Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh succinctly summed up the all-pervading team feeling as he stepped down from his perch on the pit wall after last Sunday's USA grand prix at Austin. "We badly needed that!" he exclaimed as Lewis Hamilton drifted around his slowing-down lap after scoring what surely will go down into the history books as one of the team's most impressive victories of all time.
It was also a resounding 'thank you' from the British driver who has achieved all his F1™ success so far with the British team.
In the meantime, this weekend Lewis will be out to demonstrate again what we all privately know already, namely that he can deliver such driving brilliance on an ongoing and regular basis. Sebastien Vettel may have to deal with Fernando Alonso if he wants to add this year's world championship to his glittering tally, but Seb will also have to deal with Lewis if he wants to put a race victory at a wild and woolly Interlagos beyond reasonable doubt.
It was the mid-'70s when McLaren recorded its first victory at Interlgaos, 1974 where Emerson Fittipaldi scored an impressive victory in the seminal M23. This was Emerson's first success in the M23 since joining the team from Lotus at the end of the previous season, and was obviously a much rated title contender from the time he first strapped himself into the M23 cockpit. You might have been forgiven for thinking that Emerson was extraordinarily resourceful and well connected. At Interlagos '74 the track was doused in a brief thunderstorm in the closing stages. On one lap he came past the pits slowly, pointing skywards. Next time later the rain had stopped. And so had the race!
McLaren and the Brazilian Grand Prix became close to synonymous during the late 1980s and early 90s, with Woking's technical mix usually coming up trumps and resulting in a front-running car.
Perhaps most memorable of all was the season of 1991, when McLaren found an unfortunate sequence of technical set-backs conspiring to leave them struggling to be front runners, particularly in the early part of the season. For 1991, Honda, then McLaren's engine partner, produced its third V12 engine configuration in four seasons with the introduction of the RA121E V12 with a 60-degree vee angle. But as Senna spent much of the winter relaxing in his native Brazil most of the pre-season testing was conducted by Jonathan Palmer and Allan McNish. By the time Ayrton drove it for the first time, it was too late to make the modifications Ayrton judged the car so desperately required.
In fact, Ayrton was absolutely horrified and furious in equal measure. He told Honda, in words of one syllable, that they had fallen down very badly on the job. Even from before the start of the year he knew that '91 would be an exercise in damage limitation. Even so, Ayrton's unalloyed genius shone through on occasion, most notably in front of his delighted and inspirational home crowd at Interlagos where he won despite a major gearbox problem on his McLaren MP4/6. It wasn't enough to carry his battle to the dominant Williams-Renaults of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese, but it made them nervous on several occasions, an example of how a really inspired driver can make the crucial difference. In that respect Ayrton and Lewis are both cast from the same glittering mould!
Eighteen years later, in 2008 Lewis would do an equally memorable job at Interlagos, vaulting heroically past Timo Glock’s Toyota as the cars came storming through the double-apex left hander leading onto the Sao Paulo track’s climbing final turn to catapult his way to instant stardom. It was the sort of inspired move that made one rub their eyes in stark disbelief. But it certainly happened and I was there to see it. Unbelievable!! You almost had to pinch yourself as a reset process to convince yourself that you had restored reality.