Massa… Devastated

Massa pulls up at the end of the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix knowing he lost the championship

Note from the Ed: This is a sample of the Author’s circuit profile guide, the most complete available on the net

2008 Brazilian Grand Prix – Misery for Massa as Hamilton is Champion

Is it really 8 years ago already? Coming into the final race of the 2008 season, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton seemed to have his hand on his first drivers title, needing only a fifth place finish to guarantee the title over Felipe Massa in the Ferrari, but after his experience in 2007, when he had seen a 17 point lead over Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen evaporate with 2 races (and 20 points) to go, he would be taking nothing for granted.

In qualifying Felipe Massa kept his hopes alive with a pole positon, while Hamilton was in fourth place behind Toyota’s Jarno Trulli (2nd) and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. On race day it rained, and the field lined up on the grid on wet weather tyres. The first four got off the line in order, but the racing was stopped before it could get going, with the safety car deployed on the first lap after a couple of crashes behind the front runners, David Coulthard’s Formula One Career being ended by the team that gave him is break as he was hit by both the Williams cars, and Nelson Piquet spinning his Renault out all by himself.

Giancarlo Fisichella took advantage of the safety car to pit for inters on lap 2, with the safety car pulling off on lap four. Fisichella began to top the times, and one by one the cars started to come in for inters. Ferrari pulled Massa in first of the front runners on lap 10, while McLaren brought in Kovalainen and left Hamilton for the next lap, pitting just behind Raikonnen and Trulli. When the stops had played out Hamilton was down in seventh, McLaren playing it overly cautious to avoid a DNF that would gift the title to a Ferrari driver for the second straight year. Massa led with Sebastian Vettel (who had made ground after stopping on lap 7) in the Toro Rosso chasing him down, followed by Fernando Alonso (Renault, also pitted on lap 7), Kimi Raikkonen, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli then Hamilton.

Needing only fifth place though things were soon back under control, with Lewis getting by Trulli quickly as Jarno slid wide into Turn 1, and then moving into the all-important fifth position, pulling out of Fisichella’s slipstream and taking the inside position into Turn 1. Vettel was continuing to apply pressure on Massa, but it was no relief to Massa when he pitted on lap 27 (having started on a lighter fuel load Vettel would have to pit twice for fuel), as this promoted Hamilton to fourth. Massa pitted for fuel on lap 38, with Hamilton following on lap 40, and by the time Sebastian vettel had made his second stop on lap 51, the order was Massa leading from Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton. Lewis seemed secure in his bid for the title, but then the rain returned.  Massa was comfortable in front at this stage, but Hamilton had been coming under pressure from Vettel for fourth.

…but when the rain fell this all changed

Never mind, he still had a position to spare, but when the rain fell this all changed, as Toyota rolled the dice and left their cars out on track while the front runners pitted for wet tyres. This meant Timo Glock got the jump on Hamilton, and now Lewis was fifth. Fifth became sixth when Sebastian Vettel passed Hamiton on lap 69 as Lewis ran wide at Turn 12 in the tricky conditions. If things finished as they were Massa would be champion!

Hamilton tried to stay with Vettel, but didn’t look like he could regain his position, and as the crossed the line for the start of the last lap it looked like Massa would pull of a remarkable championship win, with Vettel holding off Hamilton and the next car up the road of Timo Glock some 13 seconds ahead of Vettel. Massa crossed the line to take the win from Alonso and Raikkonen, and as the Ferrari camp celebrated an unlikely championship, the unthinkable happened.

As the rain continued to fall, Glock in fourth was struggling to keep his car on the track, and as he reached the end of the lap, first Vettel, then Hamilton surged by him, with Hamilton taking the fifth place he needed for the title at the same corner where he had lost the position to Vettel a few laps earlier, diving up the inside as this time Glock struggled to keep his car on the circuit! It was a heart-breaking end for Felipe Massa at his home race, who ended the year with six wins to Hamilton’s five but came up agonizingly short of the title, but it was redemption for Lewis, who had so cruelly lost the title the previous season in Brazil when it seemed he had it sewn up with two races to go.

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2 responses to “Massa… Devastated

  1. A read of this story (thanks, marek) tells you how much luck is involved in this – or any – sport. It could just have easily been zero titles or two titles for Lewis through 2007-08. And Massa got screwed out of his best shot at a WDC by the vagaries of Mother Nature. Brutal.

    …and this may be the last chance I get to reprise a pun / gag from a few years back whereby I thoughtfully opine that Felipe’s bizarre accident in qualifying at Hungary in 2009 springs to mind (boom-tish!) as the point where his career started to taper – he was never quite the same again.

  2. Maybe if Massa had done better at Silverstone in mixed conditions,whereas Hamiltons star shone brightly, he would have been champion.

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