Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen clinched the 2007 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship in an enthralling race at the Interlagos. Going into the last race of the season trailing by seven points to McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and by 3 points to two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, Kimi needed to win the race with Alonso finishing no higher than third and Hamilton finishing no higher than sixth. And one couldn’t have scripted a better finale, as Kimi won the race with Alonso coming third and Hamilton finishing seventh. This meant that the Finn had 110 points compared to Hamilton’s and Alonso’s 109 – thus winning the title by a single point!!!
There was palpable excitement surrounding this race, most of which had started off right after Hamilton’s gravel-stop-incident at Shanghai. Hamilton still was in the lead and after Saturday’s Qualifying, he had both his title rivals behind him on the grid. He just had to maintain his position and finish ahead of his teammate Alonso while ensuring that Kimi didn’t win. But it all went awry at the start itself! Pole-sitter Massa’s deft maneouvres coupled with Kimi and Alonso’s aggressive starts caused Hamilton to slip back into 4th place at the start of race and as they went into turn two, he tried re-passing Alonso in vain and slid wide, and rejoined in 8th position. The two Ferraris of Massa and Raikkonen were leading the race with Alonso in pursuit. Things went from bad to worse for Hamilton as his McLaren suddenly lost gear-shifting and he appeared to nearly come to a standstill. The car managed to pickup the gears again but by that time he was down in 18th place and the chances of the title went poof! in smoke. The situation suddenly looked rosy for Alonso – with Kimi in 2nd place and himself in 3rd, the Spaniard would become Champion!!!But Ferrari – and of course Kimi – had it all panned out nicely and by the time the second pitstops arrived, Kimi drove some fast in and out laps and emerged ahead of his teammate and now, it was Kimi who was going to become champion! Hamilton did manage to carve his way past some of the slower-running cars but eventually had to settle for 7th place. But, as he himself said, he still has a long career ahead of him and there would be no dearth of championship crowns for him.
The rest of the runners were kinda lost in the wake of the championship battle but there were a few notable incidents and results. Nico Rosberg scored his best finish of the season in 4th place, ahead of the BMW duo of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld. Sakon Yamamoto and Kazuki Nakajima had ugly incidents – with the former running into the back of Giancarlo Fisichella’s Renault (though it was Fisichella’s fault) and the latter cannoning his car into the mechanics at his pitstop! Mark Webber couldn’t convert his promising start into a meaningful victory and retired from the race after just fourteen laps. Neither of the Hondas nor the Renaults finish the race, the former due to engine failures and the latter due to accidents.
Thus, the curtain falls on one of the memorable seasons of Formula One. I have a vague memory of the 2003 season which was decided by 2 points but this one had much more action – both on and off the field – more aggressive maneouvres and more adrenalin-inducing, fist-pumping moments. None more so exciting as the Brazilian Grand Prix! I was all alone while I was watching the race so there was no yelling and jumping about, but I sure did lotsa fist-pumping and clapping – for Kimi Raikkonen of course