Lewis Hamilton is champion in epic climax to final race

2008 Brazilian Grand Prix review

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?s 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 ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ 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?s team mate Kazuki Nakajima, but although the Japanese driver was able to continue, Coulthard?s final Grand Prix was over. Nelson Piquet Jnr didn?t make it past the first lap either ?ǣ 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?s 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 ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ 11 laps before Massa needed to ?ǣ wrecking Vettel?s hopes of repeating his Monza win.

That left Massa with a 4.1s lead over Alonso and the Renault driver?s hopes of beating the Ferrari took a battering when, on lap 34, Massa unleashed a lap of 1?13.755, 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 ?ǣ but most of them would end up coming back in one more time.

Alonso and Hamilton pitted together on lap 40 ?ǣ 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?s 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 ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ 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?s Toro Rosso was tantalisingly out of reach.

On the McLaren radio Martin Whitmarsh was telling Hamilton to keep it cool ?ǣ because the Toyotas were starting to struggle. His problem was Glock was coping with the conditions far better than Trulli ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ but he was weeping with sadness, not joy. Not his home victory nor Ferrari?s 16th constructors? title could ease the pain of having the drivers? championship torn from his grasp at the last gasp.

He was flanked by Alonso and Raikkonen. Glock held on to sixth ahead of Kovalainen ?ǣ so his gamble actually paid off ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ 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

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

  1. zerogee said on 2nd November 2008, 23:30

    @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.

  2. 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.

  3. Rob B said on 2nd November 2008, 23:33

    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!!

  4. David Watkins said on 2nd November 2008, 23:36

    Filipe

    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

  5. Filipe said on 2nd November 2008, 23:44

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

  6. 27.
    You are looking too narrowly at the lap times. It’s true that Jarno and Timo ran the same approximate lap time, but they did it in vastly different methods.

    Jarno ran faster throughout the last lap when comparing lap times with the rest of the pack. As the sectors progressed, he gained ground.

    Timo did the opposite… running the worst sector three time of the race. Jarno, running on the same tyres, pulled much closer to Timo throughout the last lap of the Brazilian grand prix.

    I’ll admit that traffic makes this analysis imperfect. But the confluence of events at the end of this race is peculiar. Clearly, even Jarno was gaining on Timo at the end of this race.

  7. AJ Ball said on 2nd November 2008, 23:48

    Martin Brundle seems to be the only commentator in whole world who spotted the pass as it happened and called the finish correctly!

  8. David Watkins said on 2nd November 2008, 23:55

    Will

    Sector 3 began just as Hamilton and Vettel passed Glock (just before Junccao)

    In S1 and S2 of the last lap, Glock was 2.3 seconds quicker than Trulli. His sector three is irrelevant as his goose was already cooked before it started.

    Trulli finished 13 seconds behind Kovalainen who did the last lap 20 seconds quicker so Kovi must have passed him early in the lap.

    So Jarno, other than backmarkers, had no-one to bother him after that. Whether he had trouble with backmarkers I don’t know

  9. David said on 3rd November 2008, 0:07

    Was this the first race where a driver had to compete against four drivers from the same team (Ferrari of course): Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso and Vettel?!

    Will. A Brazilian reporter said he saw Timo’s tyres after the race: some completely worn down to the canvas. He just had zero grip by the end.

  10. ajokay said on 3rd November 2008, 0:18

    Trip Hazard (#8)

    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.

    I totally agree that after a whole year of racing, you sometimes do not get to see the Champion be crowned after they finish the final race if they’re not on the podium. At every other sporting event you see a ceremony for the winner: football, the olympics, tennis, you name it, whereas I believe F1 hides it all away at a VIP’s only dinner-awards-type thing in January. They’re really missing a trick there by not letting the fans see the champion crowned. Plus I’m sure they could make some money out of it.

    Interesting point made by Keith there as well, where was Trulli’s penalty for ‘pushing another car off the road’? I seem to remember that 3 weeks ago, the stewards were very quick to punish a certain someone for doing the very same.

  11. David Watkins said on 3rd November 2008, 0:22

    In some ways I’m glad there was no public presentation. It would have been merely an orgy of abuse from the “fans” (by no means all of course but a significant number)

  12. Im so glad hamilton won, but i got to say Massa is going to be on fire next year and i hope he can strike back with WDC!

  13. David Watkins said on 3rd November 2008, 0:24

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=XR36LbhBAg4

    teehee. Here’s the Spanish TV live coverage. They (unsurprisingly) didn’t notice them passing Glock and were thus dumbstruck when Hamilton was shown as finishing fifth.

    You need to understand Spanish to register the stunned disappointment in the commentators

  14. As a Ferrari supporter, I do not blame Glock. Well…I do just now (;-)), but I know he didn’t hand it to Hamilton, there was little to nothing he could do to retain that position.

    In the end, it was one of the most exciting finishes to a race, a championship deciding race at that, and if last year it was all about the fat lady singing, then this year’s been wait till she’s finished her song. Taking a snapshot of the positions when Massa crossed the line, he was champion – little surprise about the pre-celebration in the Ferrari camp.

    Commiserations also to DC. I somewhat knew his car wouldn’t make it to the end, but didn’t think it would be Senna S on the first lap. That was pretty harsh, but then again, it’s summed up his season pretty succintly.

  15. Erik G said on 3rd November 2008, 0:32

    Congrats to Lewis on the WDC – he earned it. Kudos to Massa, too – a sad scene to watch as the emotions poured out of him after coming so close. I do think the points system ought to be revisted – there’s something not quite right when the driver who wins the most races during the season isn’t champion…

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