Tom Clarkson's 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix race report

Published: 03 November 2008

London motor show video

Lewis Hamilton, world champion. It took until the last corner of the last race of the year, but at last we can write those words. Phew! Pass me a drink.

Beneath this rickety old pressroom at Interlagos, the party is in full swing. Everyone at McLaren is ignoring the rain; they’re walking around the paddock in rocket red Vodafone shirts, the champagne is flowing and Lewis is holding court. He didn’t go to bed after finishing second in the championship last year, so a long night no doubt lies ahead for the boy wonder.

At 23 years 10 months and 26 days, Lewis has become the youngest world champion in the history of the sport. When you think of the names that he’s beaten to that particular accolade – Clark, Stewart, Lauda, Prost, Senna, Schumacher, Alonso – you begin to understand the magnitude of his achievement this year; but boy did he put us through it!

McLaren’s conservative approach to car set-up and race strategy left him in a vulnerable position throughout the 71-lap race. He couldn’t compete with the pace of the Ferraris or Fernando Alonso and he was under constant attack from Sebastian Vettel and Timo Glock. As the cars started their final lap, he lay in sixth place – one short of the fifth position that he needed to secure the title – and it looked as though he wouldn’t make it. We watched in stunned disbelief.

Lewis was still lying sixth when Felipe crossed the line to take his sixth win of the year (and his third consecutive victory at Interlagos). The celebrations began in the Ferrari pit, only for Lewis to pass Glock – the only driver still on dry tyres on the wet track – within 500 metres of the finish line. You couldn’t have scripted it. Or could you?

'Felipe will win the race,' said Bernie Ecclestone on race morning. 'Lewis will win the title.'

Felipe was magnanimous in defeat. 'Congratulations to Lewis,' he said. 'He scored more points than me and deserved to win the title. I know how to win and I know how to lose.' He can be proud of what he’s achieved this year because he’s scored more wins than any other driver and he’s made team-mate Kimi Raikkonen – last year’s world champion, lest we forget – look sluggish.

Whichever way you look at it, 2008 has been a vintage year for Formula One. There have been seven different winners from five different teams and 14 of the 20 drivers on the grid have stood on the podium. Best of all, we’ve got a new, British, World Champion.

Good on you, Lewis.

Brazilian Grand Prix race results

1 Felipe Massa
2 Fernando Alonso
3 Kimi Raikkonen
4 Sebastian Vettel
5 Lewis Hamilton
6 Timo Glock
7 Heikki Kovalainen
8 Jarno Trulli

2008 World Championship standings

1 Lewis Hamilton 98pts
2 Felipe Massa 97pts
3 Kimi Raikkonen 75pts
4 Robert Kubica 75pts
5 Fernando Alonso 61pts
6 Nick Heidfeld 60pts
7 Heikki Kovalainen 53pts

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By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller