Finally, and deservingly, Kimi Raikkonen is the Formula One world champion. Amazingly the Finn, the outsider in the three-way battle, clinched his first drivers' title with victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Ferrari man drove a calm and ...
Finally, and deservingly, Kimi Raikkonen is the Formula One world champion. Amazingly the Finn, the outsider in the three-way battle, clinched his first drivers' title with victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Ferrari man drove a calm and collected race and took the lead from teammate Felipe Massa after his second pit stop to score the win and the coveted crown by a single point.
Massa, who played his part perfectly, crossed the line second and McLaren's Fernando Alonso was third. A disappointment for the Spaniard but perhaps not as much as for teammate Lewis Hamilton. Going into this race with a four point lead, Hamilton started on the front row but lost out to Alonso in the first corners then suffered car issues. He finished seventh, two places shy of where he needed to be.
It was hot for race day, the track temperature around 60 degrees at the start. Pole sitter Massa led away from the line and Raikkonen and Alonso both had really good starts. The Finn got up to second and Alonso tussled with Hamilton through turns two and three; it was a clean fight and Alonso got ahead but it was the start of problems for Hamilton.
He went wide on the run off then seemed to recover okay, but within the next couple of laps something on his car went awry. He dropped to eighth and appeared to be fighting back, but then he slowed dramatically and got passed by car after car. Apparently it was a gearbox issue and he dropped to 18th. But, bizarrely, the car then stabilized and started picking up pace.
Meanwhile, Renault's Heikki Kovalainen and Toyota's Ralf Schumacher had contact but managed to continue. Sakon Yamamoto's Spyker ploughed into the back of Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault and went skywards, but both escaped unharmed. Tonio Liuzi's Toro Rosso was in the pits for an as yet unknown reason, joined quickly by Yamamoto and Fisichella, the former retiring.
At the front Massa was sailing away in the lead, followed by Raikkonen and Alonso, then came the BMW Sauber of Robert Kubica who had passed the Red Bull of Mark Webber. The Williams of Nico Rosberg was eighth, David Coulthard's Red Bull ninth and Sebastian Vettel's Toro Rosso rounded off the top 10.
Jenson Button's Honda was 11th, followed by the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima, Super Aguri's Anthony Davidson, Schumacher, Hamilton, Adrian Sutil's Spyker, Honda's Rubens Barrichello and Liuzzi. Nakajima and Hamilton were attacking Sato and Schumacher respectively and Hamilton got ahead then homed in on Davidson. Webber's efforts came to naught as he retired to the side of the track with a car failure.
Hamilton took 12th and lined up Nakajima, then sailed past for 11th. His next target was Button, seven seconds ahead. Massa was the first in for a pit stop, followed by Raikkonen a lap later. They held formation, with Massa ahead, and Button was next to retire. The Honda pulled off track with a suspected engine failure. Hamilton pitted for a short stop, evidently on a three strategy.
Sutil and Davidson had contact at turn one and both spun but continued, albeit with Davidson over the grass and carrying what looked like a puncture. Other drivers pitting had put Hamilton up to 13th and he wasn't hanging about; he dived up the inside of Barrichello at turn one in a very ballsy move to take 12th.
Alonso seemed to be rather off the pace and Kubica was challenging, while Hamilton was homing in on Vettel but not quite finding a way past. Nakajima had a daft moment in the pits, knocking over two of his mechanics but as far as reports are known they were not seriously injured, although taken to the medical centre for checks.
Back on track Kubica got the better of Alonso and Hamilton likewise despatched Vettel. Kovalainen was the next retiree with a big impact into the wall at turn three. It's not clear what happened -- it seemed to be a car failure but whatever the case Kovalainen was well and truly out of the race. He walked away unharmed though, which was the important thing.
Barrichello exited shortly afterwards with a fantastically smoky engine failure, luckily just at the entry of the pits so he could trail back to his garage. The second round of pit stops came and went with no particular dramas, Raikkonen exiting ahead of Massa to take the lead. Hamilton could have been in with a chance but his three-stopper dropped him to ninth.
He was clocking fastest laps but it was too late by then, time was ticking away. Rosberg was attacking Heidfeld and got up the inside of the BMW but they both wobbled a bit and went wide. Behind them Kubica took full advantage and swept past to gain two places to fourth. Nakajima and Coulthard made contact and spun, while Hamilton was up to seventh but too far away from the place he needed.
Rosberg eventually got past Kubica for fourth, a brave and commendable race for the Williams man. But at the front Raikkonen did what seemed almost impossible; he took the chequered flag for the win and the world championship, a remarkable and long-awaited achievement. It was a shame for Massa to give up his home win but he did what he had to.
"We always believed that we can recover, we can do a better job than the others and even in the hard times everybody was sticking together and we didn't give up," said Raikkonen. "It was good because as we saw in the end, even from a long way behind, we could reduce the gap and go ahead and win the championship, not just Constructors but also Drivers and I need to thank the team, they did a great job not just today but all year."
"Like I said, we had some hard time with some problems but we always work hard and improve the situation and I think we had a perfect teamwork, Felipe helping all the time also. We had a hard fight with him all year but then he unfortunately didn't score and he couldn't be in the fight any more, so he's been a big help also, and also the sponsors have been a big bonus for us. The team is very close, they've been doing a great job for us, improving the fuel and everything to help us with the new regulations, so for sure I'm going to enjoy today and probably the next month, but I'm very happy."
Brazil was no doubt a little disappointed, as was Massa, but he did what he had to do and has proved himself several times over this year. "It's good to see the Ferrari team, who trusted me, winning the championship and I'm very glad to help the team to win the championship," he said. "One day I hope it can be with me but I'm happy for Kimi. For sure I need to say thanks to the whole team who worked very hard, even during the difficult times when we were criticised because the reliability was not good enough, but in the end, it was good to see the team champions."
Disappointment for Alonso but he was gracious in defeat. "First of all congratulations to Kimi," he commented. "I said many times, the man who has more points at the last race deserves the championship, so in this case I think Kimi did a great championship, as he said, up and down for everybody but now, on the last day, he deserves it, so congratulations to him."
McLaren was never on the pace of the Ferraris and Alonso was nearly a minute behind in third. He finishes the season on equal points with Hamilton, who was seventh, but Hamilton is ahead overall due to better results, second behind Raikkonen. Even despite all the controversy the McLaren teammates were just about level-pegging at the end.
Rosberg's fourth and the lack of points for Red Bull secures Williams' fourth place in the constructors' championship. Kubica was the better of the BMWs in fifth and Heidfeld followed in sixth. Hamilton was seventh and Toyota scored he final point courtesy of Jarno Trulli in eighth. Coulthard and Nakajima round off the top 10.
Schumacher's last race for Toyota ended with 11th, then came Sato, Liuzzi and Davidson as the last classified finishers in 12th, 13th and 14th. It was quite an exciting race anyway but Raikkonen's triumph was an unexpected but heartily welcomed result. How long has Kimi waited for this? And he did it against all odds.
It's never quite right to see a driver fail because his car let him down but Hamilton messed up the first corners all on his own anyway. Certainly the following problems were what lost it for him but he has plenty of time in front of him to make amends. But no matter what, we have a new champion to celebrate -- all hail the Iceman!
Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Rosberg, Kubica, Heidfeld, Hamilton, Trulli.