F1 Grand Prix Of Brazil

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Hamilton wins Formula One championship

Nov 2, 2008 - 7:31 PM SAO PAULO, Brazil (Ticker) -- Arguably the most dramatic end to a world title race in Formula One history culminated in Lewis Hamilton becoming the sport's youngest world champion.

As thunder boomed over Interlagos, and on a track becoming wetter by the second in the closing laps, the 23-year-old was on the verge of missing out.

Running in sixth and with title rival Felipe Massa running away with the expected race win, Hamilton's heart was about to be broken for a second time, as it was at this track a year ago.

But he can thank Toyota for taking the title as they failed to call in Timo Glock to take on wet tires.

With the German still on dry rubber and running in fourth at the time, he slowly started to drop back.

Just one kilometer from the conclusion of the Brazilian Grand Prix, and at the penultimate corner, Hamilton passed Glock to claim fifth place - and with it the title.

Sporting drama does not come any greater than that witnessed in Sao Paulo on Sunday, leaving Hamilton to join a pantheon of greats.

In the end Hamilton became a champion by a point after so nearly losing it on race wins tie to Massa.

Renault's Fernando Alonso was second, with Massa's Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen third, giving the Maranello marque the consolation prize of the constructors' title.

Sebastien Vettel finished fourth in his Toro Rosso, followed by a relieved Hamilton.

"We've had ups and downs and we've paid for that," a naturally disappointed Massa said. "Sometimes you have a perfect year with a reliable car, and then sometimes you have these ups and downs, and that has been our championship.

"Everybody has worked hard, with heart, and they've done a great job. But we have to congratulate Lewis. He did a great championship, he scored more points than us, and he is a great champion. But I'm proud and I'm leaving the track with my head held high, although with mixed emotions."

Over the team radio, when it became apparent he had taken the title, Hamilton became emotional.

"I'm speechless - that was so pretty close," he said. "You guys have done an amazing job all season. This is for you and my family."

He now becomes Britain's ninth world champion after Mike Hawthorn, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, John Surtees, Sir Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill, the last 12 years ago.

The start was also dramatic, adding to the tension and nerves as the clock ticked down to the five red lights disappearing as a short, sharp, torrential downpour soaked the track a mere three minutes prior to the official start.

At that point all the drivers had settled into the cockpit of their cars ready for the short run down to the defining Senna S series of initial turns.

Hardly surprisingly, Hamilton had been jeered and whistled as his engineers pushed him on to his fourth place on the grid, in contrast to home hero Massa who was cheered to the rafters.

'Team Hamilton' in doctor Aki Hintsa, trainer Adam Costanza, F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh, and in the end his father Anthony, all saluted their boy with a warm, good luck handshake.

But their best wishes soon drowned under the expected heavy rain, albeit no one had forecast it so close to the start that had to be aborted for 10 minutes.

When they eventually filed away, the leaders tip-toed their way through the Senna S, but sadly it was where David Coulthard's 15-year career ended.

The 37-year-old Scot, in his 246th and final grand prix, was hit from behind by one Williams in the form of Nico Rosberg prior to running into the other driven by Kazuki Nakajima.

Although the Japanese managed to keep going, Coulthard's car sadly came to rest in the middle of the circuit, ultimately bringing the safety car into play.

Nelson Piquet, almost certainly in his last race for Renault, was another casualty as he spun off all on his own, smashing into one of the barriers before stopping on the grass.

On a wet track, although already drying in places, the safety car stayed out for three laps before eventually returning to the pits.

Appreciably there were a few twitchy moments for a number of the drivers given how wet the circuit was in places, but they managed to survive for a precarious few laps.

It was all a question of time as to when they would switch to dry tires, with Giancarlo Fisichella the yardstick in his Force India as he had gambled early on.

The veteran Italian had taken on dry tires on lap two at a point when the safety car was on track, and initially, running at the back of the field, he was slower than leader Massa by 12 seconds.

But as the time difference between the two rapidly decreased, and from lap eight onwards the cars filed in.

Come the shake-up, Hamilton had dropped to seventh, a position that would see him miss out on the title, but he soon grabbed sixth when Toyota's Jarno Trulli ran wide on approach to the Senna S.

The young Briton then found himself held up by Fisichella as his team's gamble had propelled him into the points.

It was a question of Hamilton biding his time as he knew committing to an overtaking maneuver would see him step off the dry line onto the wet.

Finally, Hamilton went for it at the start of lap 18, taking the 35-year-old down the inside on entry to the Senna S.

Although they ran wheel to wheel through the left-right-left series of turns, Fisichella kindly did not cause Hamilton any trouble.

From that point, with Hamilton running comfortably in fifth through the second round of stops, the title was in his grasp as the laps ticked by.

But then came an unbelievable denouement that will live long in the memory.

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