São Paulo, November 2, 2008: Felipe Massa in the Ferrari F2008 car crosses the finish line in first place and wins the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Interlagos, in São Paulo in front of his home fans, while celebration begins in the Maranello pit garage for a seemingly secured world championship title. Seemingly, because after 38 seconds, Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren passes the finish line in fifth place, and after a tumultuous race, he manages to score the points needed to become the world champion, snatching the title from Felipe Massa and Ferrari in what appeared to be a championship-winning moment.
In an instant, the joy and celebration in the Ferrari box turn into a collective tragedy, with scenes of hysteria contrasting with the audience’s joy in the stands, still unaware of the deception suffered by the Brazilian after the race was seemingly over. When the announcement is made over the loudspeakers, the crowd falls silent, realizing the impact of those final 38 seconds of the race.
In those 38 seconds, Lewis Hamilton passed Timo Glock’s Toyota (on dry tires on a wet track) and secured the fifth position, crowning him world champion for the first time in his career at the end of a beautiful, sometimes crazy Formula 1 season. Both Felipe Massa and Ferrari, even years later, after the admission of a ‘manipulated’ GP in Singapore by Flavio Briatore’s Renault and the F1 management itself, have a lot to regret.
In a recent exclusive interview, the editorial team of formula1.it had the opportunity to discuss that season with Modesto Menabue, former Ferrari engine specialist who, in 2008, was a technician on Kimi Raikkonen’s F2008 and, in fact, experienced that year up close and ‘from within.’ A championship contested, as mentioned, with the F2008, which, according to the Italian technician, was the best car he had worked on in his 30-plus years on the race circuit.
“The best car I worked on? I say 2008, but it only won the constructors’ title.” – the Italian pointed out.
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A car that ‘only’ won the constructors’ championship due to drivers not in top form and reliability issues that, during the championship, caused significant setbacks for both Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen.
“Kimi Raikkonen had won in 2007 and had his mind elsewhere, and Felipe, despite fighting, made several mistakes. He talks about Brazil, but with that car, you have to win the title earlier. As a team, we had reliability problems, having reduced the long runs on the bench and becoming less strict than usual. Defective connecting rods betrayed us.” – he admitted.
Defective connecting rods caused at least a couple of significant retirements due to engine failures for both the Brazilian and the Finn, resulting from long runs on test benches becoming less stringent than usual, probably due to redirecting more energies toward the 2009 engines, which would see the introduction of KERS, hybrid technology for the first time in an F1 car. Long runs on the bench, the functioning of which Modesto Menabue himself explained.
“At the beginning of the year, you order batches of components, connecting rods, camshafts, etc. Then you take random pieces from each batch, assemble the engine, and go to the bench. Every two months, you do harder long runs.” – the Italian concluded.