Brazilian Grand Prix: Reliving Lewis Hamilton's first world title 10 years on

Ten years ago, on a rain-soaked afternoon in São Paulo, Lewis Hamilton claimed the first of his five world ...

Posted: Nov 8, 2018 11:13 AM
Updated: Nov 8, 2018 11:13 AM

Ten years ago, on a rain-soaked afternoon in São Paulo, Lewis Hamilton claimed the first of his five world titles to become the youngest Formula One champion in history.

In 2008, the Brazilian Grand Prix was the 18th and final race of the season and, in theory, should have been a victory procession for the Briton who needed only to finish fifth.

Lewis Hamilton

Sports figures

Felipe Massa

Firearms

Weapons and arms

Automotive industry

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Companies

Ferrari SpA

Motor vehicles

Sports cars

Auto racing

Formula One

Motor sports organizations

Motorsports

Sports and recreation

Sports organizations and teams

Brazil

Continents and regions

Latin America

South America

The Americas

Sebastian Vettel

It turned out to be anything but and is now remembered as an enthralling, nail-biting title decider.

"I just got a chill up my spine because it was an amazing experience," Hamilton later told CNN as he reflected on that first title win.

A late tropical deluge delayed the start of the race and set the scene for an outcome so dramatic, even Hollywood's best script writers would have struggled to imagine it.

From last-lap drama to internet conspiracy theories, it was the race that produced everything.

"Unquestionably the most dramatic (of Hamilton's wins), he didn't know he was world champion until the last quarter of a mile," F1 author Maurice Hamilton tells CNN.

"It was arguably one of the most dramatic finales to any world championship ... I can never remember one as dramatic as that. Up until the last lap you didn't know which way it was going to go.

"It's in the top two or three of the most amazing grands prix I've seen."

READ: Meet the next generation of F1 stars

READ: The British teenager set to make F1 history

Déjà vu?

Hamilton boasted a seven-point lead over Ferrari's Felipe Massa heading into the race at Interlagos, but memories of the previous year's capitulation were very much still at the forefront of his mind.

Just 12 months earlier, Hamilton again led the drivers' championship going into the final race -- four points ahead of McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso and seven ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

After the McLaren pair almost took each other out on lap one, Hamilton went on to suffer car problems and the "Iceman" was able to snatch the title in his first season at Ferrari.

"The events in 2007 made him (Lewis) very nervous, no question," said Maurice Hamilton.

"They should have won that championship and because Hamilton and Alonso were at each others' throats, they finished joint second and Kimi came through the middle and took it.

"The team were very nervous. I'm sure it would have been playing on his mind, he did admit on the last lap he was a complete bag of nerves and driving on adrenaline."

In 2008, Massa qualified on pole with Hamilton fourth and the opening 63 laps passed largely without incident for the two main protagonists.

As the skies cleared and the track dried, every driver in the field switched to dry tires.

Hamilton bounced between fourth and fifth, both positions good enough to win him the title, while a faultless Massa led throughout.

Just as it was looking like Hamilton would cruise through the final eight laps, black rainclouds again began to loom menacingly overhead.

The rain was light at first, little more than a few spots, but just two laps later it was coming down hard enough to convince McLaren that Hamilton needed to pit for the wet-weather tires.

By lap 66, every car had pitted to make the same changes -- except two.

Toyota had decided to keep its two drivers, Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli, on dry tires and kept their fingers crossed the rain held off enough for them to not lose the time gained from choosing not to pit.

The decision initially proved a success for Toyota as Glock rose from seventh to fourth and left Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel fighting it out for fifth.

The young German -- at that time driving for Toro Rosso -- was all over the back of Hamilton's McLaren.

READ: 'The best Lewis Hamilton I've seen in six years,' says Wolff

READ: 'Remarkable' Lewis Hamilton joins pantheon of all-time F1 greats

'I only prayed'

Seemingly out of nowhere, Polish driver Robert Kubica unlapped himself on the inside of the final turn on lap 68.

Shaken by the surprise overtake, Hamilton took a wide path that allowed Sebastian Vettel past. All of a sudden, the 2008 world championship was in Massa's hands.

"Well I never give up, so I kept pushing," Lewis Hamilton told CNN soon after the race. "Right until I got to the line and up until the second to last lap I was world champion pretty much.

"But it's never over until it's over and then I lost position. I only prayed that I could get it back and I couldn't catch this guy (Vettel) and I got to turn 10 of 12 on the last lap and I hadn't overtaken him."

On the final lap, with time and track rapidly running out, it seemed all of Hamilton's prayers were answered. The heavens opened, making is almost impossible for Glock to find any grip on dry tires.

Out in front, almost 30 seconds ahead of the unfolding drama, Massa had taken the checkered flag with a flawless drive on home soil.

His Ferrari garage celebrated wildly, as did tens of thousands of fans in the grandstand who thought they were celebrating the first Brazilian world champion since Ayrton Senna.

But on the 71st and final lap, with the track now sodden after the torrential downpour, Glock had slowed so much both Vettel and Hamilton had been able to make up a 15-second deficit.

"He (Lewis) didn't know what was going on," Maurice Hamilton said. "The team were shouting at him that he had to try and catch Glock and he didn't know what they were talking about.

"He had been trying to get past Vettel, that was his focus. All this is panning out in front of him and he's trying to keep the car on the road because it's wet."

With just one corner remaining, Hamilton edged his way past on the inside of Glock, who by this point was struggling to just keep the car on the track.

"I wasn't close enough to get him (Vettel) by turn 12," Lewis Hamilton recalled.

"It just so happened that it was wet, another guy was going very slow and I managed to get past him," he said, pausing briefly as if to relive that moment.

Conspiracy theories

The realization of what had happened gradually permeated through a jubilant Ferrari garage, causing one mechanic -- in now infamous television scenes -- to smash his head against the wall in anger.

As the sad reality finally set in for the team, the crowd and Massa's family, the McLaren garage spilled out onto the pit lane to celebrate with Hamilton.

"It was hugely dramatic and could have gone either way," Maurice Hamilton says. "If the shower of rain had come a minute later, he wouldn't have been world champion, Massa would have won and he wouldn't have passed Timo Glock.

"It hinges on details like that ... there has been nothing like that since, even in his fights with (Nico) Rosberg and the others there's never been anything as dramatic as that.

"I don't think many world champions will tell you they had a finale like that."

In the immediate aftermath, a confused Glock swatted away questions in the mixed zone suggesting he had deliberately allowed Hamilton to pass.

The pair had been friends coming through the ranks in GP2 and that only served to fuel conspiracy theories that Glock moved aside for Hamilton to win the title, though they are allegations the German has refuted on several occasions.

"It's all over us again ... it's 10 years ago and it seems it's bigger than ever. Lots, lots of Feedback ... at least not all negative," Glock posted on Instagram earlier this month.

"Still as a little reminder for those who still think I did it on purpose (still some out there) ... there is the on-board of the whole last lap on YouTube. At least you can see the difficulties I faced! Enjoy ...."

In what was undoubtedly the most brutal moment of his career, Massa remained gracious in defeat and earned universal praise for the way he conducted himself after the race.

Tears filled his eyes as he stood atop the podium, proud but heartbroken.

"That was so impressive," Maurice Hamilton said. "To think for about a minute that you're world champion at home with all that emotion, you've won the race and done everything you can.

"He drove a brilliant race, faultless and then to have that happen at the end -- he was very, very dignified. It was quite emotional on the podium, it must have been very, very tough to take.

"You don't often see that and it was a tremendous display of sportsmanship considering the terrible disappointment ... and of course he would never get his chance again."

Indeed that would be the closest Massa ever got to winning a world title and he retired from the sport in 2017, the same year Hamilton collected the fourth of his five championship wins.

The 33-year-old has never been pushed so close in any of his subsequent victories, and fans may be left waiting a while longer to witness another grand prix as dramatic as Brazil 2008.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 483790

Reported Deaths: 6543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1003791583
Ramsey42945800
Dakota36091387
Anoka33200384
Washington21986254
Stearns18703200
St. Louis14746262
Scott13209107
Wright12489115
Olmsted1176188
Sherburne869772
Carver765240
Clay688887
Rice667191
Blue Earth591035
Kandiyohi578474
Crow Wing518381
Chisago496844
Otter Tail481370
Benton444890
Winona416649
Mower402731
Douglas392268
Nobles386547
Goodhue384468
Polk342262
McLeod338349
Beltrami336751
Morrison323547
Lyon312444
Itasca311646
Becker309941
Isanti305354
Carlton299848
Steele299211
Pine281916
Freeborn279823
Nicollet256041
Todd246330
Brown243537
Le Sueur233920
Mille Lacs226747
Cass219124
Waseca208617
Meeker206934
Martin188228
Wabasha18613
Roseau179617
Hubbard160640
Houston157114
Dodge15154
Renville149040
Redwood146527
Fillmore13708
Chippewa135935
Cottonwood134520
Pennington131816
Wadena130220
Faribault122716
Aitkin118733
Sibley117110
Watonwan11708
Rock115614
Kanabec107319
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9438
Jackson93310
Swift87918
Pope8025
Marshall77615
Stevens7398
Lake73518
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68216
Wilkin66910
Koochiching61711
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5052
Grant4908
Norman4768
Unassigned44568
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40821
Red Lake3625
Traverse3025
Lake of the Woods2161
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 361499

Reported Deaths: 5412
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58007549
Linn20606312
Scott18279207
Black Hawk16223290
Woodbury14924211
Johnson1380473
Dubuque13522194
Dallas1132690
Pottawattamie10762143
Story1018945
Warren553474
Clinton542484
Cerro Gordo532781
Webster517687
Marshall495572
Sioux493469
Buena Vista472736
Des Moines457061
Muscatine450691
Wapello4314108
Jasper416266
Plymouth394277
Lee374752
Marion358469
Jones294354
Henry293037
Carroll285348
Bremer279154
Crawford273435
Boone259130
Washington253747
Benton252054
Mahaska223846
Jackson221138
Dickinson217238
Tama212965
Kossuth208154
Clay193125
Hamilton191942
Delaware188639
Winneshiek188427
Buchanan184629
Fayette184335
Page182619
Hardin180839
Wright179531
Harrison179469
Cedar177023
Clayton168053
Butler165831
Mills162820
Floyd162740
Madison154018
Poweshiek153630
Cherokee153535
Hancock146729
Lyon145941
Allamakee144946
Iowa144223
Grundy138830
Appanoose138647
Jefferson138232
Winnebago137730
Calhoun133311
Cass133351
Mitchell130640
Louisa128341
Union126331
Chickasaw124813
Sac124218
Emmet120940
Shelby120433
Franklin118419
Humboldt117225
Guthrie116228
Palo Alto104921
Montgomery103936
Howard102821
Clarke100320
Unassigned9850
Keokuk97829
Monroe93128
Adair91928
Ida90832
Pocahontas85219
Davis82523
Monona81527
Greene76910
Lucas73221
Osceola70314
Worth6947
Taylor66312
Fremont5869
Decatur5749
Van Buren56018
Ringgold51820
Wayne48721
Audubon4869
Adams3264
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Mostly Cloudy
21° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 13°
Mason City
Clear
19° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 7°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
19° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 11°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
19° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 11°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
19° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 9°
Tracking a cool start to the work week then a big warm-up!
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Grizzlies clinch playoff spot

Image

Sex trafficking bill

Image

Vigil for Rochester crash victim

Image

Sara's Sunday Night Forecast

Image

Sara's Sunday Evening Forecast

Image

Cardboard sled race

Image

Sara's Saturday Night Forecast

Image

Bleu Duck local food market

Image

Aaron's Saturday Forecast

Image

Lake City athlete inspires community, experiences unforgettable senior night

Community Events