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The Last Race WORK

The Riverhead Raceway is the last track remaining from a circuit of more than 40 that formerly dotted Long Island. Owned and operated by octogenarians Barbara and Jim Cromarty, Riverhead sponsors weekend races on a quarter-mile track throughout the summer season for amateur drivers competing for modest winnings and trophies.

The Last Race


Massa retired from the lead on the final lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix with car trouble and drove away from a pit-stop in Singapore with the fuel hose still attached to his car. He went on to finish fifth there, while Hamilton was third. At the following race, in Japan, a wildly aggressive start from pole saw Hamilton tangle with Raikkonen. Hamilton would finish down the order, with Massa fifth, although he made amends at the penultimate race by leading Massa home from pole.

Felipe Massa: When I started that week, I had in my mind only one thing that I had to do which was to win the race. I was not thinking about my fight with Lewis because this is the last race, so in the worst case I need to win -- that was the only thing I was thinking about, in my mind, every day of the week since the week started.

Rob Smedley, Ferrari race engineer: I think it's quite funny when you look at people's memories of that weekend because the memory is quite different to the reality. It wasn't really viewed as a championship decider, it was really viewed as Lewis' coronation -- that it was already his, signed, sealed and delivered.

Paddy Lowe, McLaren engineering director: It's really difficult to win in this sport -- really, really difficult. Particularly at McLaren we'd been fighting a long time and at that point we'd had a lot of second places, if you actually go and add it up it's a lot of near-misses. The last constructors' at McLaren was 1998 and the last drivers' was 1999, then there's a lot of second places in the middle. Particularly in 2007, we'd missed it by a single point with two drivers, which I don't think has ever happened. Then you think, 'how close can you get without doing it?'

Phil Prew, McLaren race engineer: In the latter part of 2008 we had the advantage and we were letting points slip. You look back at 2007 and it was pretty much the same. That was certainly very vivid in our thoughts and certainly influenced how we approached the weekend, the strategy we adopted ... we were quite defensive in our approach. And as the race panned out, that nearly cost us very dearly.

Felipe Massa: To be honest, I never felt big pressure before the race. I was really calm but also feeling the extra power. I was always really feeling that maybe the weekend was mine. I would say I had an amazing feeling on the grid from all the people ... I had a great atmosphere from everybody, from all the Brazilians, from all the people that were pushing me in a nice way.

Rob Smedley, Ferrari race engineer: Felipe has always been a guy who needed an arm around him and have some love and respect, and you couldn't have hoped for more love and respect from the whole of your nation at that point.

Luis Vasconcelos, journalist: For once, the Brazilian public got behind him. Because since [Ayrton] Senna they had never really got behind any driver. It was always quite split. It was like [Rubens] Barrichello was not as good as Senna, so he was crap. Felipe was not as good as Senna, so he was crap. But Felipe had won six races, was fighting for the title. So for the first time ever the Brazilian fans were pushing and supporting Felipe and booing Hamilton.

Felipe Massa: Then it was a quite strange feeling, we had to wait in the car. Something was telling me maybe this can be for some good or maybe some changes for the race. I know that in the dry, Lewis had a pretty big chance to score a good amount of points so maybe this can change the race.

Massa led away cleanly and Hamilton avoided any drama at the start. An early Safety Car was deployed for another crash and the rain soon eased off. Everyone switched to the dry tyre -- Hamilton was one of the last to do so, briefly relegating him to sixth position behind Giancarlo Fisichella.

Phil Prew, McLaren race engineer: We didn't want to be the first to go over to the dry tyres, we didn't need that risk. The person who did migrated up the grid and then it's like s---, we should be fourth here but we're fifth -- but it's still fifth, so it's OK. With Lewis' ability in the wet, which he's had from the very beginning, we had been able to make some very aggressive choices in those races that year. He'd had those wins in Monaco, Silverstone, some really excellent races in the wet so it should have been an excellent opportunity for us.

For most of the race, the championship battle was finely poised: Massa led comfortably out in front, while Hamilton switched between fourth and fifth position -- both enough for his first championship.

Rob Smedley, Ferrari race engineer: Felipe had the car and was so good that day. He was just cantering along. You can hear it in his voice, you can look at the telemetry, you can see how hard he's pushing -- you know we've got bags of pace in hand at this point. The whole pack is behind and they're all scrabbling, he's just eking it out bit by bit as the race goes on.

Felipe Massa: When I changed to the dry tyres the race was pretty easy on my side because my pace was very, very strong so I managed to open the gap. I managed to really have quite an easy race but then suddenly it starts to rain again at the end of the race so everything changed.

Timo Glock, Toyota driver: Every time I came through Turn 3, Turn 4, Turn 5, into the middle of the circuit, the cloud above was getting bigger. I told them for sure it was going to end up in a chaotic last one, two, three laps, and that we should prepare ourselves to change tyres. They said we'll stay out because they thought it would be dry enough until the end of the race. I told them: 'listen, it's going to piss it down massively in the last couple of corners on the circuit, it's going to get worse and worse'. They said there were guys already coming in to change tyres but that the strategy for us was much better to stay on dry tyres. So that's what we did.

Luis Vasconcelos, journalist: In Formula One there has always been this unwritten rule that you don't really fight championship contenders on the last race if you're not one of them. But nobody told that to Vettel.

Phil Prew, McLaren race engineer: That moment was horrible, like 'we've just thrown it away again'. All the feelings of disappointment from 2007 came flooding back. Just gut-wrenching disappointment. Then you quickly snap back and remember you're still racing.

Rob Smedley, Ferrari race engineer: It became very, very difficult not to be 100 percent concentrated on Lewis from that point. You know your race is coming to the final couple of laps, Felipe's been inch perfect, he's not going to drop it.

Felipe Massa: Rob was always talking to me in the way that 'OK Lewis is sixth, but the race hasn't finished yet, it's raining, anything can happen so keep concentrating'. He was always speaking to me like that so I never really had my mind on 'I will be the world champion'.

Timo Glock: On the second-to-last lap I told the team, 'I need to come in because it's already raining in the last corner'. They told me I couldn't as the pits were already closed because there were people already there preparing the area for Felipe and the top three to park their cars. People were walking around the pit-lane so I wasn't allowed to come in, the team said 'now you need to stay out.'

Phil Prew, McLaren race engineer: It soon became quite apparent that the rain had got a lot worse and Glock's lap times started to drop away. At that point we were communicating to Lewis that the opportunity wasn't with Vettel any more, it was with catching the Toyota. That was clearly a big call. I think that was very difficult for him to process in the car -- because he can't see what we can, all he can see is the guy in front.

Rob Smedley, Ferrari race engineer: At this point what I'm watching the whole time was how wet it was getting in the pit lane. I was thinking 's---' and just saying 'f---king stop, please just stop f---ing raining', because it's getting heavier and heavier, and obviously I knew what that meant.

Timo Glock: I started the last lap and at the first corner it's just so wet, no grip, and I knew it was going to be a massive struggle just to finish because it would be even worse at the end of the circuit.

Dudu Massa, Felipe's brother: When Felipe finished the race we still waited a little bit but the emotion was so high that one single clap for somebody exploded the emotions. Then a friend of ours got a little more emotional, he was a big guy, and he hugged us and we lost some composure. Then everyone lost it and was jumping around. I don't know how to explain it, we just got blind.

Rob Smedley, Ferrari race engineer: Everyone was going mad but I was desperately trying to watch the screens in front of me because I could see Hamilton was gaining pace and Glock had started to struggle big time.

Phil Prew, McLaren race engineer: At the time, the way the communications were at McLaren, there was a guy called Richard Hopkirk on the pit wall communicating with Lewis. I lost all radio protocol. 'Tell Lewis that Glock is the man we need to focus on', Richard said 'Well I can't tell him now, he's coming through a corner...', I cut him off and said 'JUST F---ING TELL HIM!'

Rob Smedley, Ferrari race engineer: All the guys had already come out to the wall to celebrate. I was still trying to focus on the GPS and see what was happening with Lewis. Everyone went mental and started to jump on me, pulling me off my chair, congratulating me, slapping me on the back. I was trying to stay focused on this map and I was almost laying horizontal in this mess when I see that it looks like Hamilton had passed him, then I saw him eek out on the map. It was like 'oh f---, he's passed ...' 041b061a72


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