F1 Rewind: Raikkonen pulls off shock win in thrilling title decider

The 2007 Formula 1 season finale at Interlagos produced a race full of drama from the first corner to beyond the chequered flag, and settled a three-way title fight.

Coming into the race Lewis Hamilton was leading the standings and the favourite to be crowned champion, and in doing so complete the greatest rookie season in history.

His main challenger was McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso, who was looking for a third title in a row after his previous triumphs with Renault. 

The third contender was Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was mathematically the least likely to win but was the form driver, having not left the steps of the podium since the summer break.

A superb performance in a rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix left Hamilton on the brink of the title following his Alonso’s retirement, and he headed to the penultimate race in China with the chance to clinch the championship.

He led the championship by 12 points from Alonso with Raikkonen a further five points back, and started on pole having converted all but one of his pole positions to race wins so far. But after leading from the start he agonisingly slipped into a gravel trap upon entering the pits on worn tyres and was out of the race.

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Raikkonen went on to win at Shanghai with Alonso second, meaning Hamilton’s lead over his rivals was cut to four and seven points respectively.

Going into the final round, Hamilton was still in pole position to claim the title; if he finished fifth or higher he’d win regardless of other results while Alonso had to finish at least third and Raikkonen at least second to overhaul the Brit.

If drivers were tied on points whoever had more wins would take the title with Raikkonen one win ahead of the McLaren drivers heading into the weekend.

In qualifying, Massa took his sixth pole position of the season, the most of any driver, with Hamilton joining him on the front row. Raikkonen lined up third with Alonso in fourth meaning all the contenders were present in the first two rows, promising drama from the start.

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Behind them was Mark Webber, the standout Saturday performer, who dragged his Red Bull to fifth on the grid despite being tenth overall in the championship. He beat the two BMW Saubers,the best team behind the title contenders, while Jarno Trulli was the other surprise entry into Q3 as he put his Toyota in 8th place.

Heikki Kovalainen (7th placed overall with Renault) produced a shock as he failed to make it out of the first qualifying session, while the other notable mentions were drivers at the opposite ends of their careers; Ralf Schumacher and Kazuki Nakajima. 

Schumacher was competing in his last Grand Prix before retiring, and qualified 15th, as Nakajima made his debut with Williams but only managed 19th.

From the start Massa moved straight across the grid to cut off Hamilton and allow Raikkonen to move into second place. Alonso was also able to get around the Brit through the Senna S as Hamilton got stuck behind Raikkonen.

Hamilton tried to overtake his teammate around the outside of turn four but locked up his front right and ran wide, dropping down to eighth behind Trulli.

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At the end of the first lap Mass led Raikkonen by 0.8 seconds with Alonso a similar distance behind the Finn. Webber was in fourth but only half a second ahead of Robert Kubica and coming under pressure from the BMW Sauber.

Kovalainen had collided with Schumacher on the first turn but both were able to continue, while Takuma Sato had a strong first lap making up five places to 13th. Anthony Davidson and Sakon Yamamoto also made considerable progress into 16th and 17th places.

Hamilton was five seconds off the leader as he crossed the line but began his fightback immediately, passing Trulli on the home straight to set Heidfeld in his sights.

Behind him there was a crash on Bico de Pato as Giancarlo Fisichella cut across the grass and rejoined in front of Yamamoto, who didn’t see the Renault and crashed into its rear wing, sending both drivers out of the race. Vitantonio Liuzzi also had front wing damage from an incident on the opening lap and had to pit for a replacement.

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The two Ferraris had already stretched their lead over Alonso to two seconds by the start of lap 3, with Kubica still looking to pass Webber and Hamilton closed up to the back of Heidfeld. Vettel was also putting pressure on Button for 12th place.

As the race settled down the Ferrari pair continued to pull away from the McLaren of Alonso in third place with the gap measuring four seconds by the fifth lap.

Hamilton remained in seventh breathing down the neck of Heidfeld and was able to overtake the German, but catastrophe again struck when he suffered a transmission problem.

By the time he was able to coax it back into life he’d dropped all the way down to 18th place, having lost over half a minute to the problem.

Massa and Raikkonen continued to dampen Alonso’s as his gap to the front moved out to ten seconds and behind him Kubica had made the pass on Webber to move into fourth, with Trulli and Rosberg in seventh and eighth rounding out the point-scoring places as the eleventh lap started.

David Coulthard was in ninth, two seconds behind Rosberg, with the next on-track battle fourteen seconds further back with Takuma Sato leading a group of five cars battling for eleventh place.

Hamilton soon caught up with that group was able to pass Schumacher, Davidson, Sato and Nakajima in quick succession, rising from 16th to twelth in a single lap, but not before the lapped Kovalainen had caused him further frustration by ignoring blue flags. 

In the midst of this Webber retired on lap 16 after a strong drive had kept him in fifth position, with a transmission failure ending his season early. Now in eleventh, Hamilton’s next target was Jenson Button, eight seconds up the road, although his Honda’s engine packed up before his compatriot could reach him.

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The race at the front briefly heated up with the first pit stops, Massa pitted from the lead on lap 20 to came out ahead of the BMW Saubers, with Raikkonen and Alonso following suit in consecutive laps to rejoin in their original order.

Hamilton pitted on lap 23 and McLaren gambled, giving him the soft tyres to blast through the field in a short middle stint, despite his tyre-related issues earlier in the season. Coulthard came out of the pits hot on Rosberg’s tail in the battle for seventh place while there was a scare for Ferrari as they had to navigate backmarkers after Davidson and Adrian Sutil collided at the Senna S.

The German had attempted to overtake Davidson but braked too late up the inside and sent them both into a spin in front of Massa, although all parties were able to continue.

Hamilton rejoined the track in fourteenth place, while Raikkonen struggled after the pit stop – partially due to a higher fuel load – and was slipping back from Massa at around a second a lap. Alonso was a further 14 seconds back with his championship hopes all but extinguished.

Coulthard had caught up with seventh-placed Rosberg by lap 27, with the Williams driver running with more fuel, but Coulthard ran wide at turn one attempting to pass was unable to close back up to the German. Hamilton had caught Barichello after pulled off a stunning move from deep into the Senna S to claim 12th place. The other McLaren was in trouble through, with Kubica having caught up to Alonso and was able to pass him for third.

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There was a moment of drama in the pits as Nakajima, making his first ever pitstop in F1, missed his pit box and hit two mechanics waiting for his front left tyre change tumbling over the car, leaving them with leg and back injuries. Hamilton wasn’t able to recreate the pace of his first stint as he struggled to pass Vettel for tenth place, losing valuable laps stuck behind the Toro Rosso before finally getting the move completed into turn four.

The overtake, plus Schumacher pitting, moved the Brit up to ninth place and 15 seconds behind Heidfeld, who held the all-important fifth place. However, he pitted with 35 laps to go, McLaren sending him out light on fuel suggesting he’d have to make another stop. Kovalainen became the sixth retirement when he slammed backwards into the wall at turn three as the race reached its midway point while a lap previously Vettel had also pulled up with hydraulic failure. Kubica became the first frontrunner to make his second stop and rejoined seventh, locking up as he attempted to pass Rosberg into the Senna S.

Rubens Barichello suffered a spectacular engine blow-up on lap 40, blowing smoke across the start-finish straight as he finished a season pointless for the first time in his 15-year career. Back on-track it was looking every more unlikely that Hamilton would take the title as he struggled to catch Trulli in seventh, and Rosberg showing superb pace in the all-important fifth place.

He was dealt another blow when Ferrari used their final pit stops to switch the places of Massa and Raikkonen meaning the Finn was now in position to win the championship. With fifteen laps to go Hamilton pitted for a third time, extinguishing any chances of taking the championship barring retirements as he rejoined in ninth, over twenty seconds behind the fifth place he needed. 

An exciting battle for fourth saw Rosberg pass Heidfeld with ten laps to go but run them both wide and allow Kubica past, with Hamilton’s best hope being a collision between the cars to take two of them out. He made up another place to seventh when Trulli pitted with seven laps to go but that was as good as it got.

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Rosberg caught up Kubica and looked to have passed him on the right through the Senna S, but Kubica fought back and Rosberg had to wait two more laps to make an identical move stick.

Massa finished second after ceding the race victory to Raikkonen while Alonso completed the podium almost a minute down on the leaders. Rosberg was rewarded for a superb drive with a fourth-place finish, Williams’ best of the year, whilst further down the order Nakajima had risen nine places on his debut to finish 10th (helped by nine retirements) and Schumacher finished his F1 career in eleventh.

“It’s all over, it’s all over. Hamilton seventh, by my calculations we win the championship by one point!”

Chris Dyer, Raikkonen’s race engineer, confirms the championship standings to the Ferrari driver, who as always took it in his stride.
Ferrari celebrated their sixth world championship of the decade on the podium with Raikkonen, the driver signed to replace Michael Schumacher, finally 

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However, the drama didn’t end there. Long after the podium celebrations had ended, Williams and BMW Sauber (three of whom finished above Hamilton) were called before the stewards, after their fuel was found to be too cold.

The samples taken at pit stops were ten degrees below the ambient temperature meaning the teams gained the advantage of being able to put more fuel in the cars at pit stops. 

In the end no action was taken even after an appeal from McLaren which, if successful, would’ve won Hamilton the title.

Coming a year before Lewis Hamilton’s famous pass on Timo Glock on the last corner of the last lap of the last race of the season (the last on ITV, to continue to the trend) the 2007 edition of the Brazilian has largely been overshadowed but was still a worthy title decider in its own right.

It also produced (to date) Ferrari’s last world champion, and of the modern title deciders, the 2008 showdown gave us the most unlikely championship winner.

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Pos No Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Grid Pts
1 6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 71 1:28:15.270 3 10
2 5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 71 +1.4 secs 1 8
3 1 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Mercedes 71 +57.0 secs 4 6
4 16 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 71 +62.8 secs 10 5
5 10 Robert Kubica BMW 71 +70.9 secs 7 4
6 9 Nick Heidfeld BMW 71 +71.3 secs 6 3
7 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 70 +1 Lap 2 2
8 12 Jarno Trulli Toyota 70 +1 Lap 8 1
9 14 David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 70 +1 Lap 9  
10 17 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 70 +1 Lap 19  
11 11 Ralf Schumacher Toyota 70 +1 Lap 15  
12 22 Takuma Sato Super Aguri-Honda 69 +2 Laps 18  
13 18 Vitantonio Liuzzi STR-Ferrari 69 +2 Laps 14  
14 23 Anthony Davidson Super Aguri-Honda 68 +3 Laps 20  
Ret 20 Adrian Sutil Spyker-Ferrari 43 Brakes 22  
Ret 8 Rubens Barrichello Honda 40 Engine 11  
Ret 4 Heikki Kovalainen Renault 35 Accident 17  
Ret 19 Sebastian Vettel STR-Ferrari 34 Hydraulics 13  
Ret 7 Jenson Button Honda 20 Engine 16  
Ret 15 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 14 Transmission 5  
Ret 21 Sakon Yamamoto Spyker-Ferrari 2 Collision 21  
Ret 3 Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 2 Collision 12