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Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen wins in Brazil to clinch drivers' title

In one of the most dramatic climaxes to a Formula One season, a gripping Brazilian Grand Prix saw rank outsider Kimi Raikkonen burst through to snatch the world championship on a day when favourite Lewis Hamilton’s hopes were eroded right from the start.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa made a great start from pole position and defended himself against Hamilton’s McLaren on the rush to the first corner, as team mate Kimi Raikkonen squeezed alongside and then ahead of the Englishman in the famed Senna S.

As Hamilton had to back off to avoid colliding with Raikkonen, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso spotted his chance and squeaked through on Hamilton’s left to grab third place. The points leader’s efforts to regain the position saw him run wide further round the lap, and drop down to eighth.

At the end of the lap, extrapolation of the points scoring positions revealed that Raikkonen, running second to Massa, had 108 points. Alonso, in third, had 109, Hamilton, in eighth, 108. And that balance was to see-saw throughout the afternoon, especially as Hamilton gained and lost places during three pit stops.

Massa pitted for the last time on lap 50, but crucially Raikkonen went three laps longer. That enabled him to take the lead, and now only retirement could stop him as he amassed 110 points. He and Massa had easily outpaced Alonso, whose third place gave him six points and brought his tally to 109.

Hamilton’s feisty recovery from his off-road moment, and then a gearbox problem when the system momentarily stuck in neutral on the eighth lap, brought him up to seventh place, thus giving him 109 points too. But with one second place more than Alonso, he got the nod for second place overall over the Spaniard.

Between the two team mates, fourth place was a pitched battle between Nico Rosberg’s Williams and the BMW Saubers of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld. They finished in that order after some gripping racing. Behind Hamilton, Jarno Trulli took the final point for Toyota ahead of Red Bull’s David Coulthard and Williams rookie Kazuki Nakajima, who collided at one stage. The Japanese driver also clobbered two members of his crew during his pit stop. The other finishers were Toyota’s Ralf Schumacher, Takuma Sato (who had a tight battle with Super Aguri team mate Anthony Davidson early in the race), Toro Rosso’s Tonio Liuzzi whose nose was damaged in a first-corner fracas, and Davidson himself.

Neither Renault finished. Heikki Kovalainen was shoved off in the first corner, and later crashed there; and Giancarlo Fisichella is under investigation by the stewards after going off the road and rejoining in such a dangerous manner that Sakon Yamamoto ran straight into the back of his R27. Neither of the Hondas finished, both succumbing to engine failures, leaving Rubens Barrichello pointless at the end of a season for the first time in his Formula One career.

Mark Webber’s chances of helping Red Bull to catch and pass Williams in the standings evaporated with a engine/gearbox interface problem; Sebastian Vettel’s Toro Rosso had hydraulic failure; and Adrian Sutil had several incidents and six pit stops before retiring with a brake problem.

As he celebrated becoming Finland’s third world champion, Raikkonen said: "We were not in the strongest position but we always believed that we could recover and do a better job than the others, and even with the hard times everyone was sticking together and we did not give up.

“I was not really 100 percent sure if someone would stop but there were people who needed to finish and we did not know 100 percent and it took a long time to hear that we had finally won it. It has been a good finish of the season and I am really happy. An amazing day!”

Hamilton was philosophical in defeat.

“It’s been a crazy year, but I can’t really say that I’m gutted or that I feel I was robbed,” he said after losing by a single point. “It was just unfortunate. We’ve all of us had some bad luck this year; it’s just a shame that mine seemed to come all at the end of it.

“All along I said to myself that, whatever happens today, who would ever have thought that I would lead the world championship? It’s been a great feeling, having the possibility to win it. The team have done a fantastic job for me all season, and of course I wanted to win. But I guess it wasn’t our turn after all this year. But I will come back next year stronger, for sure.

“The start wasn’t that great and I got boxed in behind Kimi, then Fernando came past me and I locked up a bit behind him and lost some ground. But I knew that we had the pace to get that back. But then when I was downshifting for Turn Four the gearbox just went into neutral. And I coasted for an awful long time. I still don’t know how but I managed to coax it back into operation and get going again, but I had to be careful to manage the engine because the revs were very low.

“When that was happening, coming so soon after China, I just found myself thinking that for sure somebody didn’t want me to win the championship!

“Even after that, though, I refused to believe that it was over. The first time I thought that was when I saw the chequered flag. I never stopped thinking it was still possible.

“Our pace wasn’t bad today. Not quite the same as Ferrari’s, but we could have been a little bit quicker with more luck.

“After my mistake in China it was tough to have this luck here, but that’s racing. I’ve gone from GP2 to being ranked second in the world and I have every confidence that in 2008 I will come back even stronger, do an even better job and win. I’ll be better prepared and I have the experience of the whole thing.

“At the end of the day I’m second in the world championship, and I beat my team mate who is a double world champion. That’s a great result. I said I would be a winner, whatever happened today.

“I think that, apart from the start, I drove one of my best ever races today, so that’s why I say I don’t think I was robbed.”

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