– It’s very profound (the change), for me and my family. My mother and father send me messages every time I come to Brazil, they are so grateful for the love I have received here over the years. For them, sending their son off every weekend and seeing the support he receives around the world… In 2007, my first time here, I remember being so excited. I felt the presence of Ayrton (Senna), how integral he was to the story here, it was very strange for me – said Lewis, adding:
– If (a victory) can happen in Brazil, the first time back as a Brazilian citizen… It’s so crazy to say that (laughs). (…) Over the years I have read more and more about Brazil, how diverse it is, the people, the talent, the work that needs to be done to create more opportunities for children. Being able to be here today… Last year, receiving the title of honorary citizen was surreal, one of the most beautiful days I’ve had. I hope I can represent you in the best way.
Hamilton’s first title, in 2008, was won at Interlagos – and in a race in which Felipe Massa could become champion, if he won and the Brit came in sixth. That wasn’t what happened: the Ferrari driver triumphed, but Hamilton was fifth after the famous overtaking of Timo Glock. Over the last 15 years, the country’s disappointment at losing the trophy gradually gave way to Lewis’s love affair with Brazil and Brazilians.
– About having raced and won a title against a Brazilian… I felt like I was public enemy number one at the time. It wasn’t an easy weekend, but he (Massa) fought so hard, it was an incredible battle. Coming out of that moment at a low point, even though I had won a championship, being here and not feeling the support (from the public)… It was totally understandable. And then start this journey in which I honor Ayrton on my helmet every year, raising the Brazilian flag… Over the years, I learned more and fell more in love with the country.
The Mercedes driver also promises to become increasingly involved with Brazilian culture.
– At some point, I will have to learn Portuguese. Maybe I have to live here to do this, or find a Brazilian girlfriend (laughs). Every time I come, I try to learn a little more about the culture. (…) Many drivers, when they are racing at home, always say they can go a few tenths faster. I hope this weekend has that effect. I feel very honored, the love and support here is surreal. I see people here who have been rooting for me for years.
Public enemy number 1
The results of the Japanese GP and the Chinese GP allowed the fight for the title to continue until the final stage of 2008, in Interlagos. Hamilton arrived at the São Paulo track with a seven-point lead, knowing that Massa needed a combination: he had to win and hope that his British rival was at least five positions behind.
Felipe converted pole position into victory, to the delight of those present in the stands at Interlagos. But the glory lasted just 38s: on the last lap, at Junção, Hamilton, who was in sixth, overtook Timo Glock, who was already on more worn tires, and moved up to fifth.
A decade and a half later, Hamilton’s expectation is not to win another title on São Paulo soil, but to win again in F1 – something that has not happened since the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP. Today, the ace up the man’s sleeve seven-time champion seems to be the relationship he has built with the public over the years – which reached its peak two years ago, when the Briton emulated Ayrton’s gesture with the flag after an epic weekend.