3 Nov 2008

Hamilton takes F1 title in last lap drama

4:06 pm on 3 November 2008

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton roared into the record books as Formula One's youngest champion on Sunday when he snatched the title in last lap drama at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

In one of the most thrilling finales the sport has seen, the 23-year-old British driver was seconds from failure for the second year in a row.

Needing to finish fifth to become his country's first champion since Damon Hill in 1996, Hamilton began the final lap in sixth place and with Ferrari title rival Felipe Massa cruising to victory.

Renault's Fernando Alonso, the previous youngest champion, was second ahead of Massa's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel.

Forced to pit for wet tyres while in fourth place after a rainstorm in the closing stages, Hamilton had dropped to fifth and was then passed by Vettel on the 69th of 70 laps.

With the title disappearing as fast as Massa's Ferrari was taking him to the chequered flag in front of his home fans, Hamilton's family looked on aghast while Brazil prepared to celebrate.

Salvation came in the shape of Toyota's Timo Glock, with the German struggling for grip after staying out on dry tyres. Vettel overtook his compatriot for fourth place and then Hamilton powered past Glock as the final corner approached. Some 18 seconds later, the title was won.

"Amazing, I can't even get my breath back," said Hamilton, who embraced his father and brother before being mobbed by the team. "I thought my heart was going to explode. I think everyone else was the same.

"I don't know what would have happened if I had lost out on the last lap."

Ferrari ended up with 172 points to McLaren's 151 with BMW-Sauber third on 135.

Hamilton, who missed out by a single point to Ferrari's Raikkonen in Brazil last season, ended the 18-race season with 98 points to Massa's 97.

At 23 years and 301 days old, Hamilton broke the record set by former McLaren team-mate Alonso, the Spaniard who won the first of his two titles with Renault in Brazil at the age of 24, one month and 27 days in 2005.

Hamilton's title was the first for Mercedes-powered McLaren since Finland's Mika Hakkinen in 1999.