Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
On 2nd November 2008, Felipe Massa won the Brazilian Grand Prix. It was at the same time, the best and the most heart breaking victory of the Brazilian’s career. For a matter of seconds, those that separated his crossing the line, with Hamilton’s passing move on Glock, he was world champion. Going into the race, that scenario had seemed but a dream, as it would require closing a seven point gap to the McLaren driver. But towards the end of the 71st lap of a very exciting race, it seemed as though it was about to become reality. The Ferraris were in first and third places on the grid, with Felipe and Kimi respectively. Five minutes before the off there was a tremendous downpour which forced everyone to switch to rain tyres.
The race started normally, with Felipe keeping the lead and Kimi tagged along with Trulli, but the Safety Car came out immediately following a collision between Coulthard and Piquet. The race was neutralised to the end of lap 4, as track conditions quickly improved, so that from lap 7, some drivers, apart from Fisichella who’d already risked it on lap 3, began switching to dry tyres. Among the lead drivers, Vettel and Alonso were the first to stop on lap 9, followed by Felipe and Kovalainen on lap 10, while Kimi, Trulli and Hamilton pitted next time round. Those who came off best from the turnaround were Vettel and Alonso, who found themselves second and third respectively, behind Felipe’s Ferrari and ahead of that of Kimi, with Hamilton seventh, behind Fisichella and Trulli. It then became a tale of two races: the first concerning Felipe and the fight at the front, which involved the top four and the second to with Hamilton’s attempts to get into a position that could bring him the title. Vettel was on a three stop strategy and therefore had a much lighter car than Felipe, so that he always managed to stay very close to him.
Alonso was also very quick and for a long time there was little to split the top three, while Kimi was unchallenged in fourth, around ten seconds behind. In the meantime, Hamilton had got up to fifth on lap 18 and then began to manage his race in conservative fashion, trying to keep at five seconds off Kimi. On lap 27, Vettel pitted, rejoining sixth behind Glock. Felipe continued to lead, with Alonso a few seconds behind, while Kimi was still 10 seconds off the Spaniard. On lap 38, Felipe made his second stop, followed by Alonso and Hamilton on lap 40. Of the lead group, Kimi stayed out the longest, who pitted on lap 43. After the run of stops, Felipe was still in the lead, followed by Vettel, Alonso, Kimi, Hamilton, Kovalainen, Glock and Trulli. The German, in his Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso made his third stop on lap 51 and rejoined in between the two McLarens. At this stage, Kimi caught right up with Alonso, while Vettel was in Hamilton’s wake. The final drama once again involved the elements. In fact, the rain returned just after lap 60 and by lap 63 almost all the drivers came into the pits for rain tyres: the only ones to stay out on dries were the two Toyotas. On lap 66, one behind the other, in came Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Vettel, while Felipe waited one more lap. On lap 68, Felipe led from Alonso, Kimi, Glock, Hamilton and Vettel. The German easily got by a struggling Hamilton on lap 69, putting him out of the title zone. Felipe was was heading towards a second win on home soil but still had to wait to discover the outcome of the world championship. The decision went the other way when, just a few corners from the flag, Hamilton retook fifth, as Glock was struggling on dry tyres. The race thus ended with Alonso and Kimi joining the winner on the podium, with Vettel fourth and Hamilton fifth to take it by the skin of his teeth.
The Scuderia was left with the satisfaction of taking its sixteenth Constructors’ crown, the eighth in the last ten years, while Felipe proved he was a true sportsman during a truly moving podium ceremony. “It’s been an emotional day,” said the Brazilian. “We did everything perfectly and we almost managed it. Then, after I’d already crossed the line, Rob told me that Hamilton was fifth and so the championship went to him by a point. These things happen in sport and we have to accept it. Congratulations to Lewis: the one who scores the most points deserves the title. I am very proud of the whole team for how much support they gave me during this fantastic season. Today, we should be happy for what we have done: we have brought home a Constructors’s title and I know how important that is for the team. I leave Interlagos my head held high, because I have won once again in front of my home crowd and because this will always be an unforgettable day.”It was also Felipe’s last win in Formula1. All Ferrari fans hope that in his last three races with the Scuderia, Felipe will make it to the top step of the podium, maybe even in Interlagos: it would be the perfect way to end a great story and at least partially make up for what was denied him on 2 November five years ago.