x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

The long road to Interlagos

With the drivers' championship firmly in Lewis Hamilton's sights, we take a look back on the 2008 F1 season.

Lewis Hamilton, right, holds a seven point lead over Felipe Massa going into the Brazilian GP. The McLaren driver squandered an identical lead last year when losing out to Kimi Raikkonen.
Lewis Hamilton, right, holds a seven point lead over Felipe Massa going into the Brazilian GP. The McLaren driver squandered an identical lead last year when losing out to Kimi Raikkonen.

The Formula One season draws to a close on Sunday in Brazil with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton holding a seven-point lead over Ferrari's Felipe Massa. In what has been a memorable season for its thrills, spills and emerging talent, we take a look back on how Hamilton's title ambition rests on the final race. Australia Lewis Hamilton wins the opening grand prix of the season at Albert Park. The race was the first where the cars did not have traction control technology in the cars and proved to catch many drivers out. Hamilton started on pole and negotiated three safety car periods to beat BMW's Nick Heidfeld by 5.4 seconds. Ferrari by contrast had a terrible opening race with Massa retiring with engine problems and Kimi Raikkonen finishing eighth.

Malaysia Raikkonen made amends to his poor showing in the previous round by clinching victory in Sepang. Hamilton had a poor race by comparison. A drive through penalty and problems in the pits meant that he finished fifth. Massa failed to score for the second race, after starting on pole. The race also showed the emerging talents of the Polish driver Robert Kubica, who had a fine drive to second, proving that BMW had the potential to compete with the Ferrari and McLaren teams. Bahrain Massa returned to form in Bahrain heading a Ferrari one-two after two poor showings in Melbourne and Sepang. Kubica grabbed his first pole, but was powerless to stop the marauding scarlet cars and eventually finished third. Hamilton had a disaster in Sakhir, first losing seven places at the start and then clashing with Fernando Alonso's Renault. The Brit driver limped home in 13th.

Spain The Ferraris were on form again at Barcelona for a second consecutive one-two, this time Raikkonen heading the charge for his second win of the season. The flying Finn was impressive all weekend and led the race from start to finish. Hamilton came a close third, but was never in contention to trouble the Ferraris. It was bad news for the competition after this race with the Super-Aguri team pulling out due to financial reasons. It meant that the field was down to 20 cars for the rest of the season. Turkey Massa clinched his third Turkish Grand Prix win for Ferrari's third win in succession. The Brazilian cut Raikkonen's championship lead to seven points at that stage with Ferrari really showing their dominance. Hamilton finished third again, with the two BMW drivers, Kubica and Heidfeld, fourth and fifth. It was bad news for Hamilton's teammate Heikke Kovalainen, who at this point was struggling to support his fellow McLaren driver in the opening four races. Kovalainen started second but slipped to 12th at the finish and he was feeling the pressure to produce form. Monaco Hamilton battled through a chaotic yet classic Monaco Grand Prix to inject a much needed victory to his Championship cause. The twisty narrow turns at Monte Carlo are hard to navigate at the best of times, but the added sheets of rain made the course even more treacherous. Hamilton suffered a puncture going into Tabac but with grit, a nerve and a good bit of fortune, he regained the lead ahead of Kubica in second and Massa, third. Adrian Sutil was in line to score the first ever points for Force India, but Raikkonen crashed into the back of the German coming out of the tunnel with ten laps to go.

Canada Kubica scored his first ever win in Montreal in a BMW one-two, in a race marred by a pit-stop error by Hamilton. The win, a first for the manufacturer, saw the Pole take the lead in the championship ahead of the McLaren driver. The race was surrounded by controversy before the race with the track breaking up in places, causing safety concerns. The race organisers managed to repair the track, particularly at turn seven, in time. Hamilton had been in contention with Raikkonen before Sutil's crash caused the safety car to come out. As Hamilton and Raikkonen pitted and left, they were not allowed to re-enter the track. Raikkonen waited for the lights to change, Hamilton did not, causing him and the Finn to retire. The Williams driver Nico Rosberg was also involved in the carnage. France Ferrari took full advantage over Hamilton's ten-grid demotion in the aftermath of the previous race to reach a third one-two of the season. Massa took the ten points ahead of Raikkonen, with Toyota's Jarno Trulli third. Raikkonen was cruising to victory but his exhaust fell off causing him to lose horsepower and the lead. The Brazilian attained the lead midway through the race and the Finn managed to recover to third. Hamilton was never in contention at Magny-Cours starting 13th and failed to come up through the field.

Great Britain The penultimate British Grand Prix at Silverstone saw Hamilton master the torrential rain to become the first British driver to win on home soil in eight years. Hamilton showed his classic, uncompromising attitude to the damp conditions coming home ahead of an impressive drive by Heidfeld by more than a minute. It was a shocking race for the Ferrari team. Massa spun off on five separate occasions, while Kimi could only manage fourth. Rubens Barrichello used all of his experience to come third. Germany Hamilton sealed his first back-to-back win of the season by producing a sterling race at Hockenheim. The win put him as the clear leader of the championship after Massa could only finish third. Hamilton has raced to a massive lead early on, before Timo Glock's retirement caused the appearance of the safety car. This caused Flavio Briatore to roll the dice with the Renault driver Nelson Piquet Junior in a move that paid off with the young Brazilian grabbing second from an unlikely start of 17th on the grid. Hungary Kovalainen finally lived up to his potential in Budapest by sealing his first ever grand prix win. The Finn had been disappointing before this race, but he still needed a large slice of good fortune in claiming maximum points. He looked to have settled for second, behind Massa, but the Ferrari man had an engine failure with three laps to go and retired. Hamilton was ready to take the mantle, but he too endured back luck and picked up a puncture to finish fourth Glock finished an impressive second and Raikkonen third after the two championship contenders' setbacks.

Europe Massa made up for his Hungarian heartbreak to record a crushing victory at the first ever Valencia street circuit GP. He led from start to finish over Hamilton in second, with Kubica picking up the final podium place. There was a hint of controversy along the way as Massa had cut up Sutil in the pits on lap 37 but it was deemed to be a safe and legal move by the race stewards. It was at this stage where Raikkonen was losing ground on the three leaders. He retired on lap 45 to start a series of poor races for the defending world champion. Belgium The Belgium GP was the most talked about race of the season with Hamilton stripped of first place after he was adjudged to have not relinquishing his lead by cutting a chicane ahead of Raikkonen. The rain-sodden Spa-Francorchamps track was eventful throughout, but with Raikkonen and Hamilton exchanging the lead in the final few laps, it was one of the finest races in recent years. Hamilton and Raikkonen were approaching the final chicane with the Brit ahead. However Rosberg re-entered the track after going off course, causing Hamilton to take evasive action. This put the Finn ahead, but Hamilton rallied and was squeezed off at the chicane. He took the lead and gave it back to the Finn before entering his slipstream on the straight and again taking the lead. Raikkonen crashed out with one lap to go and Hamilton thought he had won. The race stewards believed that he did not give enough time for the Ferrari man to take control of the lead and was punished with a 25 second penalty. This meant that he finished behind Massa who was second and Heidfeld in third. Italy Sebastian Vettel picked up his maiden win at Monza with an outstanding performance. The German became the youngest ever race winner in Formula One history after taking pole. Kovalainen finished second behind the German, with Kubica third. The title contenders had a disappointing race, with Massa finishing sixth and Hamilton, who started 15th on the grid coming seventh. At this stage Hamilton's lead in the championships was just one point.

Singapore Fernando Alonso became the seventh different driver of the season to win a race at the first ever night race in Singapore. The two-time champion had an indifferent season up to this point, but the Spaniard was an unlikely winner after starting 15th on the grid. It was another Briatore gamble that paid off by bringing Alonso in on a different set-up, before a race interruption leapfrogged him to contention. Rosberg of the Williams team also benefited from the reshuffle and finished second, with Hamilton extending his overall lead by finishing third. Raikkonen crashed out again and Massa drove off with his fuel rig still attached to the car when he pitted, meaning that he finished last. Japan Alonso secured his second win at Fuji in a more conventional manner with a fine drive reminiscent of his championship winning days at Renault. Kubica was second again, with Raikkonen third. Hamilton was the pole-sitter but after a poor start, he collided with Massa and never recovered to finish 12th. The Brazilian was less hampered by the incident, but could only come home in seventh. China At China last year, Hamilton blew a 17-point lead to lose out on the title, but there was no mistakes in Shanghai as he opened up a seven-point lead going into the final race. Hamilton was flawless in his performance having the measure of Massa who finished second and Raikkonen in third. It was a race that answered his critics and opened up a seven-point lead going into Brazil. The Brit only needs to finish fifth at Interlagos to secure the championship and become the youngest ever world champion at 23. snelmes@thenational.ae