Belgium 2005 - Raikkonen keeps the dream alive 15 Sep 2007
With an 18-point deficit to championship leader Lewis Hamilton, Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen knows that his title hopes could well be decided at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend. If the story sounds familiar, it should, because two years ago, when Formula One racing last visited Spa-Francorchamps, Raikkonen was in a very similar position.
Then driving for McLaren, the Finn arrived in Belgium trailing Renaults Fernando Alonso by 27 points. Statistically he knew that, with just four races left, if Alonso outscored him by four points or more, he could kiss goodbye to the drivers crown for another year. The pressure was on.
But as the weekend began, the weather was not on Raikkonens side. Heavy rain throughout Friday meant minimal running for everyone and an additional Saturday practice was hastily arranged to enable teams to make hurried tyre choices. Luckily, both sessions were blessed with sunshine and Raikkonen and Alonso divvied up the top times between them.
The rival teams looked to be evenly matched, but in qualifying it was the McLarens that dominated. Juan Pablo Montoya took the honours, nipping in front of Raikkonen with a blistering lap time to score his second consecutive pole. Montoya wasnt the Finns only headache though. With third-placed Giancarlo Fisichella eventually demoted 10 places after an engine change, Alonso was promoted from fifth to fourth - directly behind Raikkonen on the grid - with Toyotas Jarno Trulli in between.
On Sunday, what could have been a tricky race start never materialized. Neither did the forecast rain (although the track was wet) and for the first 11 laps things remained pretty stable, the top four all retaining their positions. Then everything changed. Fisichella, who had risked a low-downforce set-up, fell foul of Eau Rouge and crashed heavily.
Although the Italian walked away, the safety car was deployed to clear up debris and the field predictably rushed for the pits. The flurry of stops, however, did little to dent Montoyas lead. Further back, Ferraris Michael Schumacher crashed out of his final race at the Belgian circuit after he collided with a late-braking Takuma Sato in the BAR.
Back up front, the status quo remained largely unchanged. That was until Lap 33 when Raikkonen, who was stopping later than his team mate, vaulted ahead to take the lead. With Jarno Trullis Toyota challenge petering out, Alonso had made his way up to third. With less than 11 laps remaining and it looked as though the order would remain unaltered to the finish.
That was until Montoya was taken out just four laps from home after being hit by Williams stand-in Antonio Pizzonia, the Colombians demise gifting Alonso second place, behind a victorious Raikkonen. Jenson Button completed the podium trio after a determined drive from eighth for BAR, while a clever pit-stop strategy saw Mark Webber take fourth from Ferraris Rubens Barrichello for Williams.
Also in the top eight were Jacques Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher, sixth and seventh respectively, and Tiago Monteiro, who took the final point after a faultless race for Jordan.
For McLaren and Raikkonen there was as much consolation as celebration. Although the Finns win had kept his own title hopes alive, Montoyas accident had robbed the British team of their best chance of a one-two finish since 2000 and as a result the squad had lost the opportunity to overtake Renault in the constructors standings.