DECEMBER 30, 2002
A change in Brazil
In motor racing circles it seems that there is always another Brazilian racing driver arriving in Europe, intent on making his way to Formula 1. Brazilians are numerous in the upper echelons of the sport, particularly in North American racing. In part this is due to the culture of racing that exists in Brazil but also due to the country's economic stability, which has been constant for the last eight years. In part it has also been due to the inspiration that Ayrton Senna gave to a generation of youngsters. Rubens Barrichello's career in F1 has been less successful but there is evidence that his popularity is still growing. The question that is now being asked however is whether Brazil can continue to find the money to fund all the youngsters.
For the last eight years, while most of South America has struggled with economic problems, Brazil has been stable. This was largely due to President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who as finance minister in 1994 introduced the Real as the country's new currency. This destroyed the country's rampant inflation and gave Brazilians the chance to live more stable lives - and find money to fund the karting careers of young drivers.
As a result Cardoso was propelled to the country's presidency and pushed through a series of reforms which continued to transform Brazil into a stable democracy, which included bringing the army under civilian control and privatising the huge government-owned industries such as the oil company Petrobras.
This week, after eight years in office (which makes him Brazil's longest-serving president) Cardoso stands down having been beaten in the last election by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. It remains to be seen whether the new president will be able to match the achievements of Cardoso, who lost popularity because of economic problems caused by the global economy. This led to him having to cut public spending and that pushed up unemployment and increased crime.
If the economy does go the way of other South America countries, the flow of Brazilian racers will slow down as money dries up.
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