The Top-Five Races of the Decade: Interlagos 2008

Adam Flinn@@F1AdamCorrespondent IOctober 14, 2009

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 02:  Felipe Massa of Brazil and Ferrari looks disappointed in parc ferme after winning the race but losing the World Championship at the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos Circuit on November 2, 2008 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

The Brazilian Grand Prix of 2008 was a classic example of how rain can completely change the result of a race within just a few laps. However, this time a lot more was riding on the final positions of this race, as there was a championship at stake.

From a personal view, I would say that this is my all-time favourite race in Formula One history. The tension I felt watching it over the final laps was incredible, and even though Felipe Massa missed out on the title, I knew that a championship would never end so dramatically ever again.

Going into the final race of the year, Lewis Hamilton held a seven-point lead over Massa, and it had a touch of deja vu about it. The same race the previous year, Kimi Raikkonen was trailing Hamilton by the same margin.

Raikkonen had pulled it off, so I would imagine Hamilton must have been slightly nervous.

Massa qualified on pole, with Jarno Trulli an unlikely second. Hamilton was fourth, and only needed to finish the race in fifth to take the title. Massa, on the other hand, needed to outscore Lewis by seven points.

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A few minutes before the start of the race, the rain began to fall. This caused a 10 minute delay whilst the teams changed the tyres. Robert Kubica decided to gamble by staying with a dry setup, but ultimately had to pit on the formation lap as the gamble backfired.

Once the race got going, Nico Rosberg knocked David Coulthard into Kazuki Nakajima. Both Williams managed to continue, but Coulthard was out of his final Formula One race.

Nelson Piquet Jr. was the next driver to crash out on the same lap. Surprisingly, for a race blighted by rain, these would be the only two retirements of the day.

The safety car came out so the accidents could be cleared. Heikki Kovalainen had dropped to seventh by this point, being passed by Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap.

As the track began to dry, Giancarlo Fisichella was the first to pit for dry tyres. This led to him moving up as high as fifth, before he eventually finished the race in last place.

Hamilton was one of the drivers who found himself stuck behind the slower Fisichella, and it was several laps before he was able to get through. Meanwhile, Massa was extending his lead at the front, setting fastest laps as the track dried.

On lap 20, Trulli and Sebastien Bourdais collided, sending the French driver backwards down the order. Timo Glock got past Fisichella, moving up into sixth position.

Little happened during the middle of the race, but Hamilton held onto fourth place, which was all he needed to win the championship.

However, on lap 63, the rain began to fall once again. Alonso and Hamilton both pitted for intermediate tyres on lap 66, with Massa stopping on the following lap. By lap 67, all of the front-runners were on the intermediate tyre, with the noticeable exception of Glock.

As the rain increased, Hamilton made a mistake, and Sebastian Vettel was able to overtake the British driver. This now meant he was in sixth, and in serious danger of losing the title for the second consecutive year.

It was the final lap, and Hamilton was desperately trying to pass Vettel in the Toro Rosso to get that crucial fifth position. The rain was coming down harder, and Massa crossed the finish line to take the race victory.

Coming into the final corner, Hamilton could not find a way around Vettel. However, there was a Toyota on the wrong tyres just seconds in front...

Timo Glock simply had no grip in these conditions, and Hamilton was able to cruise past into the fifth place that would win him the title. Massa's family were being filmed celebrating, until a Ferrari mechanic explained what had just happened. Understandably, they quickly stopped.

As a Massa fan, the tension I experienced on the last three laps after Vettel had got past Hamilton was unbelievable, and I have to admit I was rather upset at what happened. However, looking back now, it was an extraordinary finish to an extraordinary season.

The BBC have a highlights video on their web site for people in the UK, but I don't know how long it will be there for: BBC Brazil 2008

And the other three races I have reviewed so far:
Silverstone 2003
Suzuka 2005
Nurburgring 2007