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. David – thanks, wish I spoke some other languages, wretched philistine that I am. Still, something to do in the off-season…

  2. David Watkins
    3rd November 2008, 2:04

    Andrew Smith

    If Toyota had changed to wet tyres Glock would never have been in front of Hamilton.

    And I’d like to know when he was lucky because of the weather?

    “being at the right place at the right time”

    what does that mean?

  3. If it wasn’t for Vettels move on Hamilton and Glocks risky strategy staying out on the dry tyres this race would just been so ordinary and boring so I think we all have to thank some of these drivers for bringing some of the most exciting racing we have seen in along time even if some of us hated the end result.

  4. Keith Collantine, and you think Massa deserved to Win? FIA favor Ferrari and handled down stupid penalty which got him a lot of advantage. Plus Raikonnen let Massa pass him during the Chinese Grand Prix to the the extra point.. All in All Hamilton deserved his win.

  5. A lot of this drama came down to the first 3 corners. I know I’m down on Kovalainen, but the 2nd and 4th place cars were the two that blew by #23 on lap one. Alonso plain schooled Kovy on lap two and then left him for dead—my palms began to sweat as soon as I saw Kovalainen disappear behind Alonso. Because at this point a “conservative” race for Hamilton became an attempt to beat the likes of Glock and Vettel while saddled with a precautionary freight of fuel and running low revs. With the top 10 covered by a second in performance terms, that was not going to be easy. It wasn’t.

  6. Keith@

    The comment ‘same team’ was fairly tongue in cheek! However, I didn’t mean Alonso and Vettel wouldn’t have fought Massa, only that both are probably looking for a Ferrari berth and wanted to make their claim very clear (to Ferrari).


    Thanks for posting the clip. Bueno repeatedly shouting ‘Seguuura Vettel!!’ (‘Hold on to it Vettel!’) was almost unbearable at the time!


    Agree completely. I think McLaren very often over-elaborate. The extra fuel off the grid proved useless when everyone had to come in after a few laps anyway. They also have to be careful about curbing Lewis’s racing instinct with these conservative strategies. FIA are already doing that with their penalities this season.

  7. I’m not a Lewis supporter, but I must say the WDC trophy must feel much heavier and more substantial in his hands. Here’s what he had to overcome to get this:

    1. Inconsistent FIA
    2. Useless teammate
    3. Psych games from a two-time world champion
    4. Animosity from other drivers
    5. Inexperience
    6. Boo-ing crowd; thousands of them

    Maybe he deserved some of the above, maybe not. But he finally did what it takes.

    Let’s hope the top 5 finishers this season get almost equally competitive cars next season -it’ll be great.

    Thanks to Keith for a great content and community.

  8. Kevin – No, I don’t think that (don’t think I said so either?) More on that here though: Felipe Massa: a class act

  9. there is no logical reason why glock or toyota would “give” fifth place to hamilton. its quite obvious he and toyota took a risk by staying on slicks. hamilton (and vettel for that matter) were just much quicker, just like how alonso and the bmws made up tons of places on the last lap at spa.

    i think in more ways massa was actually “given” the chance to challenge for the title in front of his home crowd, to provide a final-race showdown, by the stewards of course – what with the spa penalty, bourdais/fuji penalty, perhaps his own valencia non-penalty. credit to him for driving well and winning convincingly but for hamilton to have lost the title would have been a huge injustice.

  10. I’ve watched the replay several times… Glock’s line was pretty dry. I still really believe that Glock hit the brakes big time at the end of this race. This was not Spa or Silverstone. The conditions, while damp, were not so unbearable that Glock had to crawl into the finish. There’s just no way he had to slow down like that so close to the end…

    Is Hamilton still a legit champ? Probably. I would agree with most here that Hamilton was screwed at Spa. Obviously, he’s a historic champion as well… and does deserve to be celebrated.

    Do I think of Glock as much less of a racer? Yes.

    I’m not sure what history will say about this year. Lots of controversy: several great races and several absolute duds. Nonetheless, I hope we can all agree that F1 is far better off when the championship is competitive. While I am hugely disappointed by what I perceive as Glock’s unsporting behaviour, its still a better ending than having Schumacher wrap things up in July.

    Parity is, ultimately, good for F1.

  11. Spectacular finish, just the right amount of rain at the right times (maybe not for the Toyotas) to spice things up..

    Well-deserved champion but I do feel for Massa. To me, it is just strange that Massa has more wins yet Hamilton takes the title. Consistency is important, but winning is even more so. I’d prefer the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system.

  12. Almost forgot, splendid drive by Vettel… the Red Bulls were very far down though, don’t know if going there is a mistake, have to see their 2009 car.

  13. Marvelous race, loved it.
    BTW Will, u know there’s such a thing as telemetry, to which the FIA and more crucially, toyota have access right? So you are implying that a young driver with a bright future would throw away his future career in order to get what? what’s in it for Glock? i’d say you better come up with something better than money

  14. Love the comment from Whitmarsh to ITV “we knew Hamilton would easily catch & pass Glock”. Well dopey why did you tell him he had to attack and pass Vettel and have him nearly run himself off trying then?

    Really … what a McLaren stuff up all weekend. No wing for the rain and no chance for Kovy to run foil with even less wing and a dumb fuel load … crikey maybe Mercedes should look at pensioning Whitmarsh as well as Dennis! Who in the pit is going to be able to tell Mr Hamilton and his dad and their egos that they know better than them now?

    Congratulations to Hamilton’s supporters anyway, a win is a win.

  15. Andrew Smith,

    Lewis just lucky? Right place right time? Hmm..what does that make Massa then who happened to be 2nd at Belgium and luckily inherited the win from Lewis?

    This is the problem with FIArrari fan boys, they’re just damn blind. I hate FIArrari and don’t want Massa to win but I must admit that he drove a strong race and deserved the win, plus he was dignified at the end. But take a look at the whole season and probably the last few years at how everything conspired to try to block Lewis from winning (and McLaren too) but God is great.

    Even tho I support Lewis, I felt his win this year was not that strong and that Massa did put in a great effort. But pls Andrew, Will, Amy and other blind Tifosi, even tho you are blind, your other senses still work. Pls use them.

  16. What if Hamilton couldn’t get his steering wheel back on? The tv coverage showed him struggle with it for at least a minute. I’m guessing the stewards would’ve had something to say about it.

  17. I call it karma, baby. The comedy act of Spa no longer matters. As a devote McLaren fan i shed a tear today.

    How ever i really feel sorry of Massa, to lose it like that, after thinking it was in the bag. It really felt like this was perhaps Massa’s one and only chance with all the talent filling up the grid.

    Congratulations Lewis. Amazing!

  18. Well done to Hamilton – and yes hard luck for Massa – but thank god that Massa didnt win the championship – because all those dubious penalties/descisions by amatuer stewards and fia(persons) – would have meant that all during the off season – we would have the tiffosi lauhing and us cursing their friends in low places.
    As for glock – he didnt give the position up he was struggling for grip – so roll on next year and more quality arguing on the site – thanks for that Keith

  19. i just want to see hamilton’s onboard camera video while kubica was unlapping himself and glock’s on-board video in the final two laps….

    anyway great win. hamilton totally deserves to be world champion


  20. @Will
    Different race tracks have different grip characteristics. If you have any experience of driving a car, even a road car, you will appreciate that fact.
    Its very easy to criticize from the comfort of your living room.
    In my opinion Glock will be the very last person to want to hand Hamilton any extra point after their clash at Monza.

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