F1: The story of a 40-second World Champion - Felipe Massa

2008 Brazilian GP  - Felipe Massa
2008 Brazilian GP Podium - Felipe Massa


It was the last round of the 2008 F1 World Championship at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Two drivers in the fight to be crowned World Champion - Lewis Hamilton vs Felipe Massa.

Hamilton, in only his second ever F1 season, was driving out of his skin for McLaren, having won the first race of the season in Australia and having gone on to win four more.

However, there was a little Brazilian man driving even better - Felipe Massa in the Ferrari. Even after having had to retire from both the first and second races of the season, Massa was still in the championship fight.

The Final Showdown

And this is what it came down to - the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix to end the season and crown a champion.

The stage was set for Massa. A Brazilian driver about to be crowned World Champion at his home race. The ultimate fairytale.

If Massa won the race and Hamilton finished the race lower than fifth, Massa would be champion. Otherwise, Hamilton would be champion.

In Qualifying, Massa put his Ferrari on pole position for the race. Good start. Hamilton was to start fourth.

Come race day, drama ensued. There was mixed weather conditions for the race - dry weather to wet weather to dry again.

But Massa kept his composure. He led from the start, pitted at the right time, drove well and led the race. Just what he needed to do.

With half the race to go, the rain had disappeared and the cars had switched onto dry tyres. Massa was leading the race, and Hamilton was holding on to fifth. Just what he needed to do as well.

One Final Plot-Twist

But with five laps of the race to go, the rain returned.

Massa and Hamilton both pitted again for wet weather tyres, but the Toyota drivers, Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock, decided not to. They stayed on their dry tyres in the rain, and essentially became a roadblock for Hamilton, who as a result now found himself in 7th.

Hamilton took advantage of his superior grip to overtake Trulli. He was now 6th. Still not enough.

1 lap to go.

Half a lap to go.

Time’s up?

Up ahead, Felipe Massa had won the race.

Hamilton was in 6th. Still not enough.

Why is the fat lady not singing yet?

On the last corner of the last lap of the last race of the season, ahead of Hamilton, Timo Glock made a mistake, sliding whilst driving on his dry tyres on the wet track.

That was enough for Hamilton. He seized the opportunity and overtook Glock on the last corner.


Ferrari, the Massa family, and the nation of Brazil were up in celebration.

But it was not to be.

Hamilton came home to finish fifth. It was now enough.

Lewis Hamilton was world champion.

Felipe Massa did everything he possibly could do that weekend. Pole position, fastest lap, and race win. A perfect F1 Grand Slam in front of his home crowd.

But it still wasn’t enough.

His dream had come true for about 40 seconds and then it was snatched away from him forever.

The moment Felipe Massa realised what had just happened
The moment Felipe Massa realised what had just happened

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