Triumph for Hamilton
McLaren ace takes title after nailbiting finish
Hamilton: World Champion
Lewis Hamilton has clinched the 2008 Formula One World Championship after finishing fifth in an incredible climax to the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.
Title rival Felipe Massa won the race and appeared to be heading for the title as Hamilton, who needed to finish fifth, dropped to sixth behind Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel following a rain shower in the closing stages of the race.
After Massa had taken the chequered flag, Hamilton was still sixth and mechanics and family members in the Ferrari garage appeared to be celebrating an against-the-odds success for the Brazilian.
However, in the final few hundred yards of the final lap, Toyota's Timo Glock, who had been running fourth on dry-weather tyres, lost grip and dropped to sixth, allowing Hamilton through to take the place he needed.
He therefore becomes the first Briton to take the title since Damon Hill won the Drivers' Championship in 1996.
Fernando Alonso finished second for Renault, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen taking the final podium position.
Despite Massa's heartbreak, Ferrari's one-three finish in the race means that they have secured the 2008 Constructors' Championship with 172 points to McLaren Mercedes' 151.
Vettel finished fourth ahead of Hamilton and Glock, with the latter's respective team-mates, Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, claiming the final points-paying positions.
The closing moments of the race brought sporting drama at its purest, with the World Championship's destiny moving from one contender to another within a matter of seconds.
Having appeared comfortable throughout most of the race, Hamilton appeared to have lost the Championship with two laps to go and in circumstances even more bizarre than those which played out 12 months ago.
But fortune ultimately smiled on the Englishman, who at the age of 23 years, nine months and 26 days, also becomes the youngest driver in history to become World Champion, beating the previous record of 24 years and 59 days set by Alonso in 2005.
Not for the first time this season, the weather played its part and evidence that the afternoon might prove less than straightforward was apparent when a heavy rainshower deposited its contents just moments before the cars were due to begin their formation lap.
Then, almost as soon as an announcement was made delaying the start by 10 minutes, the shower passed and left teams with a difficult decision: whether to
start on dry or intermediate wet tyres?
The latter proved the tyre of choice and, at the lights, the top four starters held station, with Kovalainen easing his team-mate's passage into the first turn.
However, making his last start before retirement, David Coulthard could only make turn two before a collision with Williams drivers Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima - an incident which brought out the safety car.
Racing resumed on lap five, with Kovalainen, who was passed by both Vettel and Alonso on the back straight on lap one, attempting in vain to get back past the Renault.
Race leader Massa pitted for dry tyres at the end of lap 10, along with fifth-placed Kovalainen, and rejoined the race in fourth behind Trulli, Raikkonen and Hamilton.
He resumed the lead just as soon as the leading trio came in just one lap later. Hamilton fell to seventh, with those stopping early for dry tyres - Vettel, Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella - now in second, third and fifth places respectively.
Hamilton soon gained a place after passing Trulli - who promptly spun down to ninth - and then set about the Force India of Fisichella to take the fifth place he needed.
Hearts were briefly in mouths when the pass came into turn one at the start of lap 18, but Hamilton made it stick.
Meanwhile, Massa led Vettel by one second, with Alonso just over a second behind the Toro Rosso in third. Raikkonen stood fourth, a further eight seconds down.
Hamilton had the position he needed but a small matter of concern was Glock, who had closed to within 1.3 seconds of the McLaren by lap 28 - a threat which, at that stage, proved hollow given that the Toyota was much lighter on fuel.
Vettel made his second stop on that lap and fell to sixth place, bumping Hamilton up to fourth behind Raikkonen and leaving race leader Massa four seconds ahead of Alonso.
Weight fell off Hamilton's shoulders when Glock fell back after stopping again on lap 38, with Massa making his own second stop at the end of the same lap.
Alonso and Hamilton stopped two laps later, with Kovalainen pitting from fifth place at the end of lap 42 and Raikkonen pitting from the lead one lap later.
The order settled down once again, with Massa leading Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton. However, the Toro Rosso needed one more stop and, with that coming on lap 52, the McLaren was back up to fourth.
Dropping to fifth, Vettel started bearing down on Hamilton, but the latter responded and kept the gap static at around the one-second mark.
But the closing laps brought the renewed threat of rain and, with five laps remaining, Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Vettel all pitted. Massa then pitted one lap later.
He rejoined in the lead ahead of Alonso and Raikkonen, with Glock - who stayed on dry tyres - moving up to fourth ahead of Hamilton and Vettel.
However, the young German was now right behind Hamilton and in the position to deprive him of the World Championship.
With two laps to go, the 12th-placed Robert Kubica unlapped himself, with a distracted Hamilton running wide at the last turn and allowing Vettel up into fifth place.
At this stage it appeared Hamilton's chance had gone; Vettel clearly had the quicker car and was pulling away.
With darkness descending on Sao Paulo, its favourite son and his thousands of fans briefly believed motor racing's ultimate prize was theirs.
However, at the death, Glock's tyre gamble failed and brought with it what must be the most unbelievable finish to a Championship yet seen.
FIA Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Leading Final Positions after Race (71 Laps):
1 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1hr 34mins 11.235secs, 2 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1:34:24.533, 3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:34:27.470, 4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:34:49.246, 5 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 1:34:50.135, 6 Timo Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:34:55.535, 7 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren 1:35:06.235, 8 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:35:19.635, 9 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:35:30.835, 10 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber at 1 Lap, 11 Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber at 1 Lap, 12 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams at 1 Lap, 13 Jenson Button (Gbr) Honda at 1 Lap, 14 Sebastien Bourdais (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap, 15 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Honda at 1 Lap, 16 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India at 2 Laps, 17 Kazuki Nakajima (Jpn) Williams at 2 Laps, 18 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Force India at 2 Laps
Not Classified: 19 Nelson Piquet Jr. (Bra) Renault 0 Laps completed, 20 David Coulthard (Gbr) Red Bull 0 Laps completed