Third time lucky for new champion Raikkonen 21 Oct 2007
Finally, after two near-misses, Kimi Raikkonen has his very own world championship. It may have been a long time coming but what a one to win. By bettering double world champion Fernando Alonso and the sports newest superstar, Lewis Hamilton, Raikkonen has secured Ferrari their first driver title of the post-Schumacher era and denied former team McLaren their only compensation from a difficult season.
Back at the season-opener in Australia, Raikkonen was already looking like a champion-in waiting. Taking pole, victory and fastest lap to boot, he dominated the Melbourne race weekend. Of course, the McLaren duo were also in the mix, as was Raikkonens team mate Felipe Massa, but it was the Finn who looked to have the advantage.
Fast forward to mid-season, however, and it was different story. As Hamilton, Massa and Alonso traded wins, Raikkonen seemed to slip by the wayside. Struggling to adapt to the new Bridgestone tyres, the 28-year-old went six races without a victory. With less than half the points of championship leader Hamilton, his title chances looked decidedly bleak.
For one thing, luck seemed to have deserted him. An electrical failure in Spain and an accident during qualifying in Monaco were just two of the mishaps which seriously dented Raikkonens mid-season challenge. A faulty wind tunnel back at the factory was also wreaking minor havoc on Ferraris programme of development.
But just as matters looked to be irretrievable, fate moved in his favour. In France, whether down to clever strategy, hard work or just plain good fortune, Raikkonen began to look at ease in the F2007. Backing up his victory at Magny-Cours with another in Silverstone, a revival was on the cards. Even the hydraulics failure at the Nurburgring did little to dent Raikkonens resurgence. With the impetus on his side, the quietly determined Finn hauled in valuable points to close on leader Hamilton.
Although reliability problems continued to plague the Italian squad, it was Massa who seemed to bear the brunt of their effects with the Brazilians title fight eventually petering out after his suspension strife in Monza. Raikkonens charge, meanwhile, was unrelenting. With his title hopes further strengthened by dominant victories in Belgium and China, the Finn arrived in Brazil for the final race of the season still in the running.
Seven points adrift of Hamilton, and three shy of Alonso - he needed a victory to seal the deal. He had history on his side, however. Back in 1986 - the last time three men were still in contention at the season finale - outsider Alain Prost had taken the championship in Adelaide after a sterling drive for McLaren, pushing out Williams team mates Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. In Sao Paulo, Raikkonen was favourite to win the race, but his title hopes would rest just as heavily on the performance of his rivals. But as with Prost, it all came together. He won the race, with team mate Massa protecting him in second. Alonso had no answer to the Ferraris pace and gearbox gremlins demoted Hamilton to seventh.
Despite Raikkonens title challenge taking some severe knocks in the early stages, the Iceman has fought back with admirable determination. Against the odds, he has done it. By outstripping team mate Massa, taking on the might of the McLaren duo and muscling his way into the title showdown in Brazil, Raikkonen has shown himself not only to be a worthy replacement for Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, he has also proved himself a worthy world champion. Congratulations Kimi!