STOP PRESS: Lewis Hamilton clinched the 2008 Formula One World Championship in Brazil with a nail-biting charge to fifth place in treacherous conditions.
The Briton arrived in Sau Paulo with a seven point advantage over title rival Felipe Massa and only needed to finish fifth or higher to be crowned champion.
But with only one lap remaining Hamilton found himself out of the money in sixth place behind Toyota’s Timo Glock after light showers intervened in the dying laps.
McLaren had no option but to switch Hamilton onto the wet tyres pre-empting a last minute downpour, but the showers failed to develop into rain. And although Hamilton emerged from the pit lane in fifth place, Sebastian Vettel who followed Hamilton out of the pits quickly despatched the McLaren driver leaving his leaving his championship hopes dangling by a thread.
Felipe Massa crossed the line in first place, prompting huge roars from his Brazilian crowd who, along with Massa’s family and the local boy himself, believed they were witnessing the first Brazilian champion since Ayrton Senna in 1991.
But as Hamilton tiptoed around the final few corners he came across an ailing Timo Glock. He overtook the German to take fifth place and with it the championship, much to the delight of his friends and family.
“It’s pretty much impossible to put into words,” he told reporters after the race. “I’m speechless. It’s been such a long journey. The team did a fantastic job. I’m so thrilled.”
“Before it started to rain I was quite competitive, my tyres were a bit shod and I was struggling to keep the pace, but I managed to keep (Sebastian) Vettel behind.”
“But then came the drizzle and he got past. I couldn’t believe it at the last corner when I managed to get past Glock. It’s just amazing.”
“The team came on the radio and said you have to get past Glock.”
“It (the championship) is one of the highlights of my life. The team came on the radio and told me (I had won). I was ecstatic. It’s a dream.”
At 23-years-old Hamilton is the youngest world champion in the sport’s history. The last British driver to clinch the title was Damon Hill in 1996.