Parallel to Lewis Hamilton’s moment of joy was utter despair for title runner-up Felipe Massa.
Massa crossed the line at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix thinking he had won the world championship. The home crowd and his Ferrari team thought so too – but when Hamilton came home in fifth place the smiles vanished.
Massa drove a faultless race in Brazil. He started from pole position, he set fastest lap, and he won the race. And for all the talk of his weaknesses in wet weather he kept his head during the showers at the start and end of the race.
He couldn’t have done any more, and he was powerless to prevent Hamilton beating him to the championship by a single point.
I won’t pretend for a moment that I am anything other than relieved that the title contenders didn’t end the race tied on points, as it looked like they were going to as the last lap began. That would have given Massa the title – with six wins to Hamilton’s five – and a hard-earned championship would have been forever tainted by the disgrace of the Spa penalty. As far as I’m concerned, the sport dodged an undesirable and disreputable outcome, just as it did in 1982.
But I felt bitterly sorry for Massa at the end. Since Bahrain this year he has forced his critics to re-evaluate their opinions of him with every passing race. He comes across as a genuine and warm individual – and his emotions are invariably writ large across his face.
He was the model of graciousness in defeat. Afterwards he said:
We need to congratulate Lewis as he did a great championship, he scored more points than us so he deserves to be champion. I know how to lose, I know how to win and it is another day of my life where I will learn a lot.
Hopefully we come back here with the title [next year], but it is part of our experience and part of our life.
And I don’t buy all this ‘that was Massa’s only shot at the title’ stuff either. He’ll win more races in the future. And people like me will look a lot less surprised when he does.