This article was written by Stew, a talented and passionate writer for BMWF1blog.
If you could have thought of an exciting way to end the 2008 F1 season at Interlogos in
Brazil, you wouldn’t have come close to one of the most exciting championship races ever. I though I’d seen it all over the years, but certainly nothing like this. The weekend at the Interlogos circuit began on Friday and it soon became apparent that this year the circuit was on the side of Ferrari, but with the threat of rain throughout the weekend and the McLaren better in wet weather, no one could say for sure who of any driver on the grid would win.
The stage was set with Lewis Hamilton of McLaren 7 points clear of second place Felipe Massa and with the two of them fighting neck and neck all season, the scenario for each driver was simple. For Felipe Massa to win the championship, he had to win the race and Lewis Hamilton had to finish in the top 5 to win the championship. It all sounds fairly simple especially for Hamilton, but this weekend there was a lot at stake for other drivers and teams. BMW Sauber drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld wanted to secure their overall third and fifth place finishes, positions that were far from secure coming into this race. It didn’t stop there as there were many other drivers needing a good finish both to secure their overall final placing as well as impress their employers for next season and maybe beyond.
The weekend up to the race remained dry and as expected, Felipe Massa secured a dominate pole position showing at his home circuit that he was there to win and from pole there wasn’t anyone I could find who would pick anyone else to win the race. Just about 10 minutes before the race was to begin, the skies over Interlogos opened up in a short but substantial downpour that lasted only about 5 minutes, but enough to thoroughly soak the surface. The race was delayed another 10 minutes and just about all driver changed from dry weather tires to intermediate wet tires, but Robert Kubica did not and as the parade lap finished he peeled into the pits realizing that hydroplaning around the circuit just wasn’t good enough.
The race got underway with Massa maintaining his lead, teammate Kimi Raikkonen 3rd, and Hamilton’s teammate Heikki Kovalainen dropping to 6th. Turn 2 was the end to a stellar career for David Coulthard when he was hit by Nico Rosberg, spun and then hit by Kazuki Nakajima. A heart breaking way to end a fine career. The race progressed with Massa pulling away and Hamilton safely in 4th and it remained fairly status quo until the track dried sufficiently to come in for dry tires. Fernando Alonso ever attentive pitted quickly, Vettel who would come into play much later made a short pit stop suggesting a 4 stop strategy and ended up 2nd behind Massa.
This quick pit stop by Vettel made him the first key player in the finish of the race. The second key player became Timo Glock when on his second pit stop he took on enough fuel to go the distance. By mid race it was clear that Hamilton was driving a fairly conservative race just to remain in the top 5 while Massa was charging in his own groove to a race win, but Sebastian Vettel was closing the gap on Hamilton, clearly quicker and intent on passing him.
Then with 8 laps to go, RAIN, but how hard would it rain? Only slightly at first and no need for a tire change. 6 laps to go and the rain falls harder. Vettel fancies a chance at Hamilton pulling up next to him for the pass and 4th place, but not close enough. Now it’s time for intermediate tires! Hamilton and Vettel come in together on lap 5 and leave together, but Timo Glock in the Toyota remains on dry tires and takes 4th from Hamilton. It’s nail biting time now for the McLaren crew with Hamilton in 5th and Vettel faster in 6th, he’s got to keep Vettel behind him or lose the championship.
With 2 laps to go, Hamilton bothered by a lapped Force India runs wide making the pass and Vettel almost takes him. Robert Kubica in the BMW Sauber who had been lapped but keeping pace behind Hamilton and Vettel joins the fight and it’s 3 cars together with 2 to go. Kubica then decides to unlap himself passing Vettel and then immediately Hamilton who lets him go, but runs wide on the pass by Kubica and Vettel jumps in and takes Hamilton moving into 5th and with 2 to go Hamilton is now in 6th and out of the championship. Vettel increases the gap and Hamilton has nothing to give to reclaim 5th spot.
One lap to go and Glock, on dry tires and now heavy rain is in 4th and 15 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Is he going to be able to keep his position on dry tires? Meanwhile Massa comes through to take the checkered flag and win the Brazilian Grand Prix, but he’s got to wait for Hamilton to know if he’s stolen the championship. 3 corners to go, the main grandstand in sight and with Glock now slowing dramatically, Vettel and Hamilton steam by putting Hamilton back in 5th and in championship winning position. He crosses the line in 5th to win the championship.
A very dramatic finish to the final race of the season in Brazil. Lewis Hamilton claims 2008 F1 Champion with 3 corners to go.
For BMW Sauber fans it wasn’t quite the race to remember. The pace wasn’t quite there throughout the weekend and with Nick Heidfeld starting in 9th and Robert starting last from the pits due to his late tire change before the race it wasn’t pretty. Neither Robert or Nick had any grip during the race and at times Robert was the slowest on the track. In the end Nick finished 10th with Robert in 11th both a lap down.
It was a great season however for the BMW Sauber team who achieved all of their goals and more. From a 1-2 finish in Canada (which I was able to witness) to the most reliable car in the field, 11 podiums and 3rd in the constructors championship. We couldn’t have asked for more from a very young team.
Look out for BMW Sauber next season with new rules and very new cars, it should be another great season.