Lewis Hamilton made his Formula One debut in 2007, filling a vacant slot at McLaren, and enjoyed an outstanding rookie season, albeit failing by a single point to win the Drivers’ Championship after a series of calamities in the final two races of the season. However, in 2008, won five races, including a dominant, 68-second victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and, despite picking up post-race penalties on five separate occasions throughout the season, pipped his nearest rival, Brazilian Felipe Massa, to the drivers’ title, again by an single point.
At the time, Hamilton, aged 23 years and 301 days, became the youngest winner Formula One World Drivers’ Championship in history, beating the previous record, of 24 years and 59 days, set by Fernando Alonso in 2005. However, his record lasted just two years, being surpassed by Sebastian Vettel, aged 23 years and 134 days, in 2010.
In the final race of the 2008 season, the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos in São Paulo, Brazil, Hamilton qualified in fourth place, behind Massa, Jarno Trulli and Kimi Räikkönen. Before the race, Hamilton held a seven-point lead over Massa, so needed to finish in fifth position, or better, to win the championship.
On lap 69 of the 71-lap race Hamilton lay in fifth position but, having been forced wide by the already-lapped Robert Kubica at the final corner, known as Junção, was passed by Sebastian Vettel early on the penultimate lap and relegated to sixth position. Try as he might, Hamilton could not pass Vettel but, in the final sector of the final lap, both drivers – although, at the time, unbeknown to Hamilton, who thought he was overtaking backmarkers – easily passed fourth-placed Tino Glock, who Toyota was struggling badly on dry weather tyres, to give Hamilton his vital fifth-placed finish.