F1: Brazilian Grand Prix live blog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, November 2nd, 2008

 
 

It’s now almost eight months since Lewis Hamilton cruised to unruffled victory and Felipe Massa ended up by the side of the road in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix – now the pair face off in Brazil to decide the championship.

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Hamilton has by far the easier task today, leading by seven points and needing only to finish where he qualified in order to triumph.

But Massa is on home turf, starting from pole at a circuit where he always performs well and knowing that his rival has a habit of shooting himself in the foot when starting off the front row in important races.

Just to add to the tension, storms are forecast for later today – although it’s merely cloudy as we write this, a good 90 minutes before the race begins.

Stick with us for the final Brits on Pole live blog of the season, as we bring you all the action as it happens with a bit of commentary thrown in for good measure. As ever, the newest comments will be the ones directly under the dotted line below.

And remember – if you enjoy this live blog, you can sign up for a free e-book with all our 2008 coverage in it – see the sign-up form with this post.

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Post-race Lewis and McLaren reaction:

Martin Whitmarsh has been rounded up by ITV1 and says: “We could see that Glock was coming back towards us and that we had to catch him, but you start to worry – have we got this wrong?”

Lewis Hamilton’s facing a press pack headed by Lou Goodman, to which he says: “I’m speechless.” He says it’s been a long journey with a lot of sacrifices. He says he was comfortable, if on slightly dodgy tyres, before the rain came. “I was trying to get to Vettel but he was as quick as me, if not quicker. It was one of the toughest races of my life.” He says he crossed the line not knowing whether or not he had won the championship. Anthony adds: “It’s a dream, an absolute dream. This is the dream for all the kids and families out there. Huge respect to Mr Massa, senior and junior. They are wonderful people.”

Ron Dennis points out that the moisture running down his face is rain, not tears. Could we ever have doubted it? “We are pleased for the team and delighted for Lewis.”

Asked if there is another Lewis Hamilton out there, Ron says: “He’s very special. He’s not just world champion, he’s the youngest ever world champion.”

And the last ever shot of Steve Rider presenting ITV’s F1 coverage shows his hair, that held on so manfully and for so long, collapsing under the weight of the torrential downpour. Somehow that’s just so fitting…

– – – – –

Press conference: Massa says he had a perfect race in initially difficult circumstances, and that he is very proud of the race and the team’s performance. Poor man is gutted, though. Raikkonen has, of course, got himself back up to third in the championship. Of Hamilton’s late pass, Massa says: “That’s racing.”

– – – – –

Points and standings:

Points from this race:

  1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 10 points
  2. Fernando Alonso, Renault: 8 points
  3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 6 points
  4. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 5 points
  5. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 4 points
  6. Timo Glock, Toyota: 3 points
  7. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 2 points
  8. Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1 point

Drivers’ championship:

  1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 98 points
  2. Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 97 points
  3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 75 points
  4. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 75 points
  5. Fernando Alonso, Renault: 61 points
  6. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 60 points
  7. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 53 points
  8. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 35 points
  9. Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 31 points
  10. Timo Glock, Toyota: 25 points
  11. Mark Webber, Red Bull: 21 points
  12. Nelson A Piquet, Renault: 19 points
  13. Nico Rosberg, Williams: 17 points
  14. Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 11 points
  15. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 9 points
  16. David Coulthard, Red Bull: 8 points
  17. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 4 points
  18. Jenson Button, Honda: 3 points

Constructors’ championship:

  1. Ferrari: 172 points
  2. McLaren: 151 points
  3. BMW Sauber: 135 points
  4. Renault: 80 points
  5. Toyota: 56 points
  6. Toro Rosso: 39 points
  7. Red Bull: 29 points
  8. Williams: 26 points
  9. Honda: 14 points
  10. Force India: 0 points

– – – – –

Lap 71: Jenson Button is lapped but Hamilton’s on the wrong tyres and doesn’t have much grip. Massa is on his last lap and Vettel is off down the road. Glock is OK on his tyres which means Hamilton is not going to be champion unless he really has a go at Vettel. Massa comes through for the win and Hamilton hasn’t got the speed to beat Vettel. But possibly both of them have passed Glock… oh, shit this is tense.

Against all expectation, Hamilton has taken Glock and finishes fifth. Both Ferrari and McLaren are celebrating wildly. The camera lingers on Massa’s father as he realises that Hamilton has pulled it back… “He doesn’t make it easy for himself, does he?” says James Allen. People try to get some quotes out of Anthony Hamilton but he can’t frame a single sentence.

We are, of course, assuming that this will stand and that the overtake will not be deemed to have happened too late, or something.

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Lap 70: Hamilton goes wide and Vettel’s on his gearbox. He’s in traffic. Kubica has unlapped himself and held up Vettel – but Vettel manages to take the place so with two laps left Massa is champion, so it’s all down to what happens to Glock on the wrong tyres, and Massa at the front.

– – – – –

Lap 69: Hamilton is slower than both Glock and Vettel. Let us not forget that Toro Rosso has Ferrari engines. Order is Massa, Alonso, Raikkonen, Glock, Hamilton, Vettel. Vettel is faster than Hamilton, If he takes him, and Glock doesn’t need to pit, then Hamilton loses it. What an end to the season.

– – – – –

Lap 68: Four laps left and Massa pits – a lap later than Hamilton. He’s rejoined in the lead. If it doesn’t rain then someone like Timo Glock is going to take this race. Hamilton is in fifth and now has to keep Vettel behind him if he’s going to keep hold of this race. Problem is, it’s not really raining.

– – – – –

Lap 67: McLaren and Ferrari both out with tyres. Raikkonen and Alonso have both pitted. Hamilton and Vettel both pit. It’s a lottery now.

– – – – –

Lap 66: Clear rain on Vettel’s on-board camera and Heidfeld pits for wets. Vettel close to Hamilton and Raikkonen right up on Alonso. Puddles are forming on the pitlane. Vettel tries to take Hamilton and can’t do anything. His car wobbles like anything. Can Hamilton keep his head, since he doesn’t actually need to hold off Vettel?

– – – – –

Lap 65: Seven laps to go and everyone’s breath is held regarding the rain.

– – – – –

Lap 64: It’s raining in the paddock – but no sign of it out on the track yet. Rosberg told to come in for tyres the minute there’s rain on his visor. Alonso being told a few spots are falling on the main straight.

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Lap 63: Raikkonen has abandoned any idea of backing up Hamilton and is having a go at Alonso ahead. Vettel looming up in Hamilton’s mirrors, but not threatening him. The commentators mention a thought that had occurred to us – that, if Hamilton wins, Ron Dennis might announce his retirement.

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Lap 62: It’s quite hard to see anything that the stewards could possibly investigate today… oh, we’re so cynical. But, after the events of this season, can you honestly blame us?

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Lap 61: Raikkonen is catching up with Alonso quite fast – the gap is less than three seconds. What does the Finn have planned? A Ferrari one-two? A piece of foolishness that takes them both off?

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Lap 60: Is this going to be decided by some random rain-shower? 12 laps left and no rain as yet, but dark clouds coming in towards the main straight.

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Lap 58: “All he wants,” says Martin Brundle, “is a really boring run to the end of this grand prix.” Unfortunately for him, Robert Kubica has just been told that rain is due in 10 minutes. Spa, anyone?

– – – – –

Lap 57: Alonso is being told to keep his foot down in order to stay ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton is doing just enough to keep himself clear of Vettel and avoid an overtaking battle.

– – – – –

Lap 54: 18 laps to go. Can the tyres, engine, hydraulics, gearbox and driver all stay together? Hang on – Vettel appears to be making very good progress in catching Hamilton up. He’s only 2.2 seconds behind him but Hamilton remains unruffled. Possible the McLaren driver is dialling down his second-race engine.

– – – – –

Lap 53: Jenson Button has what is for Honda a good race – he’s in 11th and seven seconds ahead of Rubinho.

– – – – –

Lap 52: Vettel pits, promoting Lewis Hamilton to fourth and Raikkonen to third. Hamilton (whisper it) not looking too bad for the title, but McLaren not anywhere close to the constructors’. Vettel comes out behind Hamilton in fifth.

– – – – –

Lap 51: Mercedes, echoing McLaren’s usual trainspotters’ approach to this kind of thing, has reportedly built a replica engine out of parts from the same batch as Hamilton’s and destruct-tested it to ensure there would be no problems during this race.

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Lap 50: We learn that fuel consumption is lower than expected, due to tyre and wet track issues, and the lap times a couple of seconds off the usual Interlagos pace.

– – – – –

Lap 49: Horrible black clouds looming up – could it still influence the result? Webber comes in for his second stop.

– – – – –

Lap 47: Into the closing stages now, and we’ll see if Hamilton can pull it off. Order is Massa, Vettel who is thought to need to pit again, Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Webber seven seconds back from Hamilton and probably needing to pit, Kovalainen, Glock, Trulli, Heidfeld, Button, Barrichello, Rosberg, Bourdais, Kubica, Nakajima, Fisi and Sutil. Retirements were both on the first lap – DC and Sutil.

– – – – –

Ad break: talk about making lemonade from lemons – the Lewis Hamilton Airfix ad has been re-voiced and fiddled with. Now it talks about sensible, reassuring investment strategy and contains logos for the various banks that Santander have had to fish out of the financial soup. Hamilton’s fellow high-achiever Barack Obama also puts in an appearance…

– – – – –

Lap 45: Button, who clearly hasn’t read the Interlagos script, has just taken Brazilian Rubens Barrichello for 11th place.

– – – – –

Lap 44: Raikkonen emerges in fourth and appears to be a good way down the road from Hamilton in fifth. In fact, it’s 3.2 seconds. Speculation now that few of the leading drivers will have to stop again.

– – – – –

Lap 43: Raikkonen pits – smooth stop. James Allen kindly points out that he’ll be world champion for exactly 28 laps more.

– – – – –

Lap 42: Kovalainen pits from fifth. Less than eight seconds worth of fuel going in.

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Lap 40: McLaren pit crew is out, as is the Renault one. Alonso pits. Raikkonen currently leads the race with Hamilton second and Massa third. Hamilton also pits. It is unclear whether he has been fuelled to the end of the race or not. It is thought that he might have taken advantage of a pit stop to save traffic problems. He’s come out in clear air and sixth place behind Vettel and Kovalainen.

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Lap 38: Ferrari mechanics out and Massa is due to pit. He does so from a 21-second lead over Hamilton. Alonso leads the grand prix. Massa is fuelled short and is expected to stop again. He comes out in fourth place – behind Hamilton.

– – – – –

Lap 37: Speculation that Massa is experiencing neck trouble from the way he’s holding his head. Glock is fuelled heavily enough to go through to the end, but it’s cost him a load of time. He’s come back out in 14th place thanks to nozzle problems and the person who gains from this is Hamilton, previously being caught at the rate of 2/10 sec per lap.

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Lap 36: Half-way point. Massa seems to have pushed the afterburner button – let’s hope he doesn’t find an unexpected cliff-face. Toyota is out in the pit lane and Glock pits.

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Lap 35: Massa’s found a sudden burst of speed and has increased his lead from Alonso. Fisi in eighth might yet get a point for his team.

– – – – –

Lap 33: Hamilton still a comfortable fourth and in line for the title as we approach the half-way stage. He’s nearly 20 seconds down the road from Massa at the moment and starting to pick up his pace to match the leader’s lap times. Brundle remains very uncomfortable about the second pit stops and warns that either Vettel or Glock could really spoil the party if Hamilton doesn’t get a move on.

– – – – –

Lap 31: An on-board camera shows a brake lock-up and a resultant horrible flat-spot on Hamilton’s front left tyre. Alonso’s 4.1 seconds behind Massa as they come up on the back-markers.

– – – – –

Lap 29: Alonso’s in a bind – does he challenge for the lead or not? Thankfully the pace of his car’s a bit short of Massa’s so he may be spared the dilemma. According to Ted Kravitz in the pits Hamilton has nothing to fear from Glock because the rain left Toyota caught short on fuel strategy, as well as Toro Rosso. Vettel, now sixth, is around 10 seconds behind Hamilton and lapping at a similar pace.

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Lap 28: Vettel pits – speculation that this wasn’t part of the strategy and could cost him dear. Kovalainen has taken Fisi and Trulli to get himself up to seventh. Now he might be in a position to help Hamilton who has, thanks to Vettel’s fuel strategy problems, a little breathing space now.

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Lap 25: Order is still Massa, Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Glock, Fisi, Trulli, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Webber, Barrichello, Bourdais, Button, Rosberg, Sutil, Kubica, Nakajima. Raikkonen is 13 seconds off the lead, and Hamilton five seconds behind him. Glock is catching Hamilton.

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Lap 23: Brundle is begging Hamilton to get on with it and close up on Raikkonen. Toyota’s Timo Glock is uncomfortably close behind him. The McLaren strategy is described as “extremely conservative” – why is this a surprise?

– – – – –

Lap 22: Vettel has closed up on Massa and is having a look. He’s lapping faster – how will they manage to penalise him today?

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Lap 21: Trulli and Bourdais are side by side. Trulli has shunted Bourdais off. He should recover, but has lost places to Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello. Brundle describes it as “bordering on rude” and predicts a penalty.

– – – – –

Lap 19: Vettel is currently fastest and is looking to take on Massa. Team radio confirms that no more rain is expected. The three front-runners are lapping at a virtually identical pace. Hamilton is closing up on the back of Raikkonen. Glock is past Fisi and Bourdais has had a look. But the Force India driver is hanging on like fury to his seventh, points-paying place.

– – – – –

Lap 18: Hamilton is past Fisi after a nail-biting overtake and is off up the road in quest of Kimi Raikkonen. McLaren confirm that Hamilton is fuelled long for the middle stint.

– – – – –

Lap 17: Hamilton looked like he might be having a go at Fisi there, but didn’t, largely due to the fact that there’s only one dry line through the wet bit of the track. Alonso is flying at the moment – but does he care more about the win, or costing Hamilton the championship? Fisi on softer tyres, which are presently giving him superior grip to Hamilton.

– – – – –

Lap 15: We’re possibly getting back into the window where rain is due again. If the race were to end like this, the two contenders would be equal on points and Massa would win on countback.

– – – – –

Lap 14: The leading three cars are scampering away. Either Raikkonen is slow or he’s backing up the pack. Massa’s lead is less than a second from Vettel but he’s putting in fastest laps. Hamilton is looking at Fisi but not acting yet. Hamilton is on the harder tyre.

– – – – –

Lap 13: Massa (and everyone else) is having extreme trouble hanging on in the remaining wet areas. Hamilton has taken Trulli who has spun. Order is Massa, Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen, Fisi (on merit), Hamilton, Glock and Bourdais. Trulli’s still in the race, just a bit further back.

– – – – –

Lap 12: The limited remaining wet sections of the track are in danger of causing chaos – Alonso in particular wobbling like crazy. Kovalainen delayed in the pits slightly by a tyre problem. The three leaders pit. Trulli out ahead of Hamilton and released straight into his path, Hamilton narrowly avoids a collision. Raikkonen leapfrogs Trulli. Hamilton is a long way back – possibly Fisichella is ahead of him. Brundle says he stayed out too long on inters.

– – – – –

Lap 11: Massa pits for dry tyres, Trulli, Raikkonen and Hamilton have gone through for another lap. Kovalainen and Heidfeld are in. Trulli currently leads the race.

– – – – –

Lap 10: Alonso and Vettel into the pits for dry tyres, also Webber. Vettel out first comfortably. Fisichella for Force India was the canary in the mine for dry tyres and his sector times are now really picking up. Fire extinguishers being deployed in the Honda garage. McLaren mechanics out.

– – – – –

Lap 9: Most of the midfield has dived into the pits for dry tyres. A Honda is released right into the path of Rosberg – it’s Button – but a collision is avoided. Massa’s lead was 2.1 seconds at the beginning of this lap and Hamilton was starting to close up on Raikkonen.

– – – – –

Lap 8: Raikkonen is trying to pass Trulli and can’t. Never has the Trulli car been wider. Hamilton’s having a bit of a job hanging on to him. Various people down the field are pitting for dry tyres.

– – – – –

Lap 6: Hamilton is thought to be carrying about 20 laps of fuel – four more than those around him. DC is interviewed by Louise Goodman and is remarkably philosophical. He explains how he was planning to do some illegal donuts at the chequered flag.

– – – – –

Lap 5: We’re racing again and Kovalainen and Alonso are fighting like crazy. Kovalainen overtook Alonso on the restart, couldn’t hold the place and nearly lost the car. Alonso was able to take him back. Massa’s lead is 0.9 of a second.

– – – – –

Lap 3: Hamilton’s made it through the start, but what about the restart? And how will those inters hold up under safety car conditions on a drying track? The pitlane is currently open. Coulthard is pictured back at the Red Bull garage discussing what happened. Meanwhile, we’re still trolling around behind the safety car. It transpires that Rosberg hit Coulthard, then DC span and walloped Nakajima. Piquet is pictured waving to the crowd as he walks back to the pits, as if he’d done something worth cheering…

– – – – –

Lap 2: Order behind the safety car is Massa, Trulli, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel (the big gainer from all this), Alonso, Kovalainen, Bourdais and Glock. DC has got out of his car and started walking back to the pits and – as far as it’s possible to tell with a man wearing a crash helmet, he looks devastated.

– – – – –

Lap 1: A cautious start from everyone and the clean side of the grid has an obvious advantage. Massa away and clear, Vettel takes Alonso, DC appears to have crashed out at the back alongside Piquet. Kovalainen has lost two places and is now behind Alonso and Vettel. Top four is Massa, Trulli, Raikkonen, Hamilton. Safety car out.

– – – – –

Parade lap: James Allen describes the race as “a daunting away fixture for Hamilton and McLaren.” Hang on a mo – rain clearly visible on camera. The camera lingers lovingly on Bernie Ecclestone scurrying under cover. The start has been delayed to allow the change to wet tyres. The very little we can see of Lewis Hamilton’s face suggests he is unperturbed by this.

The safety car’s had to thread its way through the grid to get back to the front. And the worst of it is that the rain seems to be receding – so what on earth to do about tyres? There’s a mixture of sunshine and heavy black cloud now and weather reports are saying no more rain for 30 to 40 minutes.

Hamilton’s gone onto inters. Cars are lined up – and Hamilton’s adjusting his position, no doubt to ensure he’s properly in his grid box. Massa also on inters, as is everyone but Kubica. Hamilton being told on the radio that his brake temperatures are good.

Drivers are now faced with a hill start. Kubica has pitted and gone in for new tyres.

– – – – –

Grid: 4.40pm and the chance of rain is estimated at 50 per cent and receding. Of course, if there’s no rain then tyre temperatures are a whole new ballgame…

Martin Brundle does what might or might not be his last ever grid walk. He asks Trulli if “he has a plan” after rumours that everybody’s favourite Italian has been overheard plotting with Massa. Trulli says he’ll be doing everything he can to hold his place and states: “I have no enemies, only rivals.” He also denies that his car’s fuelled light.

Brundle says Raikkonen’s job will be to back the field up so that Massa can scamper away up the track. While he’s chatting up a McLaren mechanic in the hope of some inside info, Hamilton is pictured signing autographs for a small boy.

‘Scary’ Ron Dennis confirms that Lewis’ final instructions are to keep out of trouble and follow the plan, as this is a team effort. When asked how so many World Championships have gone down to the wire, Bernie Ecclestone says: “Not easy – gets more difficult every year.” We wish we could believe he is joking…

– – – – –

Pre-race: we’re settling down for an hour of spectacular hype (“Interlagos expects,” says Steve Rider), and watching the huge storm clouds gathering over the circuit. Mark Blundell claims to already have heard a clap of thunder. Several teams, including McLaren and Williams, are rumoured to be set up for a wet race and thus, the narrative goes, did not fare as well as the dry cars in qualifying.

The sporting omens so far this weekend are not good. England cricket team: thrashed by a humiliating 10 wickets in the West Indies. England rugby league team: taken apart 52-4 by their Australian counterparts. No pressure or anything, Lewis, but a nation’s hopes and all that…

Just for the record: clearly we’ll be cheering on Hamilton. But, should Massa win, we’ll be really pleased for him, especially as this could be his only real shot at ever getting his hands on the title.

David Coulthard has been played into the Red Bull garage by a bagpiper, which has caused a certain amount of choking up. Steve Rider very tactfully sticks a mike under his nose to ask how he feels…

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