Although the race had started in the rain, the skies quickly cleared up, leaving the drivers with a rapidly drying track and good visibility. But as the race wound to a close, reports of rain came in for the last few laps and the drivers began pitting for the third round to switch to rain tires. Of the cars at the head of the pack, only Toyota's returning rookie Timo Glock gambled to stay on dry tires for the closing laps in the hope of holding on to his solid fourth place. Felipe Massa held his commanding lead for nearly the entire race distance (falling back only temporarily in the pits), all but locking up victory at his home race in front of thousands of cheering fellow Brazilians. Massa was doing all he could to win the race and take the title. Now it would depend on the position in which Hamilton finished.
The young McLaren driver came to Brazil in the same place he had been last season: heading into the final round seven points ahead in the championship. But would he repeat his mistakes and give the title to Ferrari? After starting the race in fourth, he dropped down the field to seventh, only to take fifth again and looking to seize the crown until rookie sensation Sebastien Vettel in the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso managed to squeeze by him in the penultimate lap. If these positions would hold for less than just two laps, Vettel would be credited for giving Massa the title.
But then the unexpected happened. After Massa had crossed the finish line, Glock, Vettel and Hamilton came through the very last corner before the straight to the finish line. Glock, still on dry tires, apparently couldn't hold on in the corner and both Vettel and Hamilton slipped by. Vettel moved up to fourth place, but most crucially, Hamilton was elevated to fifth. With a fifth place finish, Hamilton won an all-important extra point over Massa – just enough to claim the drivers' title in one of the closest season-ending grands prix in motor racing history.
It was so close, in fact, that the cameras missed it. Massa's family was already celebrating in the Ferrari garage. And the multitude of viewers around the world sat on the edge of their seats as even the broadcasters missed it. But Lewis Hamilton was crowned the youngest ever champion in Formula One history, edging out former team-mate Fernando Alonso, who looked down from the podium alongside a still jubilant Felipe Massa who was still happy to have won his home grand prix and done everything he could to take the title. Next to him were last year's champion Kimi Raikkonen and their team principal Stefano Domenicali, who stepped up to accept the constructors' trophy for the race in symbolic lieu of the constructors' championship that the team secured with their double-podium finish. Maybe not the drivers' title they hoped for, but as Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo pointed out to us last week in Sicily, enough to propel the Scuderia into the history books for securing eight titles in the past ten years. With the titles split between Ferrari and McLaren, the heat is already on for next season.