The Big Question: Felipe Massa vs. Lewis Hamilton

The Big Question: Felipe Massa vs. Lewis Hamilton

With the final race of 2008 just two weeks away, I thought I would give everybody some time to assess the current championship standings, and then offer opinion as to who they believe will be the 2008 Formula One World Champion. The comments will be open as usual, and there is a voting form at the bottom of this article. So take a look through the numbers, think about the drivers and their teams, and then let everyone know what you think will be the outcome of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Surprisingly, the reigning world champion is out of the hunt and Kimi Raikkonen waved goodbye to any title defence in Fuji last weekend. Instead, it has been left to his team mate Felipe Massa to take control and put himself in a position whereby he can still take the coveted trophy. However, one man stands in his way, and Lewis Hamilton must be ultra-confident after his dominant performance at the China Grand Prix. The championship table currently looks like this:

2008 Drivers Title

1. Lewis Hamilton 94pts
2. Felipe Massa 87pts
3. Robert Kubica 75pts
4. Kimi Raikkonen 69pts
5. Nick Heidfeld 60pts
6. Fernando Alonso 53pts
7. Heikki Kovalainen 51pts
8. Sebastian Vettel 30pts
9. Jarno Trulli 30pts
10. Timo Glock 22pts
11. Mark Webber 21pts
12. Nelson Piquet Jr. 19pts
13. Nico Rosberg 17pts
14. Rubens Barrichello 11pts
15. Kazuki Nakajima 9pts
16. David Coulthard 8pts
17. Sebastien Bourdais 4pts
18. Jenson Button 3pts

2008 Constructors Title

1. Ferrari 156pts
2. McLaren 145pts
3. BMW 135pts
4. Renault 72pts
5. Toyota 52pts
6. Scuderia Toro Rosso 34pts
7. Red Bull Racing 29pts
8. Williams 26pts
9. Honda 14pts

So Hamilton is 7 points clear of Massa. This means that Massa ideally needs to win at home in Brazil in a fortnight, and hope that Hamilton finishes no higher than sixth. Should the points be tied (by Massa winning and Hamilton finishing sixth) then the positions each driver finished in during the season are back-counted. Currently, both contenders are on five wins each, but a sixth win and equal points would mean Massa crowned as champion.

If the leading Ferrari pilot fails to win in Brazil, then he needs to finish in second and he will also need Hamilton to be no higher than eighth. This would earn Massa eight points and place him equal with the McLaren driver, but ahead on second places earned.

In reality, the only way I can see Hamilton failing to score is either a silly move at the start, similar to what happened in Japan this year and also in Brazil last season. Either that or poor weather conditions could upset any strategy and push the favour towards Ferrari. Both teams have made mistakes this year with tyre choices and pitstop calls, and Ferrari have spectacularly messed up a few actual pitstops themselves. But in reality, either team could mess it up under unusual circumstances.

Further down the tables there is a good battle for third, although Robert Kubica looks relatively safe as long as he can get a points finish to counter any strong result Kimi Raikkonen pulls out of the bag. And Raikkonen will only get a strong result if Massa retires or is too far behind. Fernando Alonso and Heikki Kovalainen are just 2 points apart in sixth and seventh. Alonso is on a charge at the moment, having been reinvigorated after his two wins. However, McLaren will desperately want Kovalainen near the front to help control the race should anything happen to Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel and Jarno Trulli are equal on 30 points each. Vettel has the upper hand having won a race this year, but Toyota and STR are fairly equal on pace at the moment, battling each other for Q3 and during the opening laps of races. Eighth place in the championship will be well-fought by these two drivers.

Timo Glock, Mark Webber and Nelson Piquet Jr rest on 21, 19 and 17 points respectively, so neither can sit back and relax before the season is over. Similarly, Kazuki Nakajima and David Coulthard are both able to collect a couple of points, and being separated by just 1 point in fifteenth and sixteenth, there could be a change in position at the bottom of the table as well.

The constructors is less close, with Ferrari 11 points ahead of McLaren. Although the maximum possible earnings from a race is 18, to recover 11 in one event is very difficult. BMW are just 10 points behind McLaren, but again, reclaiming the lost ground doesn’t look hopeful. Renault can neither catch nor be caught, so thanks to Alonso’s wins and Piquet’s slight improvement, the Enstone-based squad are confirmed in fourth. Toyota are in a similar position in fifth, but the battle between STR and Red Bull Racing is looking dangerously embarrassing. STR are ahead of the parent team, and Christian Horner’s squad need to find 6 points if they are overhaul the juniors. And let’s be honest, it’s unlikely.

The final battle is also unlikely to see any change, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Williams rest on 26 points, just 3 behind Red Bull. Should the Milton Keynes team have a disastrous weekend, and should Nico Rosberg find himself near the podium again, Red Bull could get demoted even further, adding to the disappointment of their 2008 season.

So there you have it. The drivers title is closer than the constructors, but there is room for manoeuvring. And that leaves me with just a couple of questions…


And will any other positions change in the overall standings, drivers or constructors? The comments are open and the voting forms available. Let’s hear what you have to say…


  • Hamilton was perfect this weekend and he will be the champion because he is the best.

    I am brazilian but I love F1 races since 1968. And I can see who has the art. At this moment, Lewis is the artist.

    Great race!

  • I’m resigned to Hamilton winning the title, but after today’s borefest all I want is for the race to be more like Japan than China in the excitement stakes!

  • Hi Oliver: If Massa finishes 2nd then Lewis must be 7th or less, not necessarily outside the points.

    Equals on points, Massa with 3 second places (5320111000) will win the championship in front of Lewis with only 2 second places. (5230201001)

    Did I missed something?

  • Massa with 3 second places […] Lewis with only 2 second places

    I have possibly missed something. I’m too tired to check now but I will tomorrow and correct myself if needed. Thanks for pointing it out, Ago.

  • C’mon Lewis, don’t fail us now.

    I want Lewis to win just to shove it to the FIA. And hey, since James Allen won’t be the commentator over at the beeb next year, a Lewis victory won’t be as unbearable as it would’ve been if he’d won last year πŸ˜‰

  • Sorry Oliver 8th (not 7th that was a mistyping)

    +8 for Felipe and +1 for Lewis reduces the gap to zero. But the 2nd place makes the difference.

  • Last year in Brazil, there were three things that stood in Hamilton’s way:

    – “Team mate” Alonso

    – Gearbox problem and

    – Inexperience/Pressure

    This year I feel he has none of these. Alonso isn’t quick enough to fight for the top 3 and Heikki is no match for lewis.

    McLaren’s reliability this year has been almost perfect and I don’t think lewis has retired due to a failure.

    The only thing that could go wrong is if he makes a silly mistake that takes him out of contention with Massa or that someone crashes into him.

    I think that he has learnt from last year’s and recent mistakes and he will take home the drivers championship in two weeks time.

    Good Luck Lewis!

  • If the leading Ferrari pilot fails to win in Brazil, then he needs to finish in second and he will also need Hamilton to be outside of the points. This would earn Massa eight points and place him one ahead of the McLaren driver.

    I see my mistake now – it was a bit of confusion on my part. I’ve adjusted the post, and added in Ago’s thing about back-counts of second places.

  • Hi Steven,

    – Last year Alonso did not play any role in Brazil: Even parking his car on the circuit won’t have changed anything.

    – The relialibity goes against Lewis as he had no breakdown yet the probability of a failure can only go up! πŸ™

    And the engine will be in its second race…

    Last year was a fantastic year for Lewis he was 12 times on the podium and 15 times in the points (all GPs but Europe and China) this year and after 17 GPs -equivalent to the whole 2007 season- he has only 10 podiums and 14 times in the points (I hope he is happy that Fernando is gone! πŸ˜‰

    It is going to be a difficult race for both drivers. Felipe has nothing to loose, Lewis has a lot… Oliver will probably write something about that… Difficult to choose the good strategy for him I believe he should go for a win because this is what he does best.

    Strange situation for McLaren: they should be on the eve of celebrating 4 titles in 2 years and what they will have is one.


    Lewis is great but Ron is… Well, he is Ron!

  • There is little doubt in my mind that Lewis will keep his wits about him and win the championship with style, grace and a modicum of humility.

  • The situation being what it is, yes Lewis deserve to win the championship, there is little doubt about this, but to be honest they (Kimi, Felipe and Lewis) are very lucky Fernando is in a Renault this year. Until now he grabbeb more points than Heikki this year and also as many points as the 2 Renault drivers last year πŸ˜‰ in a competitive car he would have taken lots of points from these 3 guys…

    It has to be said: This year a major contender for the title is not in a position to fight for it and Ferrari + McLaren are not as strong as last year (less podiums 30/46, less victories 13/17, less points 301/407)… Amazingly this is more or less what Fernando did last year (4 victories, 12 podiums, 109 points)… so for sure the champion -whoever he is- would need “a modicum of humility” πŸ˜‰

  • In reality of course Lewis should already be champion. Only the steards have prevented that. With the nonsense at both Valencia and Spa plus giving Massa a point in Japan for driving into Bourdais. Massa simply deos not deserve to be champion and is only in a position to challenge because the stewards re-write the rule book on a case by case basis.

    On thing you seem to overlook Ago. Alonso is in a Renault because he couldn’t cope with Lewis. Why should Lewis have humility about blowing a reigning double world champion ou the door when he was a rookie? Alonso may have finished the season equal on points but he lost the plot because he could not keep up for most of the season.

  • That was just another example of the FIA turning convention on its head to benefit Ferrari.

    Never in its history has the FIA given equal weight to anyone else’s guage of anything. A team cannot turn up with a highly accurate laser ruler to prove that their car is legal. THey cannot turn up with hyper accurate scales to prove that their car is within weight. But apparently they can decide that the official FIA weather guages are not accurate enough for them and use their own and the FIA will give them equal weight. No governing body in any sport in the world allows competitors to use their own guage for anything. But then they don’t have to accommodat Ferrari.

  • Felipe Massa this year, is the best. The problem was that the Ferrari confused. Hungria the engine broke the 3 returns. Cingapura in pit sotp. Felipe Massa ran much more that Hamilton. If nothing it had happened with Mass, it would be in First in finishes race. The best Felipe Massa!

  • SR- I never really looked into last year because I knew it was pointless, (even though I had 5/1 on Hamilton in April). What would of been the outcome of a totally neutral investigation. (What ever Ali says I will take as gospel)…:-)

  • As a Tea drinking Englishman I was brought up to believe `its not whether you Win, Lose or Draw its how you play the game` for Massa to be crowned Champion will not only be `thats not cricket` it will be a crime of monumental sporting proportions. But its irrelevent anyway because Lewis is 2008 WDC, what ever the fixed history books say.

  • The Brazil 2007 thing was wierd. The short version is that if the FIA had made its mind up what measurement it was going to use prior to the race, then BMW and Williams would have adjusted their fuel cooling strategies accordingly and there would never have been a problem (because they would have taken the “10 degrees C cooler than” from the measurement the FIA actually used instead of the one they thought the FIA would have used. In addition, they primarily switched to the Meteo France measurement because the FIA sensor hadn’t been calibrated for several years – not a situation that should have been allowed to arise, and surely something the FIA could reasonably have made the circuit sort out at the start of the weekend. As such, I find it difficult to believe that Hamilton would have been champion had the FIA handled the matter completely correctly.

    However, given that the FIA sensors were out of alignment and they were supposed to be the datum line for the fuel temperature measurements, there is no logical justification for BMW and Williams to have been permitted to remain in the race. Now, the precedent for fuel irregularities is that the driver keeps their points but the constructor loses theirs (the likes of Steven Roy say this is wrong because the driver is part of the constructor, but the stewards are supposed to pay attention to precedent unless a subsequent formal rule change makes it irrelevant). So it wouldn’t have helped Hamilton’s championship any any. However, it would have made McLaren the team that would have had the most points in the championship, barring the extremely controversial Ferrari/McLaren case. The FIA’s rubbish logic behind that decision would have been raked over again and it would have had a lot of awkward questions to answer.

    The dismissal of the appeal was nonsense – the FIA effectively said that only the beneficiary of a favourable stewarding decision could appeal against it.

    So my take on it is that if the FIA had followed its own rules completely after the race, taking into consideration the mistakes made by the FIA prior to it, then Raikkonen would have been the champion, Hamilton would have lost on legal precedent and McLaren would have been blatant pre-penalty champions.

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