Monday, November 3, 2008

Brazilian GP: Lewis Snatches The Title From Massa

Sunday 2nd November 2008

Felipe Massa did everything he could to win the World title but his victory in Brazil wasn't enough to stop Lewis Hamilton from clinching the Drivers' crown in the most exciting finish to any F1 Championship.

After a delayed start, the result of a brief deluge moments before the start, the race got underway with Massa leading from pole position while Hamilton slotted into fourth place.

That's how it stayed in the opening stint before the drivers pitted for dry tyres with Hamilton then dropping down to sixth place as Massa continued to hang on in front of the chasing Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton gradually elevated himself to fourth place until the closing laps when another period of rain dropped him to fifth place, and then a catastrophic sixth place after he was unsighted by Robert Kubica who unlapped himself in a bizarre incident which the FIA will need to look at.

The McLaren driver tried in vain to chase down 5th place Sebastian Vettel but then with one corner to go the pair of them overhauled the struggling Timo Glock and robbed Felipe Massa of the World Championship he thought he had just won.

Race Report
While the grid was clearing at the five minute mark at Interlagos, the skies suddenly opened and it started to rain, sending the teams scurrying for the pitlane and Intermediate tyres.

The start was delayed by ten minutes allowing for the conditions to be assessed before the race got underway, a sensible decision by Race Director Charlie Whiting. The rain was brief, but despite assertions that it would soon burn off, it lingered on the outside of the turns at the Senna Esses for the whole race.

As the tyre warmers came off it was clear that everybody had opted for the Intermediate tyre apart from Robert Kubica, who sped down the pitlane after the parade lap to change from Slicks to Inters.

As the lights went out it was a fairly restrained start with Massa leading Trulli into Turn 1 followed by Raikkonen and a fairly slow Lewis Hamilton overseen by Heikki Kovalainen who got a faster start but let his team-mate through.

Sebastian Vettel got a great start and jumped ahead of Fernando Alonso and got a run on Heikki Kovalainen going through Turn 2. However going down the straight to the Lake Descent turn, Vettel edged Kovalainen onto the grass, a reckless move on the opening lap of a GP with the entire pack following.

Further back, Nico Rosberg slammed into the back of David Coulthard's Red Bull, ending the Scot's career at Turn 1 and pushing the Red Bull into the unfortunate Kazuki Nakajima. Nelson Piquet also contrived to damage his Renault and was out, though Nakajima managed to limp back to the pits.

The incident released the Safety Car which picked the runners up at the end of the opening lap, the order then being: 1.Massa, 2.Trulli, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Hamilton, 5.Vettel, 6.Alonso, 7.Kovalainen, 8.Bourdais, 9.Glock, 10.Webber.

At the end of Lap 4 the field was released. Now it was a question of judging how soon it would be safe for the front-runners to move from Inters to Slicks. Timo Glock changed on Lap 9, while Vettel, Alonso and Webber came in on Lap 10.

Felipe Massa dived into pitlane on Lap 11, while Kimi Raikkonen, Trulli and Hamilton left it till Lap 12. It was the conservative choice by McLaren and it was too late because by then Vettel and Alonso had slipped through.

As the field reassembled, the order was now: Massa, Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen, Fisichella (who'd stopped early), Trulli and Hamilton now in 7th place.

On Lap 12 Hamilton dispatched Trulli while at the front, Sebastian Vettel had closed right up on Massa, with Alonso a second further back. Trulli then spun at Turn 1 dropping him back behind team-mate Timo Glock.

Having lifted himself into 6th place Hamilton took a few laps to size up Fisichella before putting a very precise pass on him on Lap 17 into Turn 1, having to run on the wet line to make the pass. He was up into 5th and back to a position he could win the World Championship from.

At the front Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel swapped Fastest Laps all the way up until Lap 27 when Vettel pitted for fuel. During his tyre stop he hadn't taken on fuel and so became out of synch with the other cars. He rejoined in 6th place.

A note from Race Control on Lap 26 had said "No more rain expected during the remainder of the race." It proved to be untrue.

On Lap 30 the race order was Massa leading, 4.1 seconds ahead of Alonso who had 10.9 seconds on Raikkonen, who was 5.2 ahead of Hamilton, who only had 1.7 seconds on Timo Glock. And Glock was closing on him. Vettel was 6th and Kovalainen 7th.

Under pressure from Glock, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race at 1:14.159 on Lap 31, a lap later and Timo Glock set the Fastest Lap at 1:14.057, while it didn't take much longer for Felipe Massa to decimate it to 1:13.736 on Lap 36.

Hamilton's gap to Glock was pretty steady at 1.5 seconds until he pitted on Lap 36 to fuel to the end, but the Toyota driver was way back in 14th place when he rejoined.

Massa with the aid of some very fast laps and the absence of Vettel had put six seconds between himself and Alonso by the time he pitted on Lap 38. He rejoined in P4. Alonso and Hamilton pitted on Lap 40 rejoining 4th and 6th.

So the positions on Lap 41 were: Raikkonen (still to stop) Massa, Vettel (still to stop), Alonso, Kovalainen (still to stop), Hamilton, Trulli (still to stop), Heidfeld (still to stop).

Raikkonen pitted on lap 43 and rejoined in P4. The only major change came on Lap 51 when Sebastian Vettel, who'd closed right up on Massa, pitted for the final time and came out behind Lewis Hamilton in fifth. So now it was Massa, Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel, Kovalainen.

In the closing stages of the race Hamilton had it all under control in 4th place. He would be able to let Vettel through - should he need to - and still win the title. He was also was safe in the knowledge that the 6th place man was his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen.

Up in front, Massa was dominating the race with Alonso no threat and Raikkonen reeling him in in third place.

Suddenly, on Lap 57, the BMW race radio reported that we might have rain in ten minutes and everyone held their breath. Lewis had only a 1.2 lead over Vettel and was now lapping close to the pace of the front runners on Lap 61 despite having the luxury of giving up his 4th place to Vettel.

On Lap 64 rain started to fall in the paddock - but how heavy would it be?

Those at the back gambled for heavy rain. In came, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Rosberg, Bourdais, Kubica and Kovalainen on Lap 65. A lap later and Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen were in, followed by Massa on Lap 67. As the field re-assembled it was now Massa leading from Alonso, Raikkonen, Glock (who had stayed out on slicks) Hamilton and Vettel.

But Hamilton was not quick on the Inters and worse, Vettel was pressuring him for his vital 5th place and even worse, Timo Glock looked to have made the right choice to stay out, the rain not really justifying the mass switch to Inters.

Into the mix came mullet-headed Robert Kubica who chose this moment in the World Championship to unlap himself as he'd been tucked behind Vettel and Hamilton. He drove past both of them and as he passed Hamilton, he unsettled the McLaren driver who ran wide allowing Vettel to pass him for 6th place.

With two laps to go Hamilton was now staring at the possibility of a 6th place finish and losing the World title on the amount of race wins. He was not going to get past Vettel. Then, with one corner to go, the slowing Timo Glock came into view, the rain finally getting to his tyres.

Hamilton swept past him and up the hill to take a much deserved 5th place and become the youngest ever World Champion. It was a fitting reward for a patient drive, but cruel luck for Felipe Massa. The Ferrari driver had done everything he had to, in a race in which a fantastic win brought him and the partisan crowd nothing but disappointment.

It had been edge-of-the-seat stuff and the most nailbiting finish to any F1 World Championship - the final result being determined one corner before the finishing line. Sporting drama doesn't get any better than this.


01 F. Massa Ferrari 1:34:11.435
02 F. Alonso Renault + 13.298
03 K. Räikkönen Ferrari + 16.235
04 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso + 38.011
05 L. Hamilton McLaren + 38.907
06 T. Glock Toyota + 44.368
07 H. Kovalainen McLaren + 55.074
08 J. Trulli Toyota + 1:08.463
09 M. Webber Red Bull + 1:19.666
10 N. Heidfeld BMW + 1 laps
11 R. Kubica BMW + 1 laps
12 N. Rosberg Williams + 1 laps
13 J. Button Honda + 1 laps
14 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso + 1 laps
15 R. Barrichello Honda + 1 laps
16 A. Sutil Force India F1 + 2 laps
17 K. Nakajima Williams + 2 laps
18 G. Fisichella Force India F1 + 2 laps
Did not finish
19 N. Piquet jr. Renault + 71 laps
20 D. Coulthard Red Bull + 71 laps

Source : Planet F1

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