The 2008 F1 season brought another eagerly-awaited duel between Ferrari and Mercedes. Everyone was waiting with bated breath for a repeat of the battle between Räikkönen and Hamilton, whose presence with McLaren forced Fernando Alonso to return to Renault. Ferrari, on the other hand, confirmed that Felipe Massa would once again be flanking the Finnish World Champion.
Hamilton and Räikkönen took a victory apiece in Australia and Malaysia but Massa had a rotten start to the season, picking up no points at all. The Brazilian, however, made up for lost time in Bahrain and Turkey while Räikkönen won in Spain. Five rounds into the season, the Ferrari drivers were in the top two spots in the standings but then Hamilton triumphed at Monaco. The Canadian Grand Prix proved chaotic as the English McLaren driver failed to notice a red light at the end of the pit lane and collided with Kimi’s Ferrari, bringing both their races to an untimely end. The Canadian GP was won by Kubica in the BMW Sauber who also jumped to the top of the standings. Massa triumphed in France while Hamilton took his home round at Silverstone. The standings had never been closer. The English driver, Massa and Räikkönen were sharing the lead on 48 points while Kubica had 46. McLaren won in Germany while Felipe looked set for victory in Hungary after a brilliant pass of Hamilton. Luck, however, was not on his side and three laps from the finish, his engine failed. Kovalainen took full advantage to deliver the only victory of his career. The Brazilian redeemed himself at Valencia, in the European GP and in Belgium at the end of a lengthy sparring match with Hamilton. Monza brought the second tumultuous round of the season. Young German driver Sebastian Vettel took a surprising pole on the Saturday in a Toro Rosso powered by a Ferrari engine. Everyone suspected it was a stroke of good luck due to the rain but in the race itself, which was also held in the wet, Sebastian proved himself genuinely talented. For the first and so far only time in history, a non-Ferrari single-seater powered by a Maranello-built engine took victory. It was a fairly colourless showing from Massa and Hamilton, who were now vying virtually neck-and-neck for the title with the Brazilian just a point behind the Englishman.
Singapore brought a serious setback for Felipe. The Brazilian pitted while the Safety Car was out after Nelsinho Piquet’s accident (which later proved deliberate). Unfortunately, he pulled off from the pit box with the fuel hose still attached to his F2008. It was the end of the race for the Brazilian who was leading at the time. In the last round of the season at Interlagos, Felipe was chasing Hamilton who was seven points ahead. This was the same points gap Räikkönen had made up the previous year but it seemed unlikely the miracle would repeat itself two seasons in a row. The Constructors’ Championship situation was less worrying as Ferrari held an 11-point lead on McLaren. At the start, the track was wet but beginning to dry off. Massa took the lead. Behind him things were getting complicated for Hamilton who ended up off the track after an attempted pass and dropped back to seventh. If Felipe won, Lewis would need to finish at least fifth. On lap 43, he made his way up to where he needed to be and Massa’s work seemed for nothing. However, late in the race, it started to rain once again, mixing up the positions. All the cars pitted aside from the two Toyotas that took the gamble of staying out on dry tyres. Three laps from the finish, Massa was leading and Hamilton lying only sixth. Felipe shot under the chequered flag to a huge roar from the Sao Paolo home crowd and, for a few short moments, was technically World Champion. Hamilton, however, had not given up and, helped by the rain, was upping the ante out on the track, In fact, he passed the Toyota of Timo Glock at the last corner on the final lap, to win the title by a single point.
Felipe’s tears mixed with the driving rain as he beat his hand on his chest. Defeat… But in the minds of the Brazilian crowd which gave him an ovation of the kind they had previously only reserved for the legendary Ayrton Senna. Ferrari consoled itself with the 16th Constructors’ title in its history.