The boys from Brazil just keep on coming: Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and, since 2002, Felipe Massa. The others won eight Formula One World Championships between them, but even with 11 GP victories to his credit, Felipe hasn’t made it yet. He almost did in a 2008 mind blower, but not quite.
Massa came so very close in front of his adoring homeland fans that year. The Brazilian Grand Prix was the last race of a closely fought season, and he was just seven points behind leader and motor racing genius Lewis Hamilton, in his debut year driving a McLaren-Mercedes. To take the title, Massa and his Ferrari F2008 either had to win or come 2nd, with Lewis outside the top five. It all looked good as Felipe took pole and led, dominating the entire race as the field switched from intermediate tires to slicks and back to intermediates again under a temperamental Brazilian sky. Even so, Felipe won by 13 seconds and the crowd went wild, thinking they had another World Champion on their hands. Hamilton had run a ragged race and had dropped to 6th, so the World Championship looked as good as Felipe’s—especially when the young Brazilian crossed the finish line victorious. But a nerve-tingling drama was being played out farther down the field, on the penultimate corner of the entire Grand Prix. That was where Lewis squeaked past a struggling Timo Glock and his Toyota TF 108 and slipped the McLaren into 5th place and then 4th just before crossing the finish line. So the world title went to off-form newcomer Hamilton by a single point from “deputy champion” Felipe. If they had tied on points, the title would have gone to the diminutive Massa, with his six wins to Hamilton’s five. But they didn’t, so Felipe is still looking for that elusive world title.