2008 Brazilian Grand Prix
|Race 18 of 18 in the 2008 Formula One season|
|Date||November 2, 2008|
|Official name||XXXVII Grande Prêmio do Brasil|
|Location||Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo, Brazil|
|Course||Permanent racing facility|
|Course length||4.309 km (2.677 mi)|
|Distance||71 laps, 305.909 km (190.067 mi)|
|Weather||Rain at beginning and end, otherwise drying|
|Time||1:13.736 on lap 36|
The 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix (formally the XXXVII Grande Prêmio do Brasil) was a Formula One motor race held on November 2, 2008, at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Interlagos, in São Paulo, Brazil. It was the 18th and final race of the 2008 Formula One season. The race, contested over 71 laps, was won by Ferrari driver Felipe Massa after starting from pole position. Fernando Alonso finished second in a Renault, and Kimi Räikkönen third in a Ferrari.
Massa started the race alongside Toyota driver Jarno Trulli. Massa's team-mate Räikkönen began from third next to McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton. Rain fell minutes before the race, delaying the start, and as the track dried Massa established a lead of several seconds. More rain late in the race made the last few laps treacherous for the drivers, but could not prevent Massa from winning the Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel of Toro Rosso finished in fourth place behind Alonso and Räikkönen. Hamilton passed Toyota's Timo Glock in the final corners of the race to finish fifth, securing him the points needed to take the Drivers' Championship.
Hamilton received praise from many in the Formula One community, including former Champions Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher. The McLaren driver also received official congratulations from Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Massa's win and Räikkönen's third place helped Ferrari win the Constructors' Championship. The Grand Prix was David Coulthard's final race; the Scot retired after 246 race starts.
Heading into the final race of the season, McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was leading the Drivers' Championship with 94 points; Ferrari driver Felipe Massa was second on 87 points, seven points behind Hamilton. A maximum of ten points were available for the final race, which meant that Massa could still win the title if Hamilton finished in sixth place or lower. Otherwise, Hamilton would be Champion. In the event of a points tie, Massa would win the Championship on a count-back, having more wins. Behind Hamilton and Massa in the Drivers' Championship, Robert Kubica was third on 75 points in a BMW, and Massa's Ferrari team-mate Kimi Räikkönen was fourth on 69 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Ferrari were leading on 156 points and McLaren–Mercedes were second on 145 points, 11 points behind, with a maximum of 18 points available. If the two Ferraris finished in the top six, the team would secure the Constructors' Championship, even if the McLaren drivers were to finish as the top two. Prior to this race, Hamilton was criticised by many pundits for not keeping a cool head at the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix. The Times columnist Edward Gorman said that Hamilton should win the Championship, but:
Alternatively Hamilton may suffer another one of his rushes of blood to the head and do something utterly unnecessary at Interlagos, just as he did in Japan eight days ago and in Brazil last year, and throw it all away ... Suddenly defending even a seven-point lead sounds a tall order.
Former Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan created controversy when he said that "if Massa tries to take him out as he did in Japan in order to steal the title then Lewis has to be ready for it," adding "If he tries that on then Lewis has to turn his wheel into Massa to ensure he does not finish the race either – he has to take his wheel off." Both Hamilton and Massa rejected the comments; Massa said "Playing dirty has never been part of my game. I don't want anything to do with it. The only thing on my mind is winning the race."
The weekend marked David Coulthard's final race. Coulthard's Red Bull RB4 was decorated in the colours of "Wings for Life", a charity dedicated to raising awareness of spinal cord injuries. Coulthard said "I'm dedicating my last race to the vision of making paraplegia curable". Red Bull Racing received approval from the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, Formula One's governing body, to run Coulthard's car in different colours than his team-mate Mark Webber. This was also the last Formula One race broadcast by ITV in the United Kingdom and Telecinco in Spain; the rights went to the BBC and La Sexta, respectively, for 2009. Also, this was the last race for the Honda team before they announced that they would pull out of F1 due to the global economic crisis.
Practice and qualifying
Three practice sessions were held before the race; the first on Friday morning and the second on Friday afternoon. Both sessions lasted 90 minutes. The third session was held on Saturday morning and lasted an hour. The two sessions on Friday were affected by occasionally damp conditions, which made the track moderately slippery. Massa was quickest with a time of 1:12.305 in the first session, less than two-tenths of a second faster than Hamilton. Räikkönen was just off Hamilton's pace, followed by Kubica, Heikki Kovalainen, and Fernando Alonso. Webber was seventh, still within a second of Massa's time. In the second practice session, Alonso was fastest with a time of 1:12.296, less than six-hundredths of a second quicker than second-placed Massa. Jarno Trulli took third place, ahead of Räikkönen, Webber and Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton only managed ninth place, locking his McLaren's wheels and struggling for grip. Kovalainen was only quick enough for fifteenth position. The Saturday morning session was held on a much warmer track, which reached temperatures as high as 36 °C (97 °F). Alonso was again quickest, posting a time of 1:12.141, narrowly faster than both McLaren drivers. Massa, Vettel, and Nick Heidfeld rounded out the top six positions. Räikkönen only managed twelfth, failing to improve on his times set early in the session.
The qualifying session on Saturday afternoon was split into three parts. The first part ran for 20 minutes and eliminated the cars from qualifying that finished the session 16th or lower. The second part of qualifying lasted 15 minutes and eliminated cars that finished in positions 11 to 15. The final part of qualifying determined the positions from first to tenth, and decided pole position. Cars which competed in the final session of qualifying were not allowed to refuel before the race, and as such carried more fuel than in the previous sessions.
Massa clinched his sixth pole position for the season, and his third consecutive pole at Interlagos, with a time of 1:12.368. He was joined on the front row of the grid by Trulli, in his best qualifying performance of the season. Räikkönen qualified third, though he was happy with beginning the race on the racing line behind his team-mate. Hamilton qualified fourth, half a second behind Massa, having battled both Ferrari drivers for time during the first two qualifying sessions. Hamilton's slow pace in the final qualifying session compared to the first two suggested he was carrying more fuel than his title challengers. Hamilton's team-mate Kovalainen qualified fifth. Alonso, Vettel, Heidfeld, Sébastien Bourdais and Timo Glock rounded out the top ten. Kubica only managed 13th, having struggled with overall grip for much of the day. Coulthard, in his final Formula One race, qualified 14th; Rubens Barrichello, in 15th, was quicker than Honda team-mate Jenson Button in 17th. The Williams and Force India drivers qualified at the back of the grid, covering positions 16 to 20 with Button.
The conditions on the grid were damp before the race, the air temperature at 28 °C (82 °F); rain or thunderstorms were expected. The race was due to begin at 15:00 local time (UTC-2), but was delayed by ten minutes when heavy rain hit the track at 14:56. Every team but one changed the tyres on both their cars from dry-weather tyres to intermediate tyres. Kubica's car was the exception, remaining on the dry set-up. Following the formation lap, Kubica returned to the pits, his team changing the car's tyres to intermediates. This meant the Polish driver would start the race from the pit-lane.
Massa retained his pole position lead into the first corner, followed by Trulli, Räikkönen, Hamilton and Kovalainen. Coulthard was hit from behind by Nico Rosberg into turn two, spinning him around. The Red Bull car then collided with Rosberg's Williams team-mate Kazuki Nakajima. This damaged the suspension and forced Coulthard to retire in his final race. Piquet spun off at the next corner, his car hitting the barriers. Kovalainen was passed by Alonso and Vettel mid-lap, dropping him to seventh. The accidents of Coulthard and Piquet prompted the deployment of the safety car at the end of the first lap. The track conditions began to dry early on; Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella was the first driver to stop for dry-weather tyres, pitting at the end of lap two. He remained in 18th position. Racing resumed on lap five when the safety car pulled into the pit-lane. Rosberg and Button both pitted on lap seven, each changing to dry-weather tyres. Bourdais, Glock, Adrian Sutil and Nakajima followed a lap later. By lap 11, the rest of the field had changed to dry-weather tyres. Fisichella benefited from pitting the earliest for dry tyres, moving up the order to a high of fifth position.
Nakajima spun on lap 13, losing five seconds on the lap. On lap 15, Massa set a new fastest lap of 1:16.888, and extended his lead over Vettel. Hamilton remained behind Fisichella, and though his McLaren car appeared quicker, he was unable to pass the Force India driver until lap 18. Glock passed Fisichella two laps later. Trulli and Bourdais collided on lap 20 into turn one, sending the Toro Rosso driver across the grass. Bourdais lost six places and rejoined in 13th place. Trulli's Toyota team-mate, Timo Glock, passed Fisichella later on in the same lap for sixth. Massa and Sebastian Vettel traded fastest lap times; Vettel's 1:14.214 on lap 25 was surpassed by Massa's 1:14.161 a lap later. However, Vettel pitted soon after, having been lighter-fuelled than his Ferrari opponent. He rejoined in sixth position, behind Glock. Kovalainen passed Trulli and Fisichella in separate manoeuvres, gaining seventh position. On lap 36 Massa set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:13.736.
Timo Glock was fuelled so he could complete the race without stopping again, when he pitted on lap 36. Massa was the first of the Championship frontrunners to pit, on lap 38; Alonso and Hamilton pitted two laps after. When Räikkönen pitted on lap 43, Massa had regained the lead, ahead of Alonso. Räikkönen rejoined ahead of Hamilton in third place. Fisichella's stop was marred by transmission problems, dropping him to 18th position when he resumed. Vettel pitted again on lap 51, his team fuelling him to the finish. He rejoined in fifth. By lap 54, Massa had extended his already comfortable lead over Alonso to 9.6 seconds. Vettel was closing in quickly on Hamilton, the McLaren driver needing to finish no lower than fifth to win the Championship.
Light rain began to fall on lap 63. Heidfeld pitted and his BMW pit crew changed his tyres to intermediates, echoing their strategy at the Belgian Grand Prix which had granted the German a podium position. Kovalainen pitted on lap 65; Alonso and Räikkönen pitted a lap later. Hamilton and Vettel halted their battle for fourth position when they came into the pits to change onto intermediate tyres on lap 66. Glock chose to remain on his dry-weather tyres and rose from seventh to fourth place as those ahead of him pitted. Massa pitted on lap 67, meaning that all of the frontrunners, with the exception of Glock, were now on intermediate tyres. The rain began to fall heavily on lap 69, as Hamilton ran wide, which allowed Vettel to take fifth position. As Massa crossed the finish line to win the race, Hamilton battled Vettel for the crucial point needed to win the Championship. However, Vettel and Hamilton passed Glock in the final corners, the Toyota driver struggling for grip as his dry-weather tyres slid on the wet track. Premature joy in the Ferrari garage soon turned to disappointment as Hamilton finished the race in fifth position, clinching the Championship by a single point and becoming Formula One's youngest Championship winner until Vettel in 2010. Räikkönen's third-place finish behind Alonso was enough to secure Ferrari the constructors' title.
The top three finishers appeared on the podium and in the subsequent press conference. Massa said that he had "almost done everything perfectly", and expressed his disappointment that despite winning the race he had not won the Championship. However, he gave his congratulations to Hamilton for his title win:
We need to congratulate Lewis because he did a great championship and he scored more points than us, so he deserves to be champion. I know how to lose and I know how to win and as I said before it is another day of my life from which I am going to learn a lot.
Massa's Ferrari team-mate Kimi Räikkönen expressed disappointment in the outcome of the drivers' Championship, but acknowledged the support of his team, saying "we won at least the team championship". Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo was reportedly so angry with the result, however, that he destroyed the television he was viewing the race on. McLaren boss Ron Dennis praised Hamilton, saying "He just keeps delivering and, at the end of the day, he's just two years into his career. So there's a long way to go."
Hamilton received official congratulations from Queen Elizabeth II, following similar plaudits from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Opposition Leader David Cameron. Former Formula One Champions also congratulated Hamilton; 1996 Formula One Champion Damon Hill called the McLaren driver "one of the greatest drivers we have had in this country". Multiple Champion Michael Schumacher praised both Hamilton and Massa, saying the Ferrari driver's performance indicated his winning abilities. Massa was praised for his sportsmanship after the race; Joe Saward of GrandPrix.com said "He took defeat with a grace and a style that one rarely sees in modern sport."
However, Eddie Jordan said that Hamilton "didn't really give himself the best chance of winning the championship – and was very lucky". The former team boss called McLaren's strategy "a disaster". GrandPrix.com expressed disbelief in the outcome: "It was a showdown so improbable that even Hollywood would not have made a film of it. The scriptwriters would have been laughed out of the studios." Autosport magazine writer Adam Cooper called the race "epic". After considering other Formula One title finales, Cooper concluded "nothing has ever matched what we saw [in Brazil]".
Timo Glock remained certain the decision to stay on dry-weather tyres, when other teams were pitting for wet-weather tyres, was a correct one: "We were running seventh before the rain came and we would have probably finished there if it had been totally dry. Instead we finished sixth so that shows the strategy was the right one." Glock added that the conditions were so poor "I didn't even know that Lewis had overtaken me until after the race".
Kubica's finish in 11th position meant that he lost third place in the Championship to Räikkönen. After the race, Kubica said "We made too many mistakes during the weekend and this is the result." His team said that they had received the wrong information about track conditions at the start of the race, which led them to keep the Polish driver's car on dry-weather tyres when the rest of the field had changed to intermediates.
David Coulthard expressed his disappointment in his early exit from his final Formula One race, saying that "I'm pretty gutted, it's not how I wanted to end my career." The Scottish driver said that he had planned to perform doughnuts for the crowd, a celebration discouraged in Formula One. Coulthard left Formula One after 15 years with 246 race starts and 13 wins. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said "It's a great shame for David to be eliminated from his last Grand Prix at the first corner, but he can look back on a long and illustrious career where he's achieved a great deal." Coulthard continued to work for Red Bull Racing in 2009 as a testing and development consultant.
|Pos||No||Driver||Constructor||Part 1||Part 2||Part 3||Grid|
|7||15||Sebastian Vettel||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:12.390||1:11.845||1:13.082||7|
|8||3||Nick Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||1:12.371||1:12.026||1:13.297||8|
|9||14||Sébastien Bourdais||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:12.498||1:12.075||1:14.105||9|
|11||6||Nelson Piquet Jr.||Renault||1:12.348||1:12.137||11|
|12||10||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1:12.409||1:12.289||12|
|13||4||Robert Kubica||BMW Sauber||1:12.381||1:12.300||13|
|14||9||David Coulthard||Red Bull-Renault||1:12.690||1:12.717||14|
|19||21||Giancarlo Fisichella||Force India-Ferrari||1:13.426||19|
|20||20||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Ferrari||1:13.508||20|
Standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
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