Is it safe to come out from behind the sofa yet? To say that was exciting is something of an understatement. It was exciting in the same way as being stabbed is exciting, and almost as uncomfortable.
As sporting drama goes, that one will be right up there with Johnny Wilkinson’s final kick in the Rugby World Cup in 2003, or England’s win at Edgebaston during the 2005 Ashes series.
Coming from Britain, and from Hertfordshire, and from very near Stevenage I must confess to being a teensy-weensy bit partisan, but I will try to be fair and reasonable in this review.
There, now I’ve got that out of my system, we can put it behind us and move on.
The weekend started much the same any other, with Mark Blundell and Steve Ryder looking like they were standing in an Asda car park.
Blundell was spouting his usual little pearls of wisdom like, “I fink McLaren mis-underestimated the Ferrari pace.”
My personal favourite came after the end of qualifying two, when commenting on Sebastian Vettel’s performance. “I’m astounded by that, I didn’t fink the Toro Rosso had that kind of pace. How much fuel he’s got on board, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Has he not been to an F1 race before? How much fuel would you expect someone to carry in the second qualifying session? Still, I suppose he was distracted by all those gleaming F1 cars, and wishing he could still get into one. Looking at him now, he’d have a job getting into a Mondeo.
Meanwhile, Steve Ryder merely looks on sagely while glancing down at the script held three feet away (time for that trip to Specsavers, Steve?) Steve Ryder’s an odd one, with his smart Matalan blazer, cheeky open-necked shirt and wobbly microphone, you always get the feeling he’s a bit out of his depth.
In case we needed reminding, pantomime season is just around the corner (for overseas readers, British pantomime is an excuse for minor celebrities and has-beens who don’t even warrant a mention in 'Heat Magazine' to cross-dress and make complete idiots of themselves in front of hundreds of people). On the diamond screens, every time an image of Lewis Hamilton was displayed the crowd would boo theatrically, but when Felipe Massa appeared the local crowd would let out a hearty cheer. Perhaps they should have shouted, “He’s behind you …”
David Coulthard had spent the whole weekend sporting his shiny new white-liveried car with matching overalls and grinning from ear to ear (literally) at all the attention. Trouble is, he just looked like the F1 equivalent of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). After being punted off at the first corner by Nico Rosberg, that’s what’s happened to his career.
All the families were there for the big day. Felipe Massa’s dad was a picture of suppressed haemorrhoids and trying not to look too much like Danny DeVito. Anthony Hamilton could be seen scowling at the back of the McLaren garage most of the time, mustering a pained grimace when asked to smile for the cameras. And Lewis Hamilton’s latest squeeze, Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, seemed to spend the whole weekend bouncing up and down whenever a camera appeared – which was most of the time. She obviously had a lot of faith in that orange dress (Maybe she pinched it from the Dalai Lama).
So the scene was all set. Massa and a pleased-as-punch Trulli were on the front row, with Raikkonen and Hamilton just behind. Riding shotgun for Lewis in fifth place was Heikki Kovalainen (You know, his team-mate. Lewis has a team-mate?). And in sixth place was the joker in the pack: Fernando Alonso.
But he wasn’t the only joker. Oh no, we also had the weather, which decided things looked a bit boring so tossed a few weathery buckets of rain over bits of the circuit. After a ten-minute delay so the teams could run back to their respective garages and grab some intermediate tyres, the race got under way. The traditional Brazilian first corner prang was provided by Nico Rosberg who bumped David Coulthard from behind, spinning him round to whack Kazuki Nakajima. Rosberg and Nakajima survived, but the unfortunate Scot was out of his final race in F1. We all wish him well.
The track quickly began to dry out and after a few laps everyone ducked into the pits for dry tyres. Massa resumed his lead, followed by the wily Alonso and Raikkonen. Hamilton found himself down in seventh, but soon despatched Trulli and Fisichella.
The rest of the race then followed a fairly predictable pattern, until six laps from the end when the rain returned. All the frontrunners pitted for wets, leaving the order Massa, Alonso, Raikkonen, Glock (who hadn’t pitted), Hamilton and Vettel. As Kubica unlapped himself, Vettel slipped past Hamilton and put the Englishman down to sixth. All was lost as they tiptoed around the last lap until …
“Desperation starts to creep in for Hamilton,” an agonised James Allen wailed.
But then …
“Is that Glock?” asked Martin Brundle. “Is that Glock slowing?”
Timo Glock came to the rescue, his dry tyres hopeless in the wet conditions. Hamilton slipped past to take fifth – and his first World Championship. It was the kind of climax to a race that comes once every couple of years – if you’re lucky. It’s virtually unheard of as a season decider.
Felipe Massa drove a faultless race, but it wasn’t quite enough. As he crossed the line he didn’t know whether he was World Champion or not. There was no point asking anyone in the Ferrari garage, they all thought he was. For the Hamilton fans, Danny DeVito’s face was a picture: elation turning to desolation in just a few seconds as realisation dawned.
Hamilton, for his part, didn’t know either until he was well into turn one on his in lap. But Nicole knew. She bounced right out of the McLaren garage and into the pit lane. Damn, that dress was robust.
After the race, Lewis was completely spent and could barely speak. Either that or he just couldn’t be heard over the boos from the Brazilian crowd.
A fabulous race and the perfect end to such an intense season. Well done to Martin Brundle for spotting Timo Glock getting passed two corners from the end. No one else seemed to see it.
Also, well done to the stewards for not interfering with the race and allowing the result to be decided on the track.
Well done to Felipe Massa for such a convincing win, and for running a dignified campaign (Sarah Palin take note).
And finally, well done Lewis Hamilton. Local boy done good, after all.