Lewis Hamilton is champion in epic climax to final race

2008 Brazilian Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton celebrates the stunning turnaround that made him world champion
Lewis Hamilton celebrates the stunning turnaround that made him world champion

Lewis Hamilton became F1?σΤιΌΤδσs youngest ever world champion as the destiny of the 2008 title switched between him and rival Felipe Massa on the final lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

In Massa was already over the finishing line when Hamilton took a crucial fifth place of Timo Glock as the German driver struggled on dry weather tyres as rain fell.

That gave Hamilton the priceless point he needed after 71 laps of incredible tension.

Start delayed

Felipe Massa leads the field at the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix
Felipe Massa leads the field at the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix

The race began and ended in unpredictable fashion ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ rain fell three minutes before the intended start. Race control delayed the start for ten minutes while almost every driver switched from dry to wet-weather tyres.

The only exception was Robert Kubica ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ but at the end of the formation lap he realised his mistake and pitted to take on dry weather rubber.

The top four got away cleanly ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ Felipe Massa held Jarno Trulli at bay at the first corner, and Heikki Kovalainen gave room to team mate Lewis Hamilton, allowing him to keep a hold on fourth. But behind the Finn Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso attacked, dropping him to seventh.

Nico Rosberg went deep into the first corner and slithered into the side of David Coulthard. It pushed the Red Bull into Rosberg?σΤιΌΤδσs team mate Kazuki Nakajima, but although the Japanese driver was able to continue, Coulthard?σΤιΌΤδσs final Grand Prix was over. Nelson Piquet Jnr didn?σΤιΌΤδσt make it past the first lap either ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ and it could prove his last F1 race too.

Hamilton drops back

Heikki Kovalainen briefly passed Fernando Alonso but lost the position
Heikki Kovalainen briefly passed Fernando Alonso but lost the position

The safety car came out and after the pit lane opened Giancarlo Fisichella gambled on an early switch to dry weather tyres. It worked brilliantly, vaulting him up to fifth after everyone else had changed tyres.

Vettel and Alonso did so on lap nine, but Massa waited one lap later. This proved crucial as Hamilton waited until Massa had pitted to react, shadowing his title rival?σΤιΌΤδσs move. But having waited two laps longer than the drivers behind him to pit he lost position to both of them.

McLaren brought Kovalainen in on the same lap as Massa, after the Finnish driver had scrambled past Alonso at the restart only to lost the position again by running wide.

After the drivers had completed their change to dry weather tyres Massa resumed the lead from Vettel and Alonso, with Raikkonen down to fourth. Hamilton passed Trulli when the Italian went wide at turn one, and now the McLaren driver found the fifth place he needed occupied by Fisichella.

Hamilton bided his time as the track remained very slippery off-line. Finally on lap 17 he gingerly took the inside line away from Fisichella at the entry to the S do Senna. He was back in fifth place ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ and the title was back within reach.

Massa stretches his lead

Vettel had a crucial role to play later in the race in almost costing Hamilton the title. But for now, with a light fuel load, he was throwing everything he had at Massa. It was to no avail, and on lap 27 Vettel pitted ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ 11 laps before Massa needed to ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ wrecking Vettel?σΤιΌΤδσs hopes of repeating his Monza win.

That left Massa with a 4.1s lead over Alonso and the Renault driver?σΤιΌΤδσs hopes of beating the Ferrari took a battering when, on lap 34, Massa unleashed a lap of 1?σΤιΌΤδσ13.755, almost half a second than anything so far in the race.

Alonso had a ten second advantage over Raikkonen, who in turn had five seconds on Hamilton, who was now up to fourth. Glock was now threatening Hamilton, but his pit stop on lap 36 removed the pressure.

Massa pitted two laps later and took on enough fuel to last him until the end of the race. The rest did likewise ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ but most of them would end up coming back in one more time.

Alonso and Hamilton pitted together on lap 40 ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ Hamilton now so far behind that he only arrived in the pits as Alonso was leaving. Vettel staved off his final pit stop until lap 51, and that dropped him from second to fifth, behind Hamilton.

The middle part of the race had been quiet, even processional. But the first hints that was about to change came as the teams woke up to the likelihood of a second, late rain shower.

The rain returns

As rain began to fall on lap 63 Massa led Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton. The McLaren driver had only one second?σΤιΌΤδσs advantage over Vettel, but he knew that even if he lost the place he would still be champion.

Some drivers switched to wet weather tyres as early as lap 64. Nakajima and Fisichella were the first ones in. Two laps later the leaders took the gamble: Alonso and Raikkonen darted for the pits. Then the Hamilton-Vettel battle for fourth appeared in pit lane as one ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ Hamilton breaking out of his pattern of mirroring Massa.

Massa was in on lap 67, with four remaining. Now everyone had pitted except the two Toyotas ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ and this was crucial, because now Glock was ahead of Hamilton.

Two stunning twists

After his early tyre blunder Kubica was fighting back and on lap 69 he unlapped himself from Vettel. Then he did the same with Hamilton, forcing the McLaren wide at Junaco. This was disastrous for Hamilton ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ as Vettel followed Kubica through to take fifth.

Hamilton was now demoted to sixth and staring championship defeat in the face. Around the final two laps Vettel?σΤιΌΤδσs Toro Rosso was tantalisingly out of reach.

On the McLaren radio Martin Whitmarsh was telling Hamilton to keep it cool ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ because the Toyotas were starting to struggle. His problem was Glock was coping with the conditions far better than Trulli ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ lapping five seconds faster than his team mate on lap 70.

But the 71st lap proved one too many for them. Robbed of tyre temperature and grip, the two floundered to the line. First Vettel, then Hamilton reached Glock in the final sector of the final lap ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ and both drove past him with ease.

As Massa crossed the finish line the Ferrari pit and the crowd erupted in celebration. But the cheers stopped as Vettel and Hamilton headed for the line with Glock in their mirrors: Vettel fourth, Hamilton fifth ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ and world champion by a single point.

Championship changes hands twice in the final three laps (Video)

A sad winner

Despite the disappointment, Felipe Massa still smiled more than Kimi Raikkonen
Despite the disappointment, Felipe Massa still smiled more than Kimi Raikkonen

Massa could scarcely hold back the tears on the podium ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ but he was weeping with sadness, not joy. Not his home victory nor Ferrari?σΤιΌΤδσs 16th constructors?σΤιΌΤδσ title could ease the pain of having the drivers?σΤιΌΤδσ championship torn from his grasp at the last gasp.

He was flanked by Alonso and Raikkonen. Glock held on to sixth ahead of Kovalainen ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ so his gamble actually paid off ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ and Trulli took the final point ahead of Mark Webber. Nick Heidfeld completed the top ten.

Kubica finished 11th ahead of Rosberg, Button and Bourdais ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ the latter losing a potential points finish after a lunge by Trulli forced him off the track at turn one. Revenge for Shanghai? Perhaps, but unlike Hamilton at Fuji, there was no punishment for Trulli.

Barrichello finished what could be his final race in 15th, ahead of Sutil, Nakajima and Fisichella.

In the pits Hamilton and McLaren were celebrating. Their driver hadn’t realised he was champion until well after crossing the finish line – but as the shell shock he wasted no time in catching up with the celebrations. He wasn’t the only one left reeling by this flabbergasting end to the season.

2008 Brazilian Grand Prix result

Lewis Hamilton and McLaren celebrated the team's first title in nine years
Lewis Hamilton and McLaren celebrated the team's first title in nine years

96 comments on “Lewis Hamilton is champion in epic climax to final race”

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  1. We love you Timo We do, We love you Timo We do, We love you Timo We do, Oh Timo We love You………………………….But not as much Lewis…etc.etc

  2. The next Jacques Villeneuve! good thing they didn’t have the winners family waving the flag, would have been funny with the last lap change.

  3. Hamilton was given the championship. He did not earn it.

    Glock can take a hike. He handed this to Hamilton. What a joke… H

  4. They all looked pretty miserable on the podium, didn’t they? Never seen so many long faces on the winners dias.

  5. Congratulations to Lewis, he is a worthy WDC.

    I deperately wanted Massa to win as I’m definitely not a Lewis fan (I haven’t disliked a driver this much since Nigel Mansell, lol). It’s hard to be too sad though after being treated to a race like that, what a last 7 or so laps!

    I doubt I’ll ever see such a close conclusion to a WDC again.

    Now it’s a long long wait till Albert Park…..

  6. David Watkins
    2nd November 2008, 22:52


    Both Toyotas on dry tyres did the last lap in 1:44. They gambled and didn’t quite win.

    If they had wanted Lewis to win the title they would have brought Glock in for wet tyres.

    Please try thinking about it just for a moment.

  7. TommyBellingham
    2nd November 2008, 22:56

    Will Massa handed Kimi the title last year. If Massa won this year the FIA would have handed Ferrari the title. Stop being a saw loser. If Glock had have pitted Massa wouldnt have been close at all to get the WDC

  8. OMG, It’s 22:54 GMT & my heart has just started again.. One thought though, isnt it about time the WORLD CHAMPION is presented with ‘whatever one gets for winning a world championship’ at the end of the race?? After those last 2 laps, it felt a bit of an anti-climax that Lewis wasnt up there.

  9. @David Watkins – No way that Glock should have collapsed that dramatically… even in the conditions with dry tyres. Glock hit the brakes and let Hamilton go by.

    This was not a completely soaked track like Spa in the last three laps. Glock just shut it down. I’ve lost complete respect for him.

  10. TommyBellingham
    2nd November 2008, 22:59

    I love it that all the Ferrari fans are annoyed at Glock. Hamilton fans should be annoyed at Kubica for nearly losing Hamilton the title by unlapping himself and letting him run wide so Vettel went passed him. I guess Hamilton fans just aren’t as sad as Ferrari fans

  11. TommyBellingham
    2nd November 2008, 23:01

    Look at Trullis lap times Will and the maybe realise you are wrong and be quiet

  12. Will, look at the lap times of both the Toyotas. There was nothing Glock could do – in fact, he did a far better job of coping with the dry weather tyres than Trulli did.

  13. David Watkins
    2nd November 2008, 23:04

    Hamilton shouldnt have let Kubica affect him. Bad mistake that nearly cost him everything.


    Look at Glock coming out of the final corner. He swings from side to side like a teenager after a 20-pint session. He had no grip at all

  14. Such a fine line between success and failure. As to Ferrari fans blaming Timo Glock, they should remember Spa, inwhich Hamilton was robbed of victory at the last. What goes around comes around. They should use Massa’s example, and that is to lose with dignity and respect.
    Two, very foreign words to the tifosi I am sure.

  15. Ferrari fans who are blaming Glock should be blaming whoever did a mistake in Glock’s second pit. He was just behind Lewis till then, and pit 5 second slower than everyone else which put him behind both Hondas, Bourdais and Rosberg for a few laps. Between the pit and the trafic he certainly lost more than the gap to Lewis in the end.

  16. @Will. Perhaps your attention should also be drawn to a number of dodgy stewards decisions that forced the title to Brazil. But apart from that, the Toyotas were slow, Mclaren knew it (read Whitmarsh’s comments) and that was that. If Massa hadn’t walloped a few walls earlier in the season, he’d be champion. It’s the way it goes.

    I must say it was tragic watching the vision of Massa’s family going mad only to have to calm down after being told he’d missed out. Thought it a little unpleasant to replay that vision…

    I think some Ferrari fans were expecting Massa to take the title given his overall improvement in the second half of the season and the, er, external help he’s been given. Massa was valiant in defeat and my respect for him is up yet another notch.

    My next door neighbour is going to be gutted…hee hee…we were both awake at 4am to watch.

  17. Massa did not hand the title to Kimi. Kimi passed him in the pits. Kimi shut his car down to give Massa a chance to win this year.

  18. I nearly had a heart attack watching the race! What a thriller!! Congrats to Lewis and roll on ’09 season.

    Keith – Many thanks for running the site, it’s brilliant!!

  19. David Watkins
    2nd November 2008, 23:36


    I think Glock was the first guy to fill to the end and he was right on the limit. His stop was necessarily long I think. doesn’t mean there was no mistake though

  20. David, Massa pit I think 3 laps after glock and his pit was 9.4 (against glock’s 14.5).

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