Although he did not win the race or stand on the podium, ten years after the most infamous moment of his career, Timo Glock is still trying to shake off his association with the Brazilian Grand Prix.
In 2008, Interlagos was the season finale and hosted a title decider between McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. Timo Glock was signing off his rookie campaign with Toyota but became an unwilling protagonist in the closing stages.
A late rain shower prompted most to switch from dry tyres to the ‘intermediate’ wet-weather option, but Toyota opted to keep its drivers out on dry tyres to gain postions. That moved him up the order and ahead of Hamilton, who then dropped behind Sebastian Vettel’s Toro Rosso to sixth with three laps remaining — the McLaren driver needed to finish fifth or higher to win the title.
Over those last three laps the rain intensified and Glock started to struggle, eventually being caught by both drivers at the final corner, albeit after Massa had crossed the line as race winner and temporarily as world champion. Although it was a strategy call that ultimately gained Toyota two places, conspiracy theorists were out in force after the result — with some suggesting Glock had helped Hamilton win the title.
Speaking to ESPN as part of its extensive oral history of that event, Glock said: “There were a couple of journalists who were very aggressive, especially from the Italian side, pointing fingers at me and saying I had done this on purpose and it must have been planned before the race, ‘how much did Mercedes [McLaren’s engine supplier] and Lewis pay you’.
“It was a situation I never thought I would be in. I could not believe people actually followed this stupid thought that I had somehow planned this with Lewis before the race. How did we know the weather would turn out like this before the race?”
The abuse did not stop when Glock left the Interlagos circuit.
“We even had letters come in to my family, to my dad and mom’s house about how I had done this and how people should shoot me, I shouldn’t be in the sport anymore. I could not believe how bad people could be. It was pretty extreme.”
Any suggestion Glock was motivated to help Hamilton makes little sense when analysed in any detail — he was only in a position to influence the championship because Toyota went a different way to everyone else on strategy. Anyone wanting to have helped Hamilton win the championship would have stopped for ‘intermediates’ like everyone else and stayed outside of the top five, leaving the Englishman a stress-free drive to the flag regardless of whether Vettel passed him or not.
Glock was relieved to discover a few years ago that Formula One had posted the entire onboard of his final lap of Brazil on YouTube.
“Every year, every November I get asked about it! I get less abuse now that someone at F1 put the video up on the internet — you can see how much I struggled on the last lap.
“This calmed down the situation totally as I can just send people that now. I have no idea why it took them so long, but I also have no idea why I never thought to ask them to put the onboard online! But it’s helped people understand there was no tactic behind it and that it was just a battle to keep it on the race track.”
Glock stayed with Toyota the following year, finishing third in Malaysia and second in Singapore — his only visits to the F1 podium. Toyota withdrew from F1 at the end of that season and Glock moved to Virgin Racing. He stayed as it became Marussia for 2011 and 2012, but was unable to find a race seat for 2013.
He has since become a multiple race-winner in German touring car championship DTM.