Motor racing-Hamilton feels the love in absence of Brazilian drivers

Written by on November 14, 2021

November 14, 2021

By Gabriel Araujo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) -With no Brazilian drivers on the Formula One starting grid, local fans gave seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton plenty of love at Interlagos on Sunday and the feeling was mutual.

The Mercedes driver celebrated one of his greatest wins with a gesture made famous by late triple world champion and local hero Ayrton Senna, carrying the Brazilian flag during the slowing down lap.

As he did, the crowd started chanting his name along with that of Senna.

The Briton, the most successful driver in the history of the sport with 101 race wins, later carried the flag onto the podium and received an ovation from the crowd at one of the most atmospheric circuits on the calendar.

“I’m so, so grateful for the incredible support I’ve had this weekend. I’ve not had it since Silverstone,” Hamilton said.

“Obrigado (thank you) Brasil,” he added in Portuguese.

Hamilton won his first title at Interlagos with McLaren in 2008, beating Ferrari’s then local favourite Felipe Massa with a devastating overtake at the last corner of the last lap of the final round of the season.

Massa retired in 2017, since when there has been no Brazilian competing regularly.

The last was U.S.-born Pietro Fittipaldi as a stand-in last season at Haas following Romain Grosjean’s fiery crash in Bahrain.

SENNA CONNECTION

Hamilton has won over the crowd since 2008 with his praise of the country and his connection to Senna, who died at Imola in 1994 and was his boyhood inspiration.

“Senna has always been his idol … every time he comes to Brazil, he brings a special homage,” said Anderson Cardoso, a Hamilton supporter attending the grand prix.

“I think a great part of the Brazilians hope that he will be able to turn around this championship,” added Everton da Silva, also a Hamilton fan, referring to the Briton’s current standing.

The 36-year-old now trails Verstappen by 14 points with three races remaining.

Cardoso said he still missed having a Brazilian driver to support in a country that gave the sport multiple world champions Senna, Nelson Piquet and Emerson Fittipaldi.

Will there ever be another one?

“I hope, of course,” Massa told Reuters. “Given Brazil’s tradition in motor racing, it is sad not to have a Brazilian driver carrying our flag out there”.

Massa was also on hand after the race to interview the top three finishers.

“You are not the driver of the day, you are the driver of the weekend,” he told his former rival.

Hamilton thanked him and replied: “I think I feel what it was like for you here, with all the support.”

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Alan Baldwin and Ken Ferris)


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