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. Everybody keeps going on about all the mistakes Hamilton made during the year… Just remember its only his second year in F1 and he is up against guys like Alonso and Kimi and Massa..AND BEAT THEM (Without any help).. Well Done Lewis.

  2. Mr Soap said on 3rd November 2008, 13:13

    “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. ”

    Well, not quite. Villenueve did, Hakkinen did, And Raikkonen also beat him in 2005.

    F1 history does not begin with Alonso, I’m afraid.

    I can’t see why you’d think Raikkonen didn’t deserve it last year, and I’d disagree with you regarding this year to.

  3. Donal said on 3rd November 2008, 13:29

    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 :-)

    actually santi you are wrong there. we only see the sector times but the teams have access to GPS on every other car and all this is fed into computers back at base. so they knew exactly how glock was doing and the computer would have been screaming at them that lewis would catch him!

  4. Romain from Grenoble said on 3rd November 2008, 14:16

    Wahoo. What a race. What a finale. I must confess that before this last race, I was rooting for Ferrari (or more accurately, against McLaren and Ron which I don’t like). But now that it is Monday, I remember why I watch F1 : for these racing moments, when there is rain and overtaking. Because whoever won the title yesterday, the real winner was racing. These last 10 laps were incredible, at first waiting for the rain, then everybody pitting for wet tyres. Kubica unlapping himself, forcing Lewis wide, Vettel passing him. My heart stopped at that moment. But there were 2,5 laps left (or 1,5?), I was screaming my support for Sebastian, and I could just not believe it, that Lewis was 6th.
    And then, the Glock incident. I had not noticed he had not pitted, and was running with dry tyres. (And I didn’t hear the french commentary since I was screaming my support for Sebastian). When he was overtaken, I though he was a lap down, and useless for the championship.
    Massa crossed the line on the final lap, soon followed by Alonso and Raikkonnen. I told myself “OK, 3 more to go, Glock/Vettel/Hamilton, and it’s in the bag”. One of them was missing.
    Another great racing moment was Fernando overtaking Heikki at the beginning of the race, a move that took place in Turns 1, 2 & 3. Good job, Fernando.
    Finally, good job to Lewis for this championship (although he was very lucky several times this year :p), good job to Felipe for being fair in losing (great attitude on the podium ceremony), and good job to Fernando and Sebastian for these final-rainy-laps-overtakings.

    Now I have one question regarding Vettel comments, something along the line “I didn’t know the outcome on the championship of me overtaking Lewis, I was just focused on the racing” (more precisely : http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/71962).
    – Is there some indication on the steering wheel of the position of the car? (i.e. P5, P6)
    – Do you believe Sebastian didn’t know he changed the “virtual world champion”, by relegating Lewis to P6?

    Ok, the cars are fast, you don’t have much time to think about these details, but these racers think fast too :) . I’d rather think Sebastian knew all this.

    PS: no way Timo let Lewis through at the end.

  5. Man, my heart was pounding the last few laps and man I was bumed when I thought Lewis was going to lose it again by a point, but then he gets around Glock and he is the WC. That was the greasest finish I have seen all year. OK now who else besides me was waiting for the STEWARDS to comes out with some penalty!

  6. hyper said on 3rd November 2008, 14:57

    congrats to lewis. Well done.Wish they (McLaren) had to win this race, hence setting up the car to be more competitive.You are now in a select group of successful black champions in they sport.ie Tiger Woods,Serrena Williams.I am sorry but I can,t feel sorry for massa after he drove into Hamiltons car a few races back. As for Alonzo, he can take his tongue out of the fiarrari rear end now.

  7. well done lewis

  8. Looking at the race, you have to point out that McLaren did everything possible to lose this championship. The qualifying strategy turned out to be very questionable. The heavy fuel in both cars let ALO and VET jump KOV and put immediate serious pressure on Hamilton. Then they brought Hamilton in too late for the first stop, allowing ALO and VET to leapfrog into a lead that could not be reversed with a “conservative” performance. Further the low downforce plus heavy fuel scenario knackered Hamilton’s tires throughout the race so at the end he was easy pickings for an STR. This race was a strategic disaster that Hamilton basically rescued for the team by for once keeping his cool.

  9. Corking race, terrible tactics from a lucky McLaren, deserved world champion goes to Lewis thankfully…

  10. Phil B said on 3rd November 2008, 18:05

    Well done Lewis! To get that championship he had to beat Ferrari, the FIA and the Stewards not just Felipe Massa.

    Well done to Massa as well for taking it so well, although I’ll never tire of watching that Ferrari garage turn from celebration to anguish. Never tire.

    O and Max, after this year not only does the whole world know what a sexual freak you are but you can’t even rig your own championship successfully. Ha, idiot! Hamilton reigns, lets have more of the same next year.

  11. MattMann said on 3rd November 2008, 18:19

    Wow, well it took me a while to get my head round that one! I was supporting Massa but was really pleased for Hamilton. Formula 1 is the star though, this season has been unforgettable!

  12. DMW I’m not sure I agree with you about the McLaren tactics. If it wasn’t for the rain I’m sure they would have been a comfortable third. In both situations where tyre changes were required, they did the only thing they could do and covered Massa. They couldn’t have brought him in any earlier and only lost out to those taking a gamble. It worked for Vettel and Alonso but not for Glock, luckily for Lewis!

    I do agree that they were probably wrong about Kova. They should have fuelled him light and got him up front. He has failed miserably as a ‘rear gunner’ for Hamilton over the last few races of the season. Whereas Kimi played a massively important role for Ferrari – the start at Fuji, the change round at Shanghai and taking points off Lewis in Brazil.

  13. That was quite a race! I cannot recall when a championship went down to the wire like that, apart from when I watched the movie ‘Grand Prix’.

    Despite having won less races than Massa, Lewis Hamilton deserves to be crowned champion – and I speak as someone who doesn’t particularly like the guy. He may be an arrogant sod who has the potential to end up thinking that he’s bigger than the sport (his dad seems to think that already to judge by his comments about the Brazilian fans after the race), but he has been THE driver to watch this year. Being arrogant makes him the successful driver he is. He has taken risks and, although they haven’t always paid off, he has been well rewarded for doing so. F1 is more exciting for his presence.

    Interesting to see what the British press has made of it; from what I read today, they’ve already convinced themselves that Hamilton will dominate the sport for years to come. We shall see, but I do hope that they’re not implying that they’d like to see a return to the days where one driver bestrodes the sport like a colossus.

    I don’t believe the ‘Glock’ conspiracy for a minute, though it did make me laugh! Face it, conspiracy fans, Glock and Toyota gambled on not changing tyres when the weather changed, and he lost places on the last lap as a result. It could just as well have gone the other way, with those who changed – ie. just about everyone else in the top six – struggling instead. That’s racing; gambles like that don’t always pay off; just look at what happened to Kubica at the start.

    And now – roll on 2009. I look forward to a season in which McLaren and Ferrari are challenged on a consistent basis by the likes of Renault, BMW Sauber and Red Bull, where drivers like Vettel and Kubica pose a serious threat all year, where daft stewards’ decisions don’t interfere with the race, and where Jenson Button might (just might!) end up driving a slightly more competitive car than the one he’s had to put up with this year.

  14. (his dad seems to think that already to judge by his comments about the Brazilian fans after the race)

    Nick,

    could you report here what Anthony has said about the Brazilian fans, please?

  15. Santi said on 3rd November 2008, 21:22

    So DONALD

    You are telling me that McL had in their computers the data taken from the GPS that LH was overtaking Timo within 15 sec. after the end of the race? And also you are asking me to believe that?

    IΒ΄m so sorry, but you know, I canΒ΄t take it. And not because of the computers, because of the human factor, you have to introduce such amount of data regarding the changing conditions in the track, tyres temp., grip,traffic,data from Lewis car, etc.. that they surely would still by now introducing that data in their Pcs.

    It is quite easy to say after the race everything went like planned, just to take out what for me was a paralized Hamilton when Vettel got past him. That is my point of view, of course LH is the one who can say if IΒ΄m wrong, but I read today that he said “Glock has done a good jod letting me past instead of taking me out of the track”. No comment for it.

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