Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was confirmed as Formula One champion yesterday after Brazilian Grand Prix stewards decided to impose no penalties on BMW Sauber and Williams for alleged fuel irregularities.
Raikkonen seized his first Formula One title by a single point, and against the odds, on Sunday after a stirring victory in Brazil. The Finn’s win, leading Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa in a one-two finish, had ended 22-year-old Briton Hamilton’s bid to become the youngest champion in his debut season with McLaren. Hamilton finished seventh while teammate and double world champion Fernando Alonso, in what may prove to be his last race for McLaren, was third and 57 seconds behind the winner. The stewards called upon both the BMW Sauber and the Williams teams to send representatives to them to discuss issues arising from the post-race scrutineering. German Nico Rosberg of Williams finished fourth ahead of the two BMW drivers - Pole Robert Kubica and German Nick Heidfeld. If they were disqualified, Hamilton’s promotion from seventh to fourth would have elevated him to the title.
Hamilton, who began the day four points ahead of his team-mate Spaniard defending double world champion Fernando Alonso, and seven ahead of Raikkonen was long gone from the track when the drama began. Raikkonen, the third Finnish Formula One world champion after Keke Rosberg (1982) and Mika Hakkinen (1998 and 1999), ended the season with 110 points to Hamilton and Alonso’s 109. Hamilton is runner-up on second places. “We were not in the strongest of positions but we always believed we could recover,” said the ‘Iceman’, after his sixth win of the year. “Even in the bad times, everyone was sticking together, and we didn’t give up...I think we had perfect teamwork.”
Hamilton, who had started the race as title favorite with a four-point lead over Alonso and an advantage of seven to Raikkonen, endured a nightmare afternoon in the Interlagos sunshine. Starting on the front row, he had dropped to eighth at the end of the first lap after running wide as Alonso forced his way through and Ferrari settled into a one-two pattern with Massa leading from pole. The Briton then slowed dramatically eight laps later and plunged to 18th place, leaving him fighting a desperate rearguard battle to claw his way back into the points. Team boss Ron Dennis blamed a gearbox malfunction. “None of us is in pain, we feel great. We’ve just had one of the most fanastic Formula One seasons ever,” Hamilton’s father Anthony told Britain’s ITV television. “We lost it by one point but we’ll come back next year and if we don’t win it next year we’ll win it the year after but one thing is for sure, Lewis Hamilton is here to stay.”
Alonso, his hopes of becoming the first driver since 1957 to win back-to-back titles with different teams hanging by a thread, could not match the Ferraris’ searing pace. “My congratulations to Kimi,” he said afterwards. “He did a great championship. He deserves it.”
Massa, who had led for most of the first 50 laps, was overtaken by Raikkonen as expected during the second round of pitstops to hand the Finn the title-clinching win. Germany’s Nico Rosberg was fourth for Williams with Poland’s Robert Kubica fifth for BMW Sauber and his team mate Nick Heidfeld sixth. Italy’s Jarno Trulli took the final point for Toyota.
It was another bleak day for Australian Mark Webber, who retired his Red Bull after just 15 laps, while his team-mate David Coulthard finished 9th. Raikkonen, usually impassive on the podium, showed rare emotion after one of Formula One’s great comebacks. The Finn, runner-up in 2003 and 2005, had been 17 points behind Hamilton with two races remaining and was the outsider in the first three-way title showdown since 1986. “I was not expecting it even if the hope never died. We have fought until the last corner,” said Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.
Raikkonen’s triumph brought the curtain down on one of the most controversial seasons in Formula One history and handed Ferrari the drivers’ title in addition to the constructors’ championship. McLaren would have won that title had they not been stripped of all their points for a spying controversy as well as being docked 15 for a pole position furore in August. Raikkonen’s joy, in his first season with Ferrari after joining from McLaren as successor to retired seven-times champion Michael Schumacher, left his former team still chasing their first title since 1999. “It was so close, we needed just one car to stop,” Dennis told reporters. “In the end Ferrari suffered their reliability problems in the beginning of the season and we’ve had some today. It’s not about one race, it’s about the world championship and we’ve got to be positive and sporting and look forward to next year.” While McLaren had led the drivers’ championship since the second race of the season, Raikkonen won the first and last to emerge on top. (smh.com.au)