(CNN) -- Britain's Lewis Hamilton has become the youngest-ever Formula One world champion by winning the 2008 title in a thrilling finish at Interlagos on Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton wins the Formula One world title after an incredible final race at Interlagos.
The McLaren driver needed only to finish inside the top five at the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit to claim the crown, but it happened in the most dramatic of circumstances.
In the end, he needed to make a pass two corners from the finish line to claim the title by a solitary point 98 to 97.
Hamilton was comfortably sitting in fourth three laps from the end, but a heavy rain shower changed the race.
Forced to go to the pits to change tires, Hamilton was passed by Sebastien Vettel and Timo Glock -- leaving him in sixth position and potentially costing him the world title.
However, Glock's decision not to change to wet tires slowed him down on the final lap, allowing Hamilton to pass and finish fifth -- enough for the championship.
Hamilton's nearest rival, Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who sat seven points adrift coming into the final round, won the race.
Spurred on by a massive home crowd, Massa charged to a comfortable victory, however, it was never going to be enough to win the championship unless Hamilton finshed outside the top five.
The result left the crowd unhappy and Massa mortified as they initially believed the Ferrari driver had taken the crown.
Hamilton wins the title at a record age of 23 years and 300 days.
After the race an emotional Hamilton told waiting media: "It's pretty much impossible to put into words how I feel. I'm speechless. It has been such a long journey and I am thrilled to be able to do this for everyone."
Hamilton said the shower of rain before the end put what had been a finely calculated finish into jeopardy. "Before it started to rain I was comfortable, but then it started to drizzle. I saw Sebastian and he got in front of me and then I was told to come in to change tires.
"Then I got past Glock and when I did it was just amazing. It was one of the toughest races of my life," Hamilton said.
Massa praised the efforts of Hamilton, but was visibly emotional at the result. "We did everything fantastically and I am so proud about that race and I'm so proud about the team and the people here. But then we came up just one point short."
The drama began shortly before the race when a heavy downpour of rain in Sao Paulo caught the teams unaware as they headed to the track for a warm-up lap.
Officials eventually delayed the start while the teams headed back to the pits to change to wet tires.
When the race did get underway the front of the grid all made a clean start. Massa held strong at the front and Hamilton managed to hold his fourth place on the grid as team-mate Heikki Kovalainen nursed him through the first corner.
But it was not such a smooth run for veteran Briton David Coulthard. Racing in his final grand prix, Coulthard was involved in a crash with the Williams cars of Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima. The accident ended his race and a long and successful career in Formula One.
Massa managed to hold his lead firmly through the early stages, and through the change to dry tires as the track dried and weather held clear.
He eventually went on to win and claim the consolation of the constuctors' championship for Ferrari, but he and the Brazilian crowd were left hugely disappointed.