Championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa spent the pre-Brazilian Grand Prix Thursday press conference competing to out-cool each other about their title prospects and the pressure of the season climax.
Usually the dullest of a Grand Prix weekend’s media activities, today’s conference drew a full house as it juggled giving space to the championship contenders, home drivers Nelsinho Piquet and Rubens Barrichello, and the retiring David Coulthard.
Asked how the build-up to Brazil matched up with their experiences competing as eight-year-olds, both improbably – but apparently sincerely – claimed there was no extra pressure compared with their childhood racing.
Hamilton said: “Every championship you do is quite similar. For me, it is just another race – that’s the way I approach it myself and that’s how I did it in the past. It’s exciting, everyone enjoys the last race.”
And Massa took a similar view: “When you are racing it doesn’t matter whether you are in Formula One or in go-karts. You are not thinking ‘I am in Formula One, it is the most important motorsport’. You don’t think about that, you think about racing. For sure, you have much more expectation and pressure but when you are driving you don’t think about that.”
Both also praised the support they’d received from their families, spoke warmly about racing at Interlagos, and said the circuit and the available tyres would suit their cars best.
Their buddy-buddy performance prompted the BBC’s Maurice Hamilton to note on the Top Gear F1 blog: “There is a genuine camaraderie between Lewis and Felipe. They get on well and passed the odd remark and exchanged grins from time to time when one of the other three were speaking.”
When prised apart by direct questions from the floor, Massa confessed the support of the Brazilian fans was a “great feeling”, while Hamilton admitted he was more positive this season than last year, having just had a more successful Chinese Grand Prix than he did 12 months ago.
And nobody at all in the conference rose to the bait when asked if the other drivers might gang up on Hamilton to secure a Massa victory.
Hamilton said: “I believe every driver that’s here is a great sportsman and we’re all very competitive, so I just have to trust and believe in everybody and hope that we can have a fair, straight race.”
Both Barrichello and Piquet were emphatic that help would be unwelcome, even if they were in a position to supply it.
Barrichello said: “Imagine me doing something against Lewis – would Felipe be happy with that? Would he be a worthy champion? I don’t think so.”
And Coulthard played the honest broker when put on the spot to pick a winner: “I will say in front of the two championship contenders what I have said to the media. With a seven point lead Lewis is the most likely to achieve the championship. I think that is quite clear. He has led the championship for the majority of the season and it should be a formality.
“For me Felipe is the most improved driver of the season. We have always known that he has speed, but some of his drives this year – notably Budapest, which ultimately he wasn’t able to win, but his pass on Lewis clearly defined him as one of the most attacking drivers. It was a world class pass. Not to sit on the fence, but either of these guys are truly worthy of this world championship.
“But you have to say Lewis has the upper hand, so I guess a consolation might be if Felipe wins the grand prix, satisfies the Brazilian crowd, and Lewis comes in with a points’ scoring position. But as we know, anything can happen, so I am as excited to know the outcome as everyone else.”