jun 07 |  Motorsport
Coulthard says farewell to F1
02 Nov 08 |  Formula One


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