Lewis Hamilton (Vodafone McLaren Mercedes) has been crowned 2008 FIA Formula One drivers’ champion after finishing fifth in a nail-biting season finale played out in Sao Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix. Felipe Massa (Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro) won the race and looked set to become champion with Hamilton only re- gaining the fifth place to win the title within sight of the finishing line. Massa won by over thirteen seconds from Fernando Alonso (ING Renault F1 Team) with Kimi Raikkonen (Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro) finishing a further three seconds behind. Sebastian Vettel finished fourth ahead of Hamilton whilst Timo Glock (Panasonic Toyota Racing) took sixth. Heikki Kovalainen (Vodafone McLaren Mercedes) finished seventh and Jarno Trulli (Panasonic Toyota Racing) took the final championship point with eighth. The drivers’ championship went in Hamilton’s favour with 98 points to Massa’s 97. Raikkonen was tied on 75 points with Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber F1 Team) but the out-going drivers’ champion takes third position through virtue of more race wins. Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro won the constructors’ championship with 172 points to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ 151. The BMW Sauber F1 Team finished third with 135. Today’s race was an epic conclusion to a thrilling season. Rain fell just before the scheduled start meaning the start was delayed by ten minutes. All drivers started on Bridgestone’s wet tyre, but the rain proved short-lived and drivers were soon making pit stops for Bridgestone’s dry tyres. In the final ten minutes of the race the rain started again leading to a flurry of activity as competitors pitted to return to the wet tyres. Glock did not make a final stop for wets, opting to remain on the dry tyres, but was unable to keep fourth place and was passed by Vettel and Hamilton a handful of corners before the chequered flag, meaning Hamilton won the championship. The race’s fastest lap, a 1min 13.736secs, was set by Massa using the medium compound on lap 36. Bridgestone’s Potenza Formula One tyres will next be in test action at Barcelona on November 17-19. Two compounds of 2009 specification slick tyres will be available for teams as will one compound of the 2008 specification grooved tyre. The next Grand Prix is scheduled to take place in 21 weeks’ time at Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix on March 27-29.
Hiroshi Yasukawa, Director of Bridgestone Motorsport says: “Congratulations to Felipe Massa and Ferrari for a fantastic race win, and congratulations to Lewis Hamilton and McLaren Mercedes for winning the drivers’ championship. This was a superb way to end a great season and not many races have been as exciting as we saw today. Bridgestone celebrated its 200th Grand Prix this year. Ten years ago we celebrated the first drivers’ and constructors’ world championships won with our tyres when Mika Hakkinen and McLaren Mercedes triumphed, so it is an honour to see Lewis Hamilton win the drivers’ title using our tyres today. Lewis has driven with Bridgestone tyres for most of his career, from the early days in karting, through the GP2 Series to Formula One. We also celebrate the eighth constructors’ championship won using our tyres by Ferrari and this is a momentous achievement. This was the first season where we have been the Official Tyre Supplier to Formula One and we offer our thanks to all teams and organisers around the world, the FIA and all of our Bridgestone personnel in Formula One and around the world.” Hirohide Hamashima – Bridgestone Director of Motorsport Tyre Development, said: “Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton for winning the 2008 drivers’ championship. Congratulations also to Felipe Massa for winning his home Grand Prix and well done to Ferrari for winning the constructors’ championship. We are very appreciative of the fine battles we saw on track today in a very exciting race. The weather was crucial and it made for difficult tyre choices for competitors. Everyone started on the wet tyre then opted for the dry tyres for their second stint. The race pace was very good in the conditions and the rain at the end made it very interesting indeed. Looking back over the season I am very happy with Bridgestone’s participation. We have enabled very close competition throughout the year and there were no tyre defects. Thank you to all Bridgestone staff and all competitors. We now look forward to the 2009 season and a return to Bridgestone slick tyres.”