You couldn’t write this stuff – Lewis Hamilton’s Brazilian Grand Prix drive at the Interlagos track in Sao Paulo. Seventy one laps ahead, and sudden rain showers caught the drivers out as they all debated whether to change tyres from slicks to to intermediate or heavy wets, the larger diameter of wets lifting the cars above standing water. Amidst this confusion the silver Mercedes AMG safety car sat patiently at the front of the grid, waiting to lead the drivers into the first bend. As the weather report confirmed no more rain for half an hour, pit crews agonised over whether to change tyres. All of which, of course was just what Lewis Hamilton didn’t need – suspense, indecision, drama. A safe, uneventful drive with anything up to fifth position would net him the championship.
Finally, after a ten minute delay the safety car led the field around, rain lights flashing as most of the cars had changed to wets, checking wet and dry patches as they gingerly wound their way around the first two laps. Then they were off for real, with Hamilton in fourth place as two cars spun out of control, putting an end to Nelson Piquet and David Coulthard’s race, the latter ending his career with his 245th race. Felipe Massa held the lead followed by Trulli and Raikkonnen, with Hamilton in fourth place.
Hamilton came in on Lap 11 for a 7.5 second tyre change, and on rejoining, found himself in seventh place, then Trulli lost control on the next lap allowing Hamilton to pass. By Lap 16 Hamilton was still in sixth place, but a masterly overtake on Lap seventeen brought him back into the critical fifth place. Lap 28 and Hamilton was in fourth place, with Timo Glock’s Toyota snapping at his heels. By Lap 35 Hamilton was a full 20 seconds behind Massa, who tore along the back straight at 185 miles an hour.
With just fourteen laps to go, Vettel was pushing to pass Hamilton, the threat of imminent rain and most of the field on dry tyres the pressure was really on, with echoes of the 1971 Senna/Patrese duel.
Dark clouds started to gather as the battle for front four intensified. Ten laps to go, and Hamilton was just 25.8 seconds behind Massa. Picking up his pace, the rain began to fall as handling and grip divided both car and driver. Eight laps, and Vettel was snapping at Hamilton’s gearbox once more. Five laps to go and Hamilton began to defend his fourth position against Vettel, coming in for a 6.1 second tyre change. The next lap saw a 5.5 second change for Massa, as the rain began to fall on the pits. Glock passed Hamilton to slip into fifth place and suddenly keeping ahead of Vettel became crucial for Hamilton to retain the championship.
With just three laps remaining, Hamilton went wide, bringing Vettel even closer. Two laps, and Hamilton was in sixth place with the World Championship just a faint dream. So it was all on the last lap, and suddenly Lewis Hamilton fought back, slipping past Glock and back into fifth place, stealing the title from Felipe Massa by just one point.
Just don’t let anyone say Hamilton was lucky – since the drama and disappointment of last year’s championship, he has driven brilliantly this year and deserves the crown absolutely.