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Belgium Flashback 2007 - Raikkonen keeps title hopes alive 03 Sep 2008

Race winner Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari celebrates in Parce Ferme. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R27 leads Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.07.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 runs wide at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2007 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Adrian Sutil (GER) Spyker on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007

After a year’s absence from the calendar to allow for an extensive renovation, all eyes should have been directed towards Spa-Francorchamps in the build-up to the 2007 Belgian Grand Prix. But in the days’ leading up to the season’s final European round, the majority of the field were looking in an altogether different direction - towards Paris.

It was in the French capital that the World Motor Sport Council was reconvening to discuss the McLaren-Ferrari espionage case and it was at that meeting that the championship could well be decided. Hours of discussion followed, but a guilty verdict was eventually decided upon and McLaren were given a record $100 million fine and lost all of their 2007 constructors’ points.

It was a bitter blow for the British team, who had arrived in Belgium on the back of a triumphant one-two at Ferrari’s home ground of Monza the week before. And although outwardly they remained confident about their on-track abilities, McLaren had clearly been rocked by the verdict.

On Friday, however, there was little to choose from between the two rival teams, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen fastest in morning practice and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in the afternoon. Further down the order, Toyota were also looking strong, as did BMW Sauber and Red Bull, but Renault endured mixed fortunes, with Giancarlo Fisichella seventh and Heikki Kovalainen 10th after lunch.

Ferrari found themselves back on top during final practice on Saturday, with Raikkonen leading team mate Felipe Massa around the Belgian circuit ahead of the two McLarens of Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. The unluckiest man of the session, meanwhile, was easily Robert Kubica, who didn’t record a time for BMW Sauber after engine issues. He also received a 10-place grid penalty as reward for a fresh V8.

During qualifying Ferrari’s advantage continued unabated, with Raikkonen pulling a last-gasp stellar lap out of the bag to steal pole from Massa and give the Italian team their first all-front-row start of the season. Hamilton continued to look off the pace, with Alonso able to take P3 from him despite a brief spin at Rivage. Kubica, who needed a good grid slot to compensate for his penalty, took an admirable fifth, while Nico Rosberg continued to fly for Williams to take P6, ahead of BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld, Red Bull’s Mark Webber, Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Renault’s Kovalainen.

On Sunday, the Ferraris continued to reign supreme, with Raikkonen leading Massa home by 4.6s after a dominant turn behind the wheel of the F2008, which only saw him lose his advantage during pit stops. Despite a first-corner incident, which saw the Alonso push his team mate wide on the way up to Eau Rouge, both the Spaniard and Hamilton finished the race - in third and fourth respectively.

Heidfeld ended the day in fifth, with Rosberg sixth for Williams, ahead of Mark Webber’s quick Red Bull. But by far the mostly hotly-contested place in the points was for eighth. Kovalainen and a resurgent Kubica battled until the end but it was the Finn, who took home the final championship point. Although Toyota were celebrating 50 years in motorsport over the weekend there was disappointment for the Japanese team, with neither Ralf Schumacher (10th) nor Trulli (11th) able to sustain their qualifying form during the race. Vitantonio Liuzzi, meanwhile, impressed for Toro Rosso in 12th, as did Adrian Sutil in 14th for Spyker.

As the teams packed up on Sunday evening and looked ahead to the forthcoming Japanese Grand Prix, those still contesting the drivers’ championship reflected on the standings. For Hamilton (97), the Belgian race had arguably been the turning point of his season, with all three pretenders closing in on his lead, Alonso on 95, Raikkonen on 84 and Massa on 77. For Raikkonen, it was arguably the race that brought him the title.