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The Circuit

How the F1 title was won: Part three

  • Story Highlights
  • The title challenges of Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica faltered late on
  • Felipe Massa kept the pressure on Lewis Hamilton with strong displays
  • Needing a fifth place at the last race to win the title, Hamilton duly delivered
  • Next Article in World Sport »
Neale Graham
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Lewis Hamilton took his first Formula One world championship after an eight-month-long duel with Felipe Massa.

After a strong end to the year, Felipe Massa took the title down to the wire, only to fail at the death.

The Circuit looks at how he became the youngest F1 champion with a race-by-race review of a record-breaking and incident-packed 2008 season.

Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps, September 7

The tedium of Valencia was followed by the most controversial grand prix for many a season. Kimi Raikkonen rediscovered his mojo, leaping from fourth on the grid to first by the end of lap two, capitalizing on a spin from polesitter Hamilton on a damp track. It seemed that the Finn would make it four straight Spa wins until the rain started to fall in the closing stages and Hamilton homed in.

Approaching the final chicane, he dived up the outside and was blocked by Raikkonen, forcing his McLaren over the run-off area. Now ahead, Hamilton slowed to allow Raikkonen back through, then re-passed him into the next corner. A frenzied last couple of laps saw places traded up and down the field as the rain fell ever harder and Raikkonen crashed out on the penultimate lap. Read more about F1 at The Circuit.

Hamilton took the checkered flag ahead of Massa and Nick Heidfeld, only to be demoted to third when stewards punished his corner-cutting during his battle with Raikkonen by adding 25 seconds to his time. A subsequent appeal by McLaren was unsuccessful. Robert Kubica was sixth.

Hamilton 76 points, Massa 74, Kubica 58, Raikkonen 57

Italian Grand Prix, Monza, September 14

Another wet race produced one of the greatest shock winners of all time -- as well as a slice of F1 history. Sebastian Vettel had been getting stronger in an improving but still far-from-pacesetting Toro Rosso since the mid-summer hiatus. He delivered on his promise in becoming, at 21, the youngest ever F1 race winner after becoming the youngest polesitter the day before.

Kubica put in a savvy drive from 11th on the grid to finish third behind a disappointing Heikki Kovalainen. Hamilton picked the wrong tires in wet qualifying but still leapt from 15th to seventh at the end. Massa started and finished sixth, Raikkonen started 14th but belatedly came alive when the track dried to come home ninth.

Hamilton 78 points, Massa 77, Kubica 64, Raikkonen 57

Singapore Grand Prix, Singapore, September 28

A year after his last win, Fernando Alonso delivered the second successive surprise win on the floodlit Singapore streets in F1's first night race. Capitalizing on a safety-car period which shuffled the pack, Alonso turned 15th on the grid into a convincing win -- Renault's first since 2006.

Massa had led from pole, with Hamilton in hot pursuit and Raikkonen behind when Nelson Piquet struck the wall to send the track full-course yellow. Most of the field pitted including Massa, who was then released from his stop with the fuel hose attached to his Ferrari. Dispirited after being given a drive-through penalty for a dangerous pit release, he finished 12th. Hamilton came home a cautious third and Raikkonen crashed out of fifth place to non-score for the fourth race running.

Kubica fell foul of a draconian and unfair ruling that punishes with a 10-second stop-go penalty those drivers who have to enter the closed pitlane while under safety-car conditions to avoid running out of fuel. It meant he dropped from fourth off the grid to 11th by the end.

Hamilton 84 points, Massa 77, Kubica 64, Raikkonen 57

Japanese Grand Prix, Fuji, October 12

Poleman Hamilton dived up the inside of a fast-starting Raikkonen, locked his wheels, forcing both cars wide at turn one. An impetuous Hamilton then tangled with Massa for fifth at the chicane, getting spun around by his rival and dropping to the back of the field. Hamilton was handed a drive-through penalty for his overly aggressive start and Massa one for the collision.

Up front, Alonso leapfrogged Kubica at the first pitstop and went on to win from the Pole, who held off a charging Raikkonen late on, although third was not enough to keep the Finn in the title hunt. Massa collided with Sebastien Bourdais' Toro Rosso as it exited the pits and for the resultant Ferrari spin, the Frenchman received a contentious 25-second penalty. This moved Massa up to seventh with Hamilton finishing a pointless 12th.

Hamilton 84, Massa 79, Kubica 72, (Raikkonen 63)

Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, October 19

The race in Shanghai was the calm after the storm, as Hamilton streaked to victory in one of the least interesting and most processional grands prix of 2008. Quickest all weekend, after the McLaren man made a good start from pole position and navigated the first corner without incident the race was in the bag.

Massa was outpaced by Raikkonen and it took the world champion deliberately slowing down late on to promote the Brazilian up to second. Kubica had struggled with his car in qualifying and did well to move up from 12th off the grid to sixth. However, his faint title hopes were extinguished.

Hamilton 94, Massa 87, (Kubica 75), (Raikkonen 69)

Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos, November 2

A heavy shower delayed the start of a race that would end more dramatically than almost any other in history. From pole, Massa streaked away at the front and the victory he needed to keep his title dream alive was never in doubt, with Alonso and Raikkonen trailing him home. Hamilton played the percentage game and was fourth or fifth throughout until rain fell in the final few laps, forcing the front-runners to pit for wet-weather tires.

Hamilton buckled under pressure from a charging Vettel, slipped down to sixth and looked certain to miss out on the championship again. But at the very last corner he caught and passed Timo Glock, who had stayed out on dry tires, to grab fifth and snatch the title by a point. The climax to an F1 season gets no better than that.

Hamilton 98, Massa 97, (Raikkonen 75), (Kubica 75).

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How the title was won: Part one

How the title was won: Part two

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