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Brazilian race analysis - Raikkonen a worthy winner 22 Oct 2007

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari celebrates the World Championship with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 21 October 2007 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 goes off on lap 1
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 21 October 2007 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW29 on the grid
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 21 October 2007 David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB3 spins
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 21 October 2007 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota TF107.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 21 October 2007

In the end, Ferrari came away with everything, and McLaren virtually with nothing. Having already had their points in the constructors’ championship annulled, the Anglo-German team lost the drivers’ title too, at the 11th hour.

With tyre wear being a major concern, the odds were always going to favour the Ferraris here since they used their tyres better over race distances, and thus it proved, though Lewis Hamilton was able to demonstrate with the second fastest lap that there wasn’t a lot to choose between the two teams on sheer pace.

The red cars owned the race from the start, and his ability to run three laps longer in the second stint proved crucial as the new world champion Kimi Raikkonen sped home to a deserved sixth victory of the year. Felipe Massa, having started from pole and led much of the race, dutifully did the right thing by not trying to make a race of it as his team mate needed the 10 points for victory. Some days it’s tough being a hero, but Massa carried it off with dignity in front of his adoring countrymen.

Fernando Alonso said he could hold the Ferraris initially, but not once they really began to push. And that said it all. But had his gearbox not selected neutral on the eighth lap, before resetting itself, Hamilton might still have had his crack at the title. As it was, he was able to fight back to seventh place, bringing his points tally equal to Alonso’s but taking second overall on countback on the strength of five second places to Alonso’s four.

Williams came to Brazil under pressure from Red Bull for their fourth place overall, yet rose to the occasion magnificently as Nico Rosberg battled with - and beat - the BMW Saubers of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld in a fantastic battle that was sadly overshadowed by the world championship scrap.

In the end, the FW29 driver outsmarted both of his challengers to score his best result yet with fourth place behind Raikkonen, Massa and Alonso, and he was absolutely delighted to have done it the hard way. And he had protected his team’s final position in the constructors’ championship.

At one stage Kubica seemed likely to challenge Alonso for third, until it transpired he was running on a three-stop strategy. The Pole nevertheless looked very strong until he was instructed to wind down the revs as his engine was showing signs of overheating. Heidfeld, meanwhile, struggled with graining tyres front and rear. Overall, however, the Swiss-German alliance garnered 101 points for second place overall, reaching and just exceeding its season target of the round century.

Not that far behind them, Kazuki Nakajima’s debut was overshadowed by an incident in the pits on lap 31 when he came in a little too fast and hit two of his mechanics. One was hospitalised, but the team have yet to release names. After that, Nakajima settled down and actually set the fifth fastest lap of 1m 13.116s. That compared with Raikkonen’s fastest lap of 1m 12.446s, and Rosberg’s 1m 13.159s, which was seventh.

The bubble for both teams nearly burst after the race - not to mention, potentially, for Ferrari - when all four were found to have run fuel that was cooler than it should have been according to FIA measurements. There were tense moments over the next six hours, before the stewards decided that no action was necessary and that the result duly stood.

Jarno Trulli had a strong three-stop race for Toyota which earned him the final point. Team mate Ralf Schumacher, in his last race for the Japanese team, could do no better than 11th.

With Mark Webber fifth on the grid and David Coulthard ninth, Red Bull went into the race with high hopes of taking the five points they needed to overhaul Williams for fourth in the constructors’ stakes. However, they came away with nothing. Webber ran fourth until Kubica got by, then the onboard telemetry revealed a disconnection between the engine and gearbox on his RB3 and that was that after only 14 laps. Coulthard was in the running for eighth at one stage, but after his final pit stop slid into the back of Nakajima in the first corner and damaged his front suspension. He finished ninth, well behind Trulli and just ahead of the Williams driver.

There was a fair degree of inter-team skirmishing at Super Aguri. Anthony Davidson was not only attacked by Spyker’s Adrian Sutil when the German’s brakes failed going into Turn One, but got put on the marbles as team mate Takuma Sato overtook him. They went on to finish 12th and 14th.

Toro Rosso hoped for rather more than Tonio Liuzzi’s eventual 13th place finish, especially as Sebastian Vettel was at one stage in the thick of the fight for the minor points. But then his STR2 began experiencing gearshift problems, then lost its power steering, so that was that after 34 laps. Liuzzi, meanwhile, got his nose damaged in the first corner by Fisichella, and his two-stop strategy was thus ruined by the need for a stop for a replacement at the end of the lap.

Renault had a horrible Brazilian Grand Prix. Heikki Kovalainen got pushed off the track in the first corner melee, ironically when somebody pushed team mate Giancarlo Fisichella into him. He sustained a puncture as a result and made a pit stop at the end of the lap. Later, he felt a vibration at the rear just as the back end snapped round on him in Turn One and pitched him off the road and into the wall.

After that first-lap brush, Fisichella got involved with Nakajima in Turn One on the second lap, slid off the road, and then hacked back right in front of the unfortunate Sakon Yamamoto, who could not avoid running straight into the back of him. Both cars retired.

Honda also had nothing to take back to Europe from this race. Jenson Button was running 10th after 20 laps, but then retired with an overheated engine. Rubens Barrichello was never really in contention and retired on the 41st lap with a blown engine.

After Sutil’s shunt with Davidson following brake failure on his Spyker, the German carried on, served a drive-through penalty, and made four more stops before his race ended after 43 laps as the brake pressure faded further and further and obliged him to pump the pedal on the main straight. Team mate Sakon Yamamoto was the unwitting victim as Fisichella rejoined the track in front of him and left him nowhere to go but into the back of the Renault.

David Tremayne