Formula 1 has always had a sort of a soulless corporate feel to it. Between the correlation between budget and victory, the lack of personable drivers and Bernie Ecclestone, the entire system feels more like a way to extort money out of fans than a celebration of the fastest technology in the world.
But leave it up to the Brazilians to give the entire thing a human touch.
The High Cost of Entry
The Grand Prix at Interlagos (or Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace to be correct) is one of the most expensive on the F1 circuit. The cheapest seats ($200) feature terrible access, no canopy and a view that can be described as “less than eh.” Upgrading to the next level $70 up affords better access and positioning by turn 15, but still without any protection from the elements.
In a country where the average annual income is about $8,000, spending $270 to stand outside to just watch cars wiz past for 150 minutes seems a little absurd. But the high cost of entry just ensured that only the most diehard fans were there.
Maintaining Momentum through the Curves
By 10AM on the day of the race, these hardcore fans packed Grandstand A (incidentally the second cheapest seats in the race). Despite the cold weather and incessant rain, the crowd was in high spirits generating loud din out of individual conversations, cheers and laughter.
And with good reason. The cars were stunning in the rain, the booze flowed pretty freely and the location of the seats was perfect - providing a front row view to all three crashes as well as Verstappen’s absurd recovery.
The Surprise Finish
Formula 1 Races are surprisingly short. At 150 minutes or 71 laps, there isn’t much time to get good photographs of both the cars and the crowd. So even during the cooldown laps after the checkered flag, I was down at the fence trying to nab some last minute shots.
That’s when I noticed a man to my right climbing the interior catch fence. Now climbing fences is pretty typical in Brazil. You want to get a better view? Ok! climb the fence! Problem solved.
But when he got to the top, he pulled down the barbed wire, jumped through the TV port in the second fence and began running down the track. I was 100% sure that some official would run over and throw him out, but two other fans followed suit, climbing the fence after him.
So I figured. “When in Brazil…”
Over one fence, through the Television Port in the other, and I was sprinting down the main straight of Interlagos - flanked by 5 or 6 other fans and backed up by a huge mass of people pouring out via holes in the fences.
Sites will say that the best place to watch the podium is from Grandstand B – the expensive executive covered stand. The truth is, the best place to watch it was on the finish line, surrounded by hundreds of F1 fans.
Everyone was soaked to the bone, haggard from a day of standing in the freezing rain. But man they were ready to party.
The entire crowd was jumping up and down, alternating chants of “Hamilton” with “Ayrton Senna”. The manic atmosphere in the crowd was infectious – some of the most ferocious cheers came from middle aged matronly women.
If there’s anything that describes the best of Brazil, this is it. We had just sat through 150 minutes of rain, red flags and cold and rather than go home, all people wanted to do was celebrate. And not just celebrate – but to party on the finish line.
So being the innate problem solvers they are, they found a way.