F1 Gold | How Felipe Massa became champion for a few seconds in 2008

Felipe Massa. Image: Getty Images
Felipe Massa. Image: Getty Images

In 2008, Ferrari driver Felipe Massa emerged as the title contender for the Italian team.

Partnered with 2007 champion, Kimi Raikkonen, Massa got the better of his championship-defending team mate and was soon embroiled in a race to the title with eventual champion, Lewis Hamilton.

2008 was also Massa's best, and last, chance at winning the gold. It was a season-long fight that ended in tears - not only for the Brazilian driver, but for everyone who had supported him throughout the years.

Quick history

In 2006, Massa joined Ferrari to partner Michael Schumacher following the departure of fellow-Brazilian, Rubens Barrichello.

Massa quickly rose to the challenge and would be a part of the team until the end of the 2013 season.

In 2007, team mate Raikkonen wiped the floor with him and could Massa only watch as Ferrari revelled in the success of their newest signing. It would be a different case the next year as Massa arose as Ferrari's hope on winning the championship.


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Felipe Massa during the 2008 Brazilian GP. Image: Getty Images

A bitter pill

When the 2008 season got underway, it became evident very early on that Hamilton, in only his second season in F1, would be a contender for the title. And it was widely assumed that he'd want to win it from Raikkonen - the driver who won it by a single point from Hamilton in 2007.

But Raikkonen failed to get the better of his car throughout 2008 and soon had to take a step back as Massa made the most of the chances. Throughout the season, Massa had won a total of six races - including his home Grand Prix, and final race, in Brazil. Hamilton, on the other hand, won five races.

READ: How a single spring almost maimed Felipe Massa's face in 2009

The title decider came down to the Brazilian GP, where Massa, for Massa to be champion, he had to win the race and Hamilton had to finish sixth or lower.

Massa did his part and won the race, with Hamilton down in sixth on the final lap of the race. Massa cheered over the radio, and his family celebrated with the Ferrari team in the pits. And then, after 30 seconds of pure joy, Hamilton crossed the finish line in fifth place – doing just enough to win the title by a single point over Massa: 98 vs. 97.

It could have been different

While Massa did put up a good fight in 2008, him losing out by one point was by his own admission. The first two races of the season, Australia and Malaysia, saw Massa retire from both. In Australia, he misjudged a passing manoeuvre on David Coulthard. Laps later, the Ferrari driver retired with an engine failure.

In Malaysia, Massa started the race in pole position, but lost control of his car and got stuck in the gravel on lap 31. In just these two races, Massa threw away a good haul of points, which would have seen him become 2008 champion. Sadly, Massa never recovered from his 2008 failure, and his F1 career took a slow and gradual turn for the worst.

READ: Felipe Massa to retire from F1 with dedication to Schumi

Two of the most notable low points at Ferrari came at the 2009 Hungarian GP, and in 2010 when Ferrari 'ordered' him to let the new recruit, Fernando Alonso, by.

Massa could have been a champion with Ferrari in 2008, but his inability to do so highlighted that he lacked the killer instinct all F1 champions have.

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Felipe Massa following his failure to win the 2008 F1 Drivers' Championship. Image: Getty Images
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