In a dramatic Brazilian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has finally achieved his dream of winning the Formula One World Championship with a tense and exciting final few laps at Sao Paulo. Title rival Felipe Massa did the best he could by leading from start to finish in a rain-affected Brazilian Grand Prix, but race victory was still not enough as Hamilton was able to come home in fifth position… just!
By winning the title, Lewis Hamilton becomes the youngest world champion in the history of Formula One motor racing. He also joins the list of great British drivers who have won the world championship including Mike Hawthorn, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill.
It was McLaren’s first drivers’ title since Mika Hakkinen back in 1999 and the first for a British driver since Hill back in 1996.
But in the final two laps to the chequered flag, with steady rain falling down, it could have gone wrong for Hamilton as he lost a vital track position when Sebastian Vettel passed him.
At that point, the championship was heading towards Felipe Massa, and when the Ferrari took the chequered flag, everyone believed he did the impossible by winning the drivers’ title in style. But on the final lap as Lewis was desperately trying to pass the Toro Rosso of Vettel, Toyota’s Timo Glock – who was ahead and still running on dry Bridgestone on a slippery surface – was unable to stay on track and dropped down from fourth to sixth, handing the title to Hamilton.
Ferrari still clinched the constructors’ title, with Massa winning the Brazilian Grand Prix and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in third. Renault’s Fernando Alonso drove a solid race challenging the Ferraris and ended the season with a superb second position.
The start was delayed by ten minutes after a brief, but heavy, downpour hitting the Interlagos track just before the mechanics were due to clear the grid. Although the sunshine returned within a few minutes, parts of the race track were damp. And deciding not to take risks, the twenty-car field opted to start the race on intermediates.
As the five red lights went out, Massa headed into the Senna S still in the lead followed by Jarno Trulli, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton. Behind there was chaos as Nico Rosberg tapped David Coulthard into a spin, with the Red Bull Racing swiping Rosberg’s Williams team-mate Kazuki Nakajima. Coulthard was out on the spot and it was a sad and early end to his Formula One career.
Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jr was also forced to retire in his home event in a separate first lap incident.
The Safety Car made its appearance and stayed out for three laps while Coulthard’s car was retrieved from a dangerous position. When the field got going again, Massa edged away at the front as team-mate Raikkonen began to apply pressure on Toyota’s Trulli for second, with Hamilton running in a safe fourth.
His McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen lost out to both Vettel and Alonso in the opening lap as the Finn tried to protect Hamilton. Heikki did get past Fernando at the restart, only for the McLaren to run wide and losing the position again to the Renault.
As the track began to dry out, some teams opted to gamble by running slick tyres. This worked beautifully for Giancarlo Fisichella as the Force India team pitted the Italian at the right moment thereby gaining track position. By the time the rest of the field made its switch to dry Bridgestones, Fisichella was up to fifth, in between Raikkonen and Trulli.
Vettel and Alonso also benefitted in pitting early and the pair was promoted up the order in second and third respectively. Race leader Massa waited until the next stop while Hamilton stayed out one lap too long. Lewis’ caution proved costly, as he rejoined down in seventh place…
Hamilton soon passed sixth-placed driver Trulli, when the Toyota slid wide into the Senna S, but it was not until lap 17 that he was back in the all-important top five race positions when he passes Fisichella at the same corner.
The McLaren driver then gained an extra place when Vettel made an early second pit stop on lap 27. Although the Toro Rosso was temporary in second when the other cars made their final pit stops, Vettel’s final third visit to the pits for new tyres and fuel dropped him back to fifth behind Hamilton.
Meanwhile at the front, Massa was comfortably pulling away from Alonso and heading for the race victory. Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was slowly closing in on Alonso, while Hamilton was still driving cautiously in fourth.
But then the rain showers returned with only seven laps to the finish! Not taking any risks except for Toyota, everyone pitted for intermediates.
By staying out on a wet track with slick tyres, Timo Glock moved into fourth, ahead of Hamilton and Vettel.
It looked like title was still heading to Hamilton’s way until he ran wide at the final corner when BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica decided to un-lap himself! That also let Vettel through and suddenly it appeared that the title had slipped from Hamilton once again.
But within sight of the chequered flag, Hamilton’s luck changed as Glock was losing grip (as much as 17 seconds on the final lap alone!) and it allowed the McLaren to sweep past and back into fifth position. By that time, the Ferrari team was celebrating Felipe Massa’s championship success, but the mood quickly changed as it became clear that it was Lewis Hamilton who won the title.
Poor Massa. The young Brazilian believed he did the job with pole position and race victory. But to lose out by a single point, that is deeply distressing… Though Felipe should be proud of his achievements this season and he did put in a strong performance in the final race.
Heikki Kovalainen finished seventh for McLaren while Jarno Trulli finished in the last point-scoring position with eighth for Toyota, ahead of Mark Webber’s Red Bull Racing and the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld.
So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton for winning the 2008 Formula One World Championship. The 23-year-old Briton had been dreaming this day would come since he drove for the Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes team back last year. Back in 2007, he missed out on the chance to become world champion when he was feeling the pressure from then team-mate Alonso and eventual winner Raikkonen. Fast-forward twelve months on, Lewis has finally accomplished his objective but he must be feeling pretty anxious in those final two laps in Brazil!
Hard luck Felipe Massa, but he will come back stronger and more determined than before in 2009. The Brazilian may not have won the world title, but by finishing first with team-mate Raikkonen third, the Scuderia Ferrari team have achieved their 16th constructors’ title.
And so ends a dramatic and controversial season of Formula One racing. We have seen new winners, classic races and exciting moments in this sport and thanks to the talent of Lewis Carl Hamilton – we have a British world champion.
Race results from the Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo:
1. Massa Ferrari 1h34:11:435
2. Alonso Renault +13.298
3. Raikkonen Ferrari +16.235
4. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari +38.011
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +38.907
6. Glock Toyota +44.368
7. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes +55.074
8. Trulli Toyota +1:08.433
9. Webber Red Bull-Renault +1:19.666
10. Heidfeld BMW Sauber +1 lap
11. Kubica BMW Sauber +1 lap
12. Rosberg Williams-Toyota +1 lap
13. Button Honda +1 lap
14. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
15. Barrichello Honda +1 lap
16. Sutil Force India-Ferrari +2 laps
17. Nakajima Williams-Toyota +2 laps
18. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari +2 laps
Fastest lap: Massa, 1:13.376
Piquet Renault 1 lap
Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1 lap
World Championship standings, round 18:
1. Hamilton 98
2. Massa 97
3. Raikkonen 75
4. Kubica 75
5. Alonso 61
6. Heidfeld 60
7. Kovalainen 53
8. Vettel 35
9. Trulli 31
10. Glock 25
11. Webber 21
12. Piquet 19
13. Rosberg 17
14. Barrichello 11
15. Nakajima 9
16. Coulthard 8
17. Bourdais 4
18. Button 3
1. Ferrari 172
2. McLaren-Mercedes 151
3. BMW Sauber 135
4. Renault 80
5. Toyota 56
6. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 39
7. Red Bull-Renault 29
8. Williams-Toyota 26
9. Honda 14