If you have never visited Sao Paulo then close your eyes and allow me to transport you to the world's third-largest metropolis complete with skyline that rivals Manhattan or Hong Kong in dizzying architecture; the weathermen are forecasting a relatively cool spring morning of 23 degrees although the unremitting humidity will make any form of physical exercise uncomfortable in the extreme for the city's 20 million souls.
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Cruelly, perhaps, unless you own a helicopter – and the size of Sao Paulo's fleet of choppers is second only to that of New York – if you are in a hurry then it is quicker to walk the grid-locked streets where traffic jams can stretch to 100 kms, even if the eardrums ache to the sound of sirens, horns and mopeds and the lungs burn with each intake of smog.
Far away from the noise, the fumes, the crush, the skyscrapers, and far, far away from the wretched shanty towns in which half the population 'live', on a gentle hillside overlooking the affluent and leafy southern edge of this chaotic yet vibrant mass of humanity we pass through the pearl grey gates of the Cemiterio do Morumbi. Here, under a lone ipe tree, lies a simple brass plaque marking the grave of Ayrton Senna da Silva and bearing the epitaph Nada pode me separar do amor de Deus (Nothing can separate me from the love of God).
It is at this tranquil spot that Lewis Hamilton intends paying homage to the memory of his childhood hero on Monday once his public three-cornered debate with McLaren 'team-mate' Fernando Alonso and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen has been resolved on the track at nearby Interlagos. The Spaniard and the Finn will have their supporters – in and beyond their native lands – but it would surely be the most fitting climax to an enthralling Formula One season if the young Englishman whom so many experts have likened to the youthful Senna were to secure the world championship in the Brazilian's home town.
Watching Hamilton pull off another daring overtaking manoeuvre, it is easy to hear him echoing Senna's philosophy: "I don't know how to drive in another way, one that isn't risky. Each one has to improve himself. My limit is a little bit further than everyone else's."
Hamilton was a tot of nine when the three-times champion was killed while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, but he was reared on the Senna legend, which grows every year.
The Brazilians do a number of things better than anyone else, football, the samba, fashioning bikinis out of dental floss, and the Caipirinha de Cachaca, served with slithers of fresh lime and ice, probably the world's best cocktail.
But according to social anthropologist Dr Joaquim Diegues, "Our greatest talent lies not on the dance floor, the football stadium or in staging the carnival. Perhaps no other country can match our talent for national mourning. That is why you have seen for yourself how Ayrton Senna has become more important in death than he ever was in life."
To millions of poor, young Brazilians, certainly, who owe their education, medical treatment or simply the food in front of them to the Ayrton Senna Foundation which has now raised more than £25 million for disadvantaged children, mostly through the sale of officially licensed products covering helmets to motorbikes.
"It is true that to the white upper-middle class he was one of our great sporting heroes," continues Dr Diegues. "Not as popular as Pele, maybe, but as beloved as our other great football stars. But if you ignore Brazil's middle class – which represents only about two per cent of our people – then his popularity today is even more remarkable.
"The poor black children of the favelas [shanty towns] do not dream of becoming Ayrton Senna. No, they still dream of being Pele or Zico or, more recently, Ronaldinho. Most of these children will never learn to drive, so for them motor racing is not a religion.
"Senna was always careful to present himself to the Brazilian people as a great patriot. He carried the flag of Brazil on his victory lap, for example. An image which is still being carefully polished by his family and business executives.
"His birthday, anniversary of his death and each Brazilian Grand Prix inspires another outpouring of grief, but though three million Brazilians lined the streets of Sao Paulo on the day of his funeral many, many more millions had never heard of Senna until he died at the age of 34."
Even so, Senna's final resting place attracts more visitors than the graves of John F Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley combined, most of the pilgrims asking the same, never-to-be-answered question: Why did the greatest motor racing driver of his generation perish on Imola's relatively straightforward if high-speed Tamburello curve?
Even an Italian court could not come up with the definitive reason as to why Senna's Renault Williams deviated from the normal line and continued in a fatally straight line at 192mph. Mechanical failure ... driver error ... track debris ... a sudden blackout ... every conceivable and inconceivable theory has been whispered in the peaceful surrounds of Morumbi.
His Williams colleague of the time, Damon Hill, has said that he believes Senna was responsible for his own death. "I'm convinced that he made mistake," revealed the Briton on the 10th anniversary of the fatal accident.
"Why not? He made many mistakes in his career. I've listened to and read endless theories about why, or how, he could have crashed on such a 'simple' corner as Imola's Tamburello.
"No one other than Ayrton and me know what it was like to drive that car, through that corner, in that race, on that day, on cold tyres. He was identified with pushing to the limit and beyond. It wasn't the fault of anyone else that he kept his foot down when he could have lifted it.
"These opinions are sacrilege in the world of driving gods, but Ayrton was not a god. He was a great driver and a man of enormous humanity, even if he would often prefer to crash into his opponent rather than be defeated. He was as frail or vulnerable as you or I ..."
A man of humanity, yes – in the wreckage of his Williams the rescue crew found a bloodied Austrian flag that he had intended to unfurl after passing the chequered flag in honour of Roland Ratzenberger, who had been killed during practice at Imola the previous day – but a man who could also be arrogant, egotistical, petulant and sanctimonious.
Fellow Brazilian and fellow three-times world champion, Nelson Piquet, a free-spirited playboy, had no time for Senna's Roman Catholic fundamentalism. While Senna retired into the back of the McLaren motorhome with his Bible and made claims to have seen a vision of Jesus Christ at Suzuka in 1988 where he won after stalling on the start line, and to have been guided by the voice of God at Monaco in 1990, when he beat Jean Alesi in one of the great races of all time, Piquet poured on the insults. "He's nothing but a Sao Paulo taxi driver," being one of his more printable sneers.
His one-time McLaren partner – aye, even before the Hamilton-Alonso feud, F1 'families' frequently made the Borgias appear well adjusted – Alain Prost was even more scathing after several highly-charged confrontations. In the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix the two collided at a chicane when Prost appeared to deliberately block Senna. At the same venue 12 months later, the Brazilian took his revenge when he clearly barged his rival (who had since moved to Ferrari) off the track to clinch his own second drivers' title. Prost was less than enamoured, saying: "What he did was more than unsporting. It was disgusting. With him, racing isn't a sport, it's war. I appreciate honesty and Senna is not an honest man."
In later years, the two men became reconciled to such an extent that Prost was invited to serve as a pall-bearer at Senna's funeral. For many years, however, the Frenchman refused to discuss their relationship, finally explaining to a close friend: "When Senna died, part of me also died because our careers had been so closely bound together."
Should Hamilton visit Morumbi as world champion, then he will do so with the words of Senna drifting in the springtime breeze: Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose.