Brazilian Grand Prix 2008 - 15/11/08

A little way before the halfway point of the 2008 F1 championship, the season began threatening to become a classic. Having witnessed what will undoubtedly stand as one of the most dramatic, memorable and last-minute championship deciders in the history of Formula 1, that threat has been realised. When Felipe Massa crossed the finish line at Interlagos in 2008 as the race winner, he was world champion. Thirty-nine seconds later, Lewis Hamilton had crossed the same line in 5th position and stolen the title back from Massa by passing Timo Glock's dry-shod Toyota after Juncao corner.

Had Timo Glock and Toyota followed the same strategy as the other frontrunners and pitted for intermediates, he wouldn't have finished as high up as he eventually did, so that was entirely the correct decision for him and his team. It would have stood as an even better decision had the rain not intensified on the final lap. Sebastian Vettel's pass on Lewis Hamilton came about because McLaren had set up Hamilton's car with little downforce. Compared to Vettel's Toro Rosso, the McLaren's wet weather pace was compromised as it was primed for straightline speed.

Vettel and Toro Rosso (not to mention Fernando Alonso and Renault) had put themselves in a position to capitalise on Hamilton's wet weather pace by pitting early for dry weather tyres. Alonso was able to run and finish as high as second due to the early switch. Vettel spent a significant amount of time towards the front as a result of running a light 3-stop strategy. All of the above combined to allow Vettel a shot at Hamilton in the wet closing stages. Demoting Hamilton to 5th, a thrilling finale was set up.

For their part, Ferrari played clean and gave it their best shot. Much blame has been directed the team's way for pit-stop blunders and reliability issues. At Interlagos, Ferrari and Massa were flawless. Felipe led the majority of the race, being headed only during pitstop windows. On Saturday he had stated his intentions with a quite spellbinding laptime for pole position. Kimi Raikkonen came through in third place having been advised to not take risks with second-placed Alonso.

Before the race, McLaren and Lewis Hamilton knew they just had to stay out of trouble and finish fifth or better for the title, which they did. However, to say they had the ball firmly in their own hands to drop would be to disregard the role played by all of the above competitors. Toro Rosso, Renault and Toyota all made key strategic decisions that made the finale what it was. But is it fair to say that Hamilton was lucky to win the title because of the increase in rainfall right at the end? Is it right for Massa to feel robbed?

There are a number of things that must be remembered above all else. The championship was allowed to be decided by racing teams, racing cars and racing drivers doing what they signed up to do best. Racing. There was no political controversy, no questionable driving or team tactics, no penalties, nothing to cloud the decision. The fact that so much wrath has been directed at Timo Glock is regrettable to say the least. Anyone who followed Glock's exploits in GP2 and Champ Car will know he rolls over for no man, will know that at his core he is a tough-as-nails fighter and competitor who will grab any and every opportunity to move up. There can be no doubting his or Toyota's integrity in this instance.

One must recall Hamilton driving away from the field at China and obliterating absolutely everyone on a washed-out day in Silverstone. One must remember how lucky we've been to have two drivers completely deserving of the title being able to lock horns until the last corner of the last lap of the last race. One must remember that despite all the interference throughout the year, it was settled on the track. And one must ask himself, had Felipe Massa been world champion, would 2008 have been remembered for its last racing lap or replays of penalties awarded for first-corner clashes at Spa and Fuji?

1 comment:

AERO_HDT said...

I am still shattered.

Not because Filipe Massa lost.

Or because Hamilton won.

I'm shattered because I may have missed the greatest F1 race post-Schumacher era, after a season of ups and downs.

Great write up, Maz, your in-depth analysis of the season has been wonderful, it has been a sheer joy to read a fans take on how things have progressed! It takes a great deal of time and committment to do these things and your analytical, unbiased approach has provided me with insight that I never would have considered.

I cannot wait until the new season begins, a worthy World Champion, some emerging young talents and the old-guards, Ferrari and McLaren set to resume their titanic battles!

Thank you for some great entertainment!