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?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

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

  1. Mbuyi said on 3rd November 2008, 8:41

    Alonso should learn from Massa and stop being such a sore loser.Nail bitting stuff dont think ive ever seen such a dramatic finnish.

  2. Go Vettel! Go Vettel! I hope next year is much better for you……..

  3. So he’s got the monkey off his back. Well, i was rolling on the floor, not able to control the laughter. Lewis lost the championship. Bugger! Glock ran out of fuel… as the commentary said… I couldn’t but think, it was a lucky championship, as Steve Slater opined. Exact words were, “lucky championship gained for Lewis… unlucky loss for Massa”, so i remember.

    Top drivers in my opinion…
    Fernando… 2 wins in a Renault.. scored more points in last 7 races, than other runners
    Kimi… no doubting his speed…
    Vettel… you have to hand it to the boy
    Massa…
    Kubica…
    Our WDC… truly pathetic… no mechanical/ engine problems year round… yet only one point ahead… i wonder what Patrick Head would have had to say about this… remember he took a swipe at JV for making a “fist of it”.

  4. Cameron said on 3rd November 2008, 9:11

    Next year will be amazing, but i hope McLaren get both Championships next season!

    Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso, Kubica, Vettel, plus possibly some others, fighting for the championship. I can’t wait!

  5. Pedro Andrade said on 3rd November 2008, 9:30

    What a race! Even if most of it was boring, the last 5 laps totally made up for that, it was the best end to a race I’ve ever seen, probably edges Dijon ’79! At the middle part of the race I was yawning, but during those last laps I was literally shaking, and couldn’t stop trembling untill some minutes after the flag, even if I wasn’t rooting for any of the drivers in particular.

    Massa did a great job, as well as Alonso and Vettel. Hamilton seemed way to cautious this time around, but even after Vettel was in front, he didn’t seem to have the pace to challenge him, which I found surprising. Kudos to Timo Glock, made a risky gamble, gained one position I believe with that, but now is facing unwarranted criticism. The people who criticize him are being sore losers, and don’t understand what they’re watching.

  6. Jamie said on 3rd November 2008, 9:31

    It was good to see an exhilarating final race! It’s just a shame people are already intent on spoiling it by somehow suggesting Glock let Hamilton win. It’s a huge discredit to Glock who is a fantastic driver and drove a great season. It’s pretty obvious the dry tires weren’t working for Glock and he was losing momentum before Hamilton had caught him.

    Congratulations to Hamilton anyway. The season was won with flawless drives like Silverstone and China.

  7. What a way to decide the championship, the rollercoaster of emotions everyone must have gone through is what sport is all about.

    Good drive from Massa. After the last couple of Brazilian GPs I thought that Massa would dominate barring unforeseen circumstances. Hamilton seemed to be driving for 5th place for the whole race, and I was worried it would cost him. To people criticising Glock, he was slow because he was on dry tyres on a wet track, if he had pitted for wets like everyone else then he would not have been ahead of Hamilton anyway.

    I was disappointed for Coulthard, to crash out in the first few corners in his last Grand Prix. I am sure no one would have wanted that.

    If Vettel gets a top car in the next few years he could well take the title of youngest F1 World Champion.

    I am glad neither championship was decided by the 7 points from the dubious penalties at Spa and Fuji.

  8. Great race ! ! I am so gutted to miss it. But I am downloading it now :-)

    Perfect race ! ! Perfect championship.
    Lewis wins WDC, Ferrari win WDC ! !I couldn’t be happier.

    Luck did come Lewis’s way, but it was deserved

  9. keepF1technical said on 3rd November 2008, 10:14

    whatever the arguments we are all having with the outcome, just imagine what these arguments would be like if massa was champ. the best man won.

    one thing to pay huge respect to is massa being a great and dignified driver, if not the champion. many other drivers and f1 people (and fans) could learn a lot from his behaviour.

    well done lewis, the championship is won over the whole season not just one high pressure race at the end (i think he knows you can only a lose a championship at the last race)

    also i have to note the lack of enthusiasm on the fia website. in years gone by their site has been plastered with schu and ferrari (or alonso and renault) pictures within minutes of the race finish. this year not even the sunday press conference is up yet. its as if they have spat their dummy out and gone home!

    2009, bring it on… and let racing occur.

  10. Anonymouse said on 3rd November 2008, 10:21

    Anyone heard from Flavio yet? Or is his mouth still stuffed with Crow?

  11. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd November 2008, 10:29

    Motion –

    Love the comment from Whitmarsh to ITV β€œwe 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?

    My reading of Whitmarsh’s quotes is that he didn’t tell Hamilton to pass Vettel:

    We knew we couldn’t take any risks. We couldn’t take any risks with Vettel, he is a young charger, we were saying to Lewis just take it easy.

    We knew we were racing Glock. We came here for fifth place, we could see Glock, we had the GPS and we could see Glock coming back towards us. We had the conviction, that we were going to catch him.

    But then you start to worry, ‘Is it raining as hard as we think it is?’, ‘Are we going to catch him?’ staring at the predictions and wondering whether we had got this wrong.

    [...]

    Obviously we told Lewis, don’t worry about Vettel, Glock’s on dry tyres, you are going to find him in that last lap, but you know, until you do it, you haven’t done it!. Lewis kept his cool.

    I’m sure he was much cooler than the rest of us on the pitwall anyway.

    Alan –

    Roll on next year and more quality arguing on the site

    I think ‘quality arguing’ might become a slogan… Thanks :-)

    Mbuyi –

    Alonso should learn from Massa and stop being such a sore loser

    Alonso did congratulate Hamilton afterwards, which I thought was very sporting. I don’t think the animosity runs as deep as the press would have us believe.

    PJA –

    I am glad neither championship was decided by the 7 points from the dubious penalties at Spa and Fuji.

    Agreed.

  12. Santi said on 3rd November 2008, 11:11

    I agree Hamilton is the deserving champion, as Massa could be, but none of them are worthy champions, too many mistakes during the season, and I found hamilton quite paralized after Vettel got past him. I do not believe that Martin W. told him to take it ease, because you are racing Timo and you can catch him in the last lap, they are not that precise :-)), as they proved to be. Hamilton took Timo in the last sector of the last lap!!. What an end of the season….

    For me the best drivers of this year were Vettel and Alonso in that tuned Renault.

    And Kovi? too much that car for him? We should speak about what has happened to him this year.

  13. Boyce said on 3rd November 2008, 11:21

    I’ve never been a fan of James Allen, but I thought the commentary was pretty good that race. Murray, bless him, really wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on at the end there.

  14. And for the second year we do not have a real f1 champion. The last one is still Alonso and next year he wil show it.

    Dont get me rong. If massa had won the championship i was writing exactly the same. and a team like mc laren has disorve it. And i like close finishing but the mistakes that they made this year it was realy the siliest season of all time.

    I repeat it again Alonso is the only one who won from the big Schumacher and there is no way that Hamilton or Massa in a season like this won from him.

    Last but not least a big congretiolations to all Hamilton fans (whole britain i guess)

  15. qazuhb said on 3rd November 2008, 12:40

    Nice last lap graph on a Brazilian site.

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