The 2007 Season Review - Part Four 01 Nov 2007
There has rarely been a more intense end to a Formula One season. For the first time since 1986, we had a three-way battle for the world championship at the final round, and that's not to mention the headlines that the sport attracted away from the racetrack.
In the fourth - and final - part of our review, we look back at how the season reached its thrilling finale and how Kimi Raikkonen beat Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to take his maiden drivers crown
September: McLaren score their first ever one-two at the Italian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso coming home ahead of Lewis Hamilton. To rub salt into Ferraris wounds, Felipe Massa retires with a suspension problem and Kimi Raikkonen - who finishes third - is left nursing a sore neck following a hefty accident during practice.
After the race, all eyes turn to the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 13 September, where new evidence - in the form of emails between Alonso and McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa - is examined.
After several hours deliberation, the Council reaches a guilty verdict. McLaren lose all of their 2007 constructors points and are given a record fine of US$100 million.
Hamilton interrupts his preparations for the Belgian Grand Prix to be at the Paris hearing in person. As a result, he arrives at Spa-Francorchamps later than his rivals and he seems out of sorts all weekend. He comes home fourth, behind Raikkonen, Massa and Alonso.
With the European season over, Formula One racing then heads to Fuji Speedway for the track's first Japanese Grand Prix for 30 years. The weather could hardly be worse: the only dry running of the weekend takes place on Friday, after which the heavens open. Saturday morning practice is cancelled due to poor weather and Sundays race starts behind the safety car as the cars aquaplane their way around the flooded track.
Before the race goes green, Ferrari are in tyre trouble. They elect to start the race on wet tyres, having not received a directive from the FIA, requesting all cars start on extreme wets, in time. As a result, Raikkonen and Massa are forced to pit within the opening couple of laps, scuppering their races.
When the safety car pits on Lap 19, pole-sitter Hamilton leads and he drives an inch-perfect race to score his first win in the wet. Alonso crashes out at two-thirds distance, leaving Renaults Heikki Kovalainen to finish second and Raikkonen third. Its the first time ever that two Finns have appeared on the same Formula One podium.
A couple of incidents bring out the safety car during the race, the last of which results in a collision between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. The Red Bull-supported drivers are lying second and third at the time and both hint that Hamiltons erratic driving behind the safety car played a role in the shunt. After discussion by the stewards, no action is taken against Hamilton.
He leaves Japan with a 12-point lead over Alonso and a staggering 17-point buffer over Raikkonen.
October: When Hamilton qualifies on pole at the Shanghai International Circuit, Formula One prepares for its first rookie world champion since Giuseppe Farina in 1950. Even British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sends a message to McLaren requesting Hamiltons company at 10 Downing Street the following week, should he clinch the title.
The start of the race is wet for the second successive Grand Prix. Hamilton leads away and stays in front until Lap 28, when, on a drying track, Raikkonen seizes the lead with an audacious overtaking manoeuvre. Two laps later, Hamilton is left beached in the pit-lane gravel trap, his tyres too worn even to make the turn in the pit lane.
Raikkonen wins, Alonso is second and the championship battle heads to Brazil.
There are two other performances of note in China. Vettel makes up for his retirement in Japan by coming home fourth, giving him and Toro Rosso their best-ever result, and Jenson Button drives a cracking race to finish fifth for Honda.
There are few more dramatic locations for a championship showdown than Interlagos. The track is built in a bowl, creating a natural amphitheatre for the country's passionate Formula One fans.
At the top of the drivers championship, Hamilton has a four-point lead over Alonso and a seven-point lead over Raikkonen. Irrespective of where his rivals finish, fifth place will guarantee the rookie the world title.
There is another first-timer in the race. Kazuki Nakajima is a new face at Williams, following Alex Wurzs retirement from Formula One racing after the Chinese Grand Prix and he impresses immediately by ending Friday practice within 0.1 seconds of team mate Nico Rosberg.
Massa repeats his pole position of 2006 and Hamilton lines up alongside him on the grid. Raikkonen is third and Alonso fourth and there are two Red Bulls in the top ten for the second race in succession.
Raikkonen makes the best start of the title contenders, overtaking Hamilton immediately. But Hamilton's woes are far from over: first Alonso passes him on the inside at Turn Three and then he runs wide at Turn Four, dropping to eighth.
On Lap Eight, Hamilton's dream is effectively over. A gearbox glitch slows him for 37 seconds and drops him to 18th position. Despite a spirited fightback, he only makes it back to seventh place.
A thrilling late-race battle between Nico Rosberg and BMW Saubers Robert Kubica for fourth place ends in Rosbergs favour, giving the 22 year-old his best finish in Formula One racing and assuring Williams of fourth place in the constructors championship, behind Renault.
Raikkonen, meanwhile, wins the race - his sixth victory of the year - after passing Massa for the lead during the second pit-stop sequence. The Finn is world champion for the first time, following in the wheel tracks of compatriots Keke Rosberg and Mika Hakkinen.
Hamilton and Alonso finish the year equal on points, but the Briton finishes second on countback.