The Formula One Grand Prix is the most prestigious motorsport series in the world. Lewis Hamilton won his first championship in 2008, becoming only the third driver to do so since 1950. This article examines how he lost then won his first F1 title
Lewis Hamilton is one of the most popular Formula One drivers in history, with an almost unprecedented amount of success. His 2018 campaign was successful until he experienced a catastrophic accident that put him out for six months, losing his first world championship title to Sebastian Vettel. How Hamilton got back on track and regained his place at the top?Lewis Hamilton lost his first world championship in 2007, but then won it back in 2008. This is how he did it. Read more in detail here: lewis hamilton lost championship.
This article was initially published in 2018 to commemorate the race’s tenth anniversary.
At Interlagos in 2008, Maurice Hamilton remembers the most dramatic of championship finishes.
The Brazilian Grand Prix in November 2008 was one of the most dramatic Formula One world championship finales ever.
It all began a year before. Lewis Hamilton arrived to the Interlagos track in Sao Paulo in 2007 with a four-point lead over McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso and a seven-point advantage over Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. He’d already wasted one opportunity to win it all when he memorably beached his vehicle on pit-lane entrance at the last race in China.
After almost colliding with Alonso on the first lap in Brazil, Hamilton fell down the order and, although recovering to a safe place, ran into vehicle issues. Raikkonen was able to take the championship from the two rival McLaren drivers.
Alonso switched to Renault in 2008, and despite two early victories, Raikkonen was unable to match his championship-winning form. That left Hamilton and Massa to contend for the championship, but both missed major chances that year.
With vehicle issues on the penultimate lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Massa resigned from the lead and raced away from a pit stop in Singapore with the fuel line still connected to his car. He went on to finish fifth, with Hamilton in third place. The next race, in Japan, Hamilton collided with Raikkonen after a crazily aggressive start from pole. Hamilton would finish sixth, behind Massa, but he would make up for it in the final race by driving Massa home from pole.
As a result, Hamilton had a five-point advantage over Massa when they returned to Interlagos — points were handed to the first eight finishers (10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1). Hamilton just needed a fifth-place result to become F1’s youngest champion.
Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton stand for the cameras prior of the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, where they would face off for the championship. Getty Images/Mark Thompson
Lewis Hamilton: It was quite tough for me to manage the shame and emotions after losing the title in front of so many people in 2007. I’m an emotional person, and that event was traumatic for me at such a young age.
Felipe Massa: When I first began that week, there was just one thing on my mind: to win the race. I wasn’t thinking about my battle with Lewis since this is the final race, and in the worst-case scenario, I needed to win — that was the only thing on my mind every day since the week began.
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: When you look at people’s recollections of that weekend, it’s rather amusing since the memory differs greatly from the reality. It wasn’t seen as a championship decider; rather, it was seen as Lewis’ coronation, as if it had already been signed, sealed, and delivered.
McLaren engineering director Paddy Lowe: Winning in our sport is really tough — extremely difficult. We’d been battling for a long time at McLaren, and at that point, we’d had a lot of second places; when you put it all up, it’s a lot of near-misses. The last constructors’ championship at McLaren was in 1998, and the last drivers’ championship was in 1999, with a number of second places in between. We’d missed it by a single point with two drivers in 2007, which I don’t believe has ever occurred before. ‘How near can you go without doing it?’ you wonder.
McLaren racing engineer Phil Prew: We had the upper hand in the later half of 2008, but we were squandering points. If you go back to 2007, things were very much the same. That was very much on our minds, and it informed how we handled the weekend, the tactics we used… we were extremely defensive in our approach. And, as the race progressed, it almost cost us dearly.
At first, there was a lot of tension.
Massa was in first place on November 2, 2008. Hamilton qualified fourth, ahead of teammate Hiekki Kovalainen of McLaren. McLaren was confident in its ability to remain in the top five, but the dark clouds over the track foreshadowed a difficult race.
Felipe Massa: To be honest, I didn’t feel a lot of pressure leading up to the race. I was really peaceful, yet I also felt a surge of strength. I had a sneaking suspicion that the weekend was going to be mine. I’d say I got an incredible sensation on the grid from everyone… I was surrounded by a wonderful environment created by everyone, including all of the Brazilians and all of the individuals who were encouraging me in a positive manner.
Circuit announcer Luis Fernando Ramos: I chatted with Felipe for the majority of the lap during the drivers’ procession, which was aired across the track. Felipe praised the audience and complimented them on their talent. They were just yelling out his name. As we approached the last turn — which, considering what occurred subsequently, is comical — I just grabbed the microphone and said, “Who believes Felipe is going to be world champion today!” A enormous clamor erupted, as if we were at a football stadium. I recall saying to Felipe, “Felipe, I have goosebumps, what do you have?” as we neared the conclusion of the march, and he simply replied, “Much more than that!”
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: Felipe has always been a person who wanted someone to wrap their arm around him and show him love and respect, and you couldn’t have asked for greater love and respect from your whole country at that time.
Journalist Luis Vasconcelos: For once, the Brazilian public was on his side. They have never really gotten behind any driver since [Ayrton] Senna. It was always a little skewed. It seemed as though [Rubens] Barrichello was not as excellent as Senna and hence was a waste of time. Felipe lacked Senna’s talent, hence he was a dud. Felipe, on the other hand, had won six races and was vying for the championship. As a result, for the first time in history, Brazilian fans pushed and supported Felipe while booing Hamilton.
Lewis Hamilton: The noise, the atmosphere, everything was insane. Only around 2% of my admirers wanted me to win, while the rest were rooting for Felipe. It was simply so stressful. But I didn’t mind since it was natural. I had all of the backing at Silverstone, but Felipe didn’t.
The rain began to pour as the start time neared, postponing lights out. Hamilton had won in identical circumstances in Monaco and the United Kingdom that year, while Massa had battled with the rain.
Stadium announcer Luis Fernando Ramos: It was nerve-wracking to say the least. When it began to rain, I thought to myself,’s—-, it’s wet, it’s over,’ since Felipe’s reputation in such situations was not good.
Felipe Massa: Then we had to wait in the vehicle, which was an odd experience. Something told me that this may be for the best or that it could bring about some adjustments in the race. I know that in the dry, Lewis had a strong opportunity to collect a lot of points, so this may potentially affect the race.
1st 63rd Lap: On a knife’s edge
Felipe Massa takes the lead into the first turn. From fourth place, Lewis Hamilton (grey and red vehicle, yellow helmet) is close behind. AFP/Getty Images/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA
Massa took the lead smoothly, and Hamilton avoided any early turmoil. Another collision prompted the deployment of an early Safety Car, and the rain soon stopped. Hamilton was one among the last to swap to the dry tyre, temporarily relegating him to sixth place behind Giancarlo Fisichella.
McLaren racing engineer Phil Prew: We didn’t want to be the first to go to dry tyres because we didn’t want to take that risk. The guy who did it moved up the grid, and so it’s like, s—-, we should be fourth here, but we’re fifth — but fifth is still fifth, so that’s OK. We were able to make some extremely bold selections in those races that year because of Lewis’ talent in the wet, which he’s had from the beginning. He’d won at Monaco and Silverstone, as well as some very good wet races, so it should have been a great chance for us.
Lewis Hamilton: We knew exactly what we needed to accomplish and how many points we needed to get. That, I suppose, influenced what we did since we didn’t have to put everything on the line to win.
For the most of the race, the championship fight was razor-thin: Massa had a comfortable lead, while Hamilton alternated between fourth and fifth, good enough for his maiden title.
Dark clouds hung over the Interlagos circuit the whole time. Before the chequered flag was raised, there would be another rainstorm.
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: Felipe was driving the vehicle that day, and he was fantastic. He was just galloping ahead. You can hear it in his voice, you can see it on the telemetry, you can see how hard he’s pushing — you know we’ve got a lot of speed. He’s eking it out little by bit as the race progresses, despite the fact that the whole pack is behind him and scrambling.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali: Out in front, Felipe was flawless. He demonstrated why he deserved to be champion, which he would have been had it not been for our mistakes early in the season.
Felipe Massa: When I switched to the dry tyres, the race became a lot easier for me since my speed was so fast that I was able to close the deficit. I had a rather easy race until it began to rain again towards the conclusion of the race, at which point everything changed.
Lewis Hamilton: I was fairly comfortable when it began to rain, and all I cared about was having a clean race. Everything was perfect until the rain began to fall again.
63rd lap: A game-changer
Until the late rainstorm in Interlagos, Lewis Hamilton was in command. Getty Images/Paul Gilham
On Lap 63 of 71, light rain began to fall. Hamilton, who was running fourth, stopped two circuits later for the ‘intermediate’ wet-weather tyre, as did Sebastian Vettel of Toro Rosso. The next lap, Massa made the same stop. While the majority chose the same path, two automobiles made a vital decision to choose a different path from the others.
Toyota had left Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli out on the dry tyre in the hopes that the rain would remain light enough for them to make it to the finish line without having to pit. Glock was promoted from seventh to fourth as a result of the decision, putting Hamilton in fifth place behind Vettel’s Toro Rosso. The fight for fifth place has turned into a championship-deciding contest.
Toyota driver Timo Glock: The cloud above me became larger every time I passed through Turn 3, Turn 4, Turn 5, and towards the center of the circuit. I warned them it was almost certain that the final one, two, or three laps would be hectic, and that we should be prepared to replace tyres. We’ll remain out since they think it’ll be dry till the finish of the race, they added. ‘Listen, in the final two of corners on the course, it’s going to piss it down heavily, and it’s going to grow worse and worse,’ I warned them. They indicated there were already people coming in to replace tyres, but that staying on dry tyres was a better plan for us. That’s exactly what we did.
Stadium announcer Luis Fernando Ramos: ‘It’s all in Vettel’s hands, he needs to pass Lewis for Felipe to have a chance,’ I told my co-commentator when the Toyotas remained out. Then it occurred!
Journalist Luis Vasconcelos: There has always been an unwritten rule in Formula One that you don’t battle title contenders in the final race if you aren’t one of them. Vettel, on the other hand, was not informed of this.
Hamilton, who is being pursued by Vettel, is unlapped by Robert Kubica’s BMW on the inside of the circuit’s penultimate turn, Juncao. The frightened McLaren driver then made a vital error, going wide and enabling Vettel to pass.
With just three circuits remaining, Hamilton found himself in sixth place.
Sebastian Vettel: I had no notion I was going to have an impact on the title at the time. It was only logical to accept the position when Lewis moved wide. I was racing for Toro Rosso for the last time, and I wanted to finish as high as I could.
Hamilton, Lewis: ‘Man, you’ve got to be kidding me, not again,’ I recalled thinking.
McLaren racing engineer Phil Prew: That was an awful moment, like if we’d simply thrown it away again. All of the disappointments from 2007 surfaced once again. Disappointment on a whole other level. Then you bounce back to reality and realize you’re still racing.
McLaren engineering director Paddy Lowe: For those few minutes, I had practically given up on Formula One. It was a case of ‘this is too much, I can’t handle it, I’m resigning.’
Felipe’s brother, Dudu Massa: We began some celebrations in the Ferrari garage when Sebastian overtook Lewis. But I recall my father and I telling people to calm down; my mother was crying, and my father implored her, “No, no, wait till he finishes.” We told folks to hold off since it wasn’t over yet.
Hamilton spent the following two circuits attempting to catch and overtake Vettel in order to reclaim the world championship lead.
Lewis Hamilton: That was a dreadful experience. I recall Sebastian being right there, but I was unable to approach him. My tyres were freakin’ over-inflated, so I just remember feeling like my mother was on the verge of falling over a cliff, and I couldn’t reach out and grab her. I didn’t know what else to do.
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: From that moment on, it became really impossible not to be completely focused on Lewis. You know your race is down to the last few laps; Felipe has been near-perfect, and he’s not going to let you down.
Felipe Massa: Rob was continually telling me, ‘OK, Lewis is sixth, but the race hasn’t ended yet, it’s pouring, anything can happen, so be focused.’ He was continuously speaking to me in this manner, so I never thought to myself, “I will be the world champion.”
Timo Glock: “I need to come in since it’s already pouring at the final turn,” I informed the crew on the second-to-last lap. They said I couldn’t since the pits were already closed and personnel were preparing the space for Felipe and the top three drivers to park their vehicles. Because there were people roaming around the pit lane, I was not permitted to enter; instead, the staff told me to “keep out.”
McLaren racing engineer Phil Prew: The rain had become a lot heavier by this point, and Glock’s lap timings began to tumble. We were telling Lewis at the time that the possibility wasn’t with Vettel anymore, but with catching the Toyota. That was certainly a major decision. I believe it was tough for him to absorb in the automobile since he couldn’t see what we see and can just see the individual in front of him.
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: At this moment, all I could think about was how wet the pit lane was becoming. I was thinking’s—-‘ and just yelling, ‘f—-king stop, please just stop f—-ing pouring,’ because the rain was becoming harder and heavier, and I knew what it meant.
Glock’s last sector time at the conclusion of the penultimate lap verified Smedley’s worst concerns. The Toyota driver set a time of 21.8s, three seconds slower than Vettel and Hamilton, who were now just 15 seconds behind them and gaining ground quickly.
McLaren racing engineer Phil Prew: At that time, the sense was quite strong — this is going to happen!
Lewis Hamilton: In the final phases of the race, I honestly felt like my heart was ready to burst. I’m not sure how I managed to keep my calm.
Timo Glock: I began the last lap and it was just so wet, no grip, and I knew it was going to be a huge fight simply to finish because it was going to be much worse towards the end of the track.
A champion… for a short moment
As he reaches the finish line, Felipe Massa lifts his arm in joy. He was the current world champion at the time. AFP/Getty Images/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA
Massa finished the most flawless race of his life in front of his home fans, pointing his finger in the air as he crossed the finish line for the last time.
It would be another 39 seconds until Hamilton took the chequered flag. Massa was the world champion at the time, the first for Brazil since Ayrton Senna in 1991.
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: When Lewis crossed the line in sixth place, the whole f—-ing place exploded.
Felipe Massa: I could feel the ground trembling. The noise, of course, you can’t hear much since the car’s noise was fairly loud that year with the V8s, but I could really sense the people surrounding me, and I could really feel their emotions.
Felipe’s brother, Dudu Massa: We waited a little longer after Felipe completed the race, but the emotions were so strong that one single applaud for someone burst the feelings. Then one of our friends became a bit upset, a huge man, and embraced us, and we lost our cool. After that, everyone went crazy and started bouncing about. I’m not sure how to express it; we’ve gone blind.
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: Everyone was going insane, but I was urgently trying to keep an eye on the monitors in front of me because I could see Hamilton was gaining ground on Glock, who was clearly struggling.
Timo Glock: It was a struggle to keep the vehicle pointed ahead. I was just trying to concentrate on myself and keep the vehicle on the road. I was slipping and sliding all over the place, and all I could do was pray I got it to the end.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh: We were telling Lewis to ‘take it easy,’ because we knew we were going to be racing Glock. We could see Glock moving back towards us on the GPS, and we were certain that we would catch him. But then you start to get concerned: is it really pouring as heavily as you think? Are you sure you’ll capture him? Are we going to get this completely wrong?
Still trailing Vettel, Hamilton attempted one more lunge at the Toro Rosso driver halfway through the penultimate lap, but was unable to close enough to overtake the young German.
Lewis Hamilton: I remember going into Turn 10 and not being able to dive up the inside of him, seeing him get the apex, coming out of it and seeing him pull away as the clock ticked down — 25 seconds or whatever — knowing that my entire year, all of my input, stress, and strain, was going to be lost. But he was standing in front of me, less than 10 meters away.
McLaren racing engineer Phil Prew: At the time, because of the way McLaren’s communications were set up, there was a person on the pit wall named Richard Hopkirk who was interacting with Lewis. All radio protocol was lost to me. ‘Tell Lewis that Glock is the guy we need to concentrate on,’ I said. ‘Well, I can’t tell him right now, he’s coming around a corner…’, Richard replied. ‘JUST F—-ING TELL HIM!’ I cut him off.
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: To celebrate, all of the lads had already gathered along the wall. I was still concentrating on the GPS and trying to figure out what was going on with Lewis. Everyone got crazy and began jumping on me, yanking me out of my chair, praising me, and patting my back. I was virtually lying horizontal in this muck, trying to keep focused on this map, when I saw that Hamilton had past him, and then I watched him eek out on the map. ‘Oh f—-, he’s gone…’ it was like.
‘Does it look like a Glock?’
While most were unconcerned, veteran racing driver Martin Brundle, who was commentating on the English-language international stream, did notice what had just transpired. Vettel and the McLaren driver were seen driving off the racing line to overtake a slow-moving red and white Toyota when the cameras moved to an angle looking down towards the Juncao circuit, where Hamilton had made his error many laps earlier. Hamilton had moved up to sixth place.
Brundle faltered, his voice rising with anticipation as he prepared to make his most famous call.
‘Is it a Glock? Is that a Glock that’s running slowly!?’ “WOW, THAT’S GLOCK!”
TV commentator Martin Brundle: That simply came from me when I realized how significant it was. As a pundit, you have to survive on your wits, which is why I like doing live television. It’s not about taking notes or following a script; it’s about saying what you see and calling it like it is. You realize that it’s all happening in the most amazing, dramatic manner possible: one guy and his squad are celebrating the title, while the other is winning it right in front of your eyes.
Glock, Timo: To tell you the truth, I had no clue who had past me. I didn’t pay attention to any of it since all I cared about was keeping my vehicle on the track.
McLaren engineering director Paddy Lowe: I wasn’t working on the pit-wall at the time, so I strolled down to the end of the pit-lane, on the other side of Ferrari, simply to get away from it all. “Well, it’s all over,” I reasoned, “I’d best come back home.” As I walked down the pit wall, the whole press corps had congregated at the rear of the pit wall, complete with cameras and everything, believing they had won. I couldn’t even get through because I was blocked by all these cameramen and everything, so I simply dove under this sea of people on my own and sailed right past them. ‘Hang on, we’ve done it!’ I thought as I popped over the other side, seeing Lewis overtake Glock on the big screen.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali: It was, as you would expect, excruciating. It was very uncomfortable. I realized right then and there that Felipe’s title was over.
Lewis Hamilton: I was completely unaware that I had passed Glock. I saw some activity and a swarm of automobiles, which I mistook for backmarkers. I had no idea how I got up that hill. It was the most horrible sensation I’d ever had, and as I crossed the line….
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: I was watching, waiting, and praying when Hamilton and Glock swapped places on the timing screen at the finish line. Then it all came to a halt, and everyone was left wondering, “Wait, has he won, has he won?”
Hamilton, Lewis: ‘Do I have it, do I have it?’ I was yelling. Then they informed me as I entered Turn 1. I was overjoyed. That was a life-changing experience for me.
After winning the championship, Lewis Hamilton raises the British flag. AFP/Getty Images/ANTONIO SCORZA
In the pit lane, the dramatic conclusion was yet to be realized. Massa’s family was shown on camera celebrating with Ferrari technicians, while Hamilton’s brother Nicholas and fiancée, popstar Nicole Scherzinger, were captured on camera celebrating with McLaren mechanics.
The awful news spread rapidly around the Ferrari garage and the Interlagos race track.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali: Because the squad was already celebrating behind me, I rushed straight to the radio to notify Felipe’s family that they had lost the title.
Felipe’s brother, Dudu Massa: We were rejoicing when we learned Hamilton had finished fifth, not sixth. The mechanic who informed us Lewis had passed Glock was in worse shape than the rest of us. For a Ferrari technician to then come to the family and tell them, “Felipe didn’t win the championship,” it was the end of a dream for a family, friends, and even a nation. The man was having a terrible time. He was so enraged that he destroyed the wall with his head and everything.
McLaren’s Paddy Lowe: I’m sprinting back to our pit wall at this moment. Nicole, I believe, was exiting the garage at the same time. We were probably two of the first individuals to figure out what had occurred.
The whole mood shifted in an instant, according to stadium announcer Luis Fernando Ramos. ‘When Felipe crossed the line, I was leaping, then I heard your voice over the tannoy announcing Hamilton was fifth….’ a reader commented to my site a few days later. When I heard you say that, it was like a policeman had arrived at my home to inform me that my mother had died.’
Smedley turned on his radio station to broadcast the dreadful news. ‘You’ve done a fantastic job,’ he continued. ‘Way to you, son; I’m really proud of you.’
Massa responded, his voice cracking with emotion: “In any case, I’m really proud of you. With the title, I would have been even happier, but thank you!”
Felipe Massa: I was simply waiting for a message to arrive, which took an eternity. Unfortunately, the message I received was not what I had hoped or expected to hear.
Ferrari racing engineer Robert Smedley: All of our decisions were spot on. Felipe ran a flawless race. From the pit-wall, that was arguably the most flawless race I’d ever seen. I was ecstatic and proud at the same time. It didn’t really strike me until an hour later. So it was one of the finest and worst times of my life.
‘Guys, I’m dumbfounded!’ Hamilton said, opening up his own radio channel to inform McLaren. That was really close…’
Meanwhile, the guy who had become one of the central characters in the story was blissfully unconscious of his part in it, his mind still focused on a strategic decision that had netted him two places altogether.
Timo Glock: I was driving back to the pits when I heard on the radio that Hamilton had won the championship… but no one informed me I was the one who decided it! We were merely relieved that our approach had worked and that we had gained a few spots. So I came to a halt, unsure of what I was doing. Lewis was parked just in front of me, so I got out and congratulated him before heading to the scales, where every motorist is weighed.
Massa lifted his visor and wiped tears from his eyes as he drew into parc ferme on the pit lane.
Felipe Massa: Winning was an incredible feeling, and it was the ideal weekend. But losing in the last yards was difficult… There was no way I wasn’t going to weep. Imagine winning the championship at home; it would have been a surreal experience.
‘There was no way I wasn’t going to weep.’ As he drives up to the area assigned for the victor of the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, Felipe Massa wipes tears from his eyes. Getty Images/Clive Mason
Glock, Timo: I went to the side when I saw a group of journalists approaching me, thinking they were headed right towards Lewis. Everyone, on the other hand, went to me! ‘Was this planned before the race?’ and ‘Did you assist Lewis win the championship!?’ they asked. I was completely perplexed, as if to say, ‘What the heck is going on!?’ I had no idea what had occurred. They just informed me I was the one who had determined the championship after that.
Ferrari publicity officer Luca Colajanni: After the race, several of us in the garage had a sneaking notion that Glock had let Hamilton through in order to deprive Felipe the championship. But it was evident subsequently that he could not have done anything in cold blood.
‘How much did Mercedes [McLaren’s engine supplier] and Lewis pay you?’ said a few of pushy journalists, mainly from the Italian side, pointing fingers at me and accusing me of doing it on purpose. It was a circumstance I never imagined myself in. We also had letters sent to my family’s home, to my father and mother’s, about how I had done this and how people should shoot me since I should no longer be in the sport. I couldn’t comprehend how evil people could be; it was shocking.
Felipe Massa: I’m aware of what occurred. He was driving on the incorrect tyres. I have no doubt that he aided Lewis or did anything on purpose. However, I believe he could have fought a little harder…
Moments after losing the 2008 world title to Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa salutes the crowd from the podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Getty Images/AFP/ORLANDO KISSNER
While a perplexed Glock handled media questions and Hamilton and McLaren celebrated farther down the pit lane, Massa was still compelled to follow the F1 post-race rituals of standing on top of the podium as the race winner. The Brazilian moved to the front of the platform, banged his chest, and let out a heartfelt yell for his home fans, his eyes sparkling with emotion.
Felipe Massa: I felt pleased with myself. The most essential thing a Brazilian driver can accomplish is to win the Brazilian race. I was gazing at the people beneath the platform — my people, the Brazilian people — and all I wanted to do was show them how proud I was to be there and how we always fight until the finish. This was my impression.
TV commentator Martin Brundle: That podium ceremony is particularly noteworthy. Felipe was a generous man. It was a wonderful sports moment for me, but unfortunately not for him. But, in the midst of severe anguish, he handled it with professionalism and a measure of humility. For a brief moment, he saw himself winning the world championship only a few kilometers from where he was born, in a Ferrari, for heavens sake. Now that I think about it, I’m still in anguish for him.
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: It didn’t surprise me since, knowing him, it’s precisely what I’d anticipate from a guy of his caliber.
Journalist Luis Vasconcelos: It was quite solemn and magnificent. The manner he behaved that Sunday night earned him a lot of respect in Brazil. I believe that will always be the picture of Felipe Massa that people remember.
The opposing feelings continued to play out in the Interlagos paddock after the podium ceremony.
After winning the championship in Brazil, Lewis Hamilton celebrates with his father Anthony and stepmother Linda. Getty Images/Mark Thompson
McLaren engineering director Paddy Lowe: That weekend was very hellish for me. It seemed as though I had survived an aircraft accident. We threw a celebration, but to be honest, the one we had the year before after we lost in Brazil was much better. We were at the same place, with the same people, only in 2007 we all had something to forget.
McLaren racing engineer Phil Prew: I used to fill up a racing chart, which was a written page with lap timings, gaps to others, and other information. The majority of the time, they were really meticulous. The one from the race in Brazil has practically no writing on it, save for the words ‘P5, WORLD CHAMPION!’ at the end.
Ferrari racing engineer Rob Smedley: Things was without a doubt the most emotional I’ve ever been at work until it eventually settled. It was quite difficult to cope with. I recall attempting to explain what had occurred to my wife and not being able to communicate with her. I also phoned my mother and father. After that, I believe I was simply looking for a quiet place to have some emotional alone time. It was difficult. For approximately an hour, I wept.
Ferrari team president Stefano Domenicali: I have a lot of respect for Lewis because he is a terrific champion, but Felipe deserved to win that year. He had been the more capable driver. But, due of all that had transpired previously, Felipe had no control over anything.
Lewis Hamilton: I had it the year before, and losing the first year was one of the most, if not the most, traumatic moments of my life. Even though I didn’t expect to win in 2007, the stress and pressure I was under was too much for me to bear — simply, my mind was immature. I don’t know how I would have recovered from that bottomless hole, because I was in one at the end of 2007, to come back and be strong, win the first race of the year in 2008, then go to the end of the year and [almost lose it]… I don’t know how I would have recovered.
Felipe Massa: I would have won the championship if the weather had become worse one minute later. It had to be that that. Things happen for a purpose, in my opinion. Perhaps one day I’ll figure out why.
Laurence Edmondson contributed further reporting.
Lewis Hamilton’s first world championship was a difficult one. After losing the title to Fernando Alonso in 2007, he had to work his way back up from the bottom of the grid. In 2008, he won his second world championship. Reference: lewis hamilton 2007.
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