Silverstone and Interlagos 2008 split Lewis Hamilton fan vote
To celebrate Lewis Hamilton reaching his 100th Grand Prix at Hockenheim last weekend, we invited fans on our Facebook page to name the most memorable moment of his eventful Formula 1 career. With so many exciting performances to choose from, picking a shortlist of 10 was hard enough – and the vote itself came down to a face-off that was incredibly close.
Whether you were watching from the grandstands or enjoying the action from the edge of your seat at home, two races from Lewis’s 2008 World Championship year really stood out: the Santander British Grand Prix, in which Lewis gave his rivals an unforgettable lesson in wet-weather finesse; and the Brazilian Grand Prix, where he clinched the drivers’ title with an overtaking move at the final corner on the last lap of the race.
In a recent fan vote to name the best McLaren British Grand Prix moment of all time Silverstone 2008 came out on top, and it’s easy to see why this epic race should also figure so highly in the pole for Lewis’s most memorable moment. It was one of the Grands Prix that defined the year: a gritty, determined drive from second on the grid in wet conditions earned Lewis a dominant win and put his title challenge back on track.
It was a day when some of the best drivers in the world skidded off or spun away their chances of victory, while Lewis not only kept his car on the road – he won by over a minute. McLaren Group Executive Chairman Ron Dennis said after the race, “Above all it was a magnificent grand prix, full of drama, and it was won by a man who mastered the treacherous conditions faultlessly.”
“One of my best-ever races,” says Lewis of the 2008 Santander British Grand Prix, “and a race I’m still really proud to have won. For any British driver, Silverstone is a special place because you grow up watching races there and you race there in the junior categories so it feels like home. It’s a track with some awesome history, too – the first F1 race was held there in 1950 and all the greatest drivers have won there too – so it’s one of the most important tracks on the calendar.”
Lewis’s World Championship rival Felipe Massa finished 13th at Silverstone, two laps down. Nine races later the battle for the drivers’ title would be decided in an unforgettable showdown between these two men at the final Grand Prix of the year, in Brazil.
With Lewis seven points ahead going into the final round, Massa had to win his home Grand Prix and hope Lewis could finish no higher than sixth. In qualifying Massa was on top form in front of his expectant home crowd, putting his Ferrari on pole position while Lewis lined up fourth for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.
“For sure that is where he [Massa] needs to be and all the best to him,” said Lewis after the qualifying session. "But I am just going to focus on my job, and I don't need to do anything spectacular, I just need to bring the car home with some good points."
In spite of that prediction, the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix would be anything but routine. Heavy rain delayed the start by 10 minutes, and as the field got underway on intermediate tyres, Massa converted pole position into a clear lead while Lewis played it safe in the pack.
The drying track surface prompted a move to slick tyres but caution did not pay off as Lewis, leaving his pitstop relatively late, slipped to seventh place. He fought his way back up to fourth, but then another downpour with seven laps to go put his World Championship hopes in jeopardy. As the frontrunners scrambled into the pits for intermediate tyres, the Toyota team gambled on leaving both its drivers out on slicks.
Lewis emerged in fifth place behind the Toyota of Timo Glock, but ran wide at the final corner and Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel slipped by, demoting Lewis to sixth. It looked like the title had been wrenched from his grasp.
Ahead, Glock was driving out of his skin to keep his slick-shod car on the road. With the chequered flag almost within sight the rain intensified, and on a dramatic final lap Glock lost 17 seconds. Vettel swept through but it looked like Lewis was out of time to claim the vital fifth place.
Lewis seized his moment at the final corner, slithering up the inside line and gauging the amount of grip at the exit perfectly as Glock’s rear wheels spun against the soaking asphalt. Lewis accelerated away. Fifth place, and the drivers’ title, was his.
“In those final laps, I never gave up even though I knew it was an uphill struggle,” says Lewis. “Even now, though, it’s sort of remembered as a blur, those final laps all seem to merge into one and I just remember passing Timo in a blur, getting the car corrected out of the final corner and just nailing the throttle – partly out of fear and partly out of relief.
“When I crossed the line, that’s when my world went crazy. Just an unforgettable feeling.”
The Grand Prix with the most dramatic final lap of all time and the Grand Prix in which Lewis demonstrated why he is one of the most exciting talents of his generation. Small wonder, then, that Interlagos 2008 and Silverstone 2008 feature so strongly in the memories of our fans.
As inseparable as they are, only one could win the vote and we can finally reveal the winner…lap 71 of the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Interlagos circuit on November 2nd 2008, with 40 per cent of the final vote.
And as we enter Lewis’s second century of Grands Prix we can be sure of many more memorable moments to come!