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

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  1. Alelanza said on 3rd November 2008, 22:38

    So, how many other drivers have been champions on their second year? there’s Jacques… who else?

  2. Santi said on 3rd November 2008, 22:50

    @DONALD

    This is from El Mundo, one the serious newspapers of Spain

    “Me dijeron por radio que necesitaba estar delante de él (Vettel). No podía creerlo. Pero en la última curva pude pasar a Glock. Sólo puedo dar gracias a Dios”.

    I´ll translate it for you. ” They told me on the radio that I needed to stay ahead of him (Vettel). I couldn´t believe it. But in the last corner I could get past Glock. I can only give thanks to God”

    There you are. They told him dont take that easy, you are lost. But he couldn´t bear it. That is way I do think he is not a worthy champion, only the deserving this year´s champion. He thanks God not the marvellous computer system of McL.

  3. Toncho said on 4th November 2008, 11:37

    I hate the guy but well any champion deserves the title, so congratulations to LH and all fans.
    I was also not big fan of MAS at the begining but I have to admit my view has changed a lot during these months. Everybody always remember the Silverstone race but if we consider that he is not at best in wet (and we had plenty of that this year), realibility problems and team mistakes (pits) and that after all that he was SOOO close to win… then you have to respect the guy. If you add a perfect weekend and very dignifing behaviour after the race then you have to admire him.

    A word about MCL. I can not believe that they did not learn anything from past mistakes. Even if they won, RD made a very risky strategy and LH, what on hell was he thinking to go so wide with Vettel so close!!! Then don’t tell me he knew about Glock, he tried to pass VET but somehow was not able, looked paralised… As I said any champion deserves the title but he better improve as next year I anticipate that RAI and ALO may be back in business.

  4. As a McLaren fan I’ve never liked Hamilton but I am relieved (as opposed to joyous) for their win. As a said McLaren fan needless to say I’ve never been big on the enemy, Ferrari, especially during the Todt-Brawn-Schumy era.

    And I have been one of the biggest scoffers of Massa’s chances and abilities. All that has changed, at least for me.

    Here’s to you Felipe. You showed more class than any other driver of late, who has come so close only to lose it all in the end. As you stated at your press conference, you know how to win and you know how to be gracious in defeat. I would dare say that you gained more fans by losing the title than if you had won. Count me amongst one of those converts.

    And what of next year? I can only hope that we fans will be witness to the unrealized title clashes we expected from Senna and Schumacher by the duo of Hamilton and Massa. And for years to come. Congratulations Felipe, you may not have won the title but you are furthest from being a loser than I could ever have imagined.

  5. beneboy said on 4th November 2008, 19:03

    Becken:
    “could you report here what Anthony has said about the Brazilian fans, please?”

    At the end of the race Anthony Hamilton was interviewed in the pit lane by ITV, the fans booing in the background was very loud (on my Hi-Fi anyway :~>) and he mentioned that it was sad to hear them booing & that they should maybe be a bit more respectful.

    That isn’t a direct quote, just what I remember watching live on Sunday.

    To be fair, if Felipe won the championship at the last corner, under the same circumstances and it was at Silverstone then I reckon there’d be a fair bit of booing too & I can understand how gutted they all felt.

    In AH’s defence it must be horrible hearing your son being booed by anyone, especially when he’s just won his first F1 title.

  6. Bene – Thanks, mate. I´m from Brazil and I must to say that this is completely embarrassing. I just finish an article on my blog reporting this shame and condemning such a disrespectful act.

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