Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton all in it as F1 season ends

AFP , PARIS

Intrigue in the fast lane, internecine warfare and bitter personal rivalry between the leading actors set against the backdrop of a multimillion dollar business where the line between fantasy and reality is often blurred.

This could easily have been the script for the next Hollywood blockbuster from the pen of John Grisham but was in fact the recipe served up to motor racing fans in a season that few will forget in a hurry.

This year's campaign may have left McLaren boss Ron Dennis with a few less hairs, but no one can deny that all the drama on and off the track has injected much needed life into a sport that can act as an antidote to even the most acute case of insomnia.

He could never have realized it at the time but when Ferrari's sacked mechanic Nigel Stepney put the stamps on that infamous 780-page dossier and popped it in the post to his mate Mike Coughlan over at McLaren he did the sport a huge service.

At least for the impartial armchair observer for in that treasonable act Stepney set off a chain of events that has kept F1 fans glued to their seats throughout this turbulent but fascinating season.

A season that draws to a close on Sunday in Interlagos where Lewis Hamilton is in a three-way fight to crown a remarkable debut year by clinching the drivers' title.

The "X" factor is something the entertainment industry craves but it has been the "H" factor in the shape of the brilliant young Briton that has brought the sport a wave of new fans.

From his third place in his first ever grand prix back in Melbourne in March Hamilton has confounded convention and driven with the skill, verve and nerve of a Fangio or Schumacher. In so doing he's shredded the F1 record books.

In Australia he produced the best finish by an Englishman in his debut race since 1966, in Spain he became the youngest driver to lead a championship and if everything goes his way in Interlagos he'll become the first driver to win the championship in his rookie season.

The fact that he is also the first driver of Afro-Caribbean descent to race in Formula One let alone score any points or win four races is now a mere footnote on his cv.

Hamilton's achievement is all the more noteworthy given he's had to get on with the job of driving his car faster than his pitlane rivals with various storms brewing overhead.

Spygate at one stage looked dangerously close to wrecking his title bid when McLaren were found guilty of possessing data from Ferrari.

In the end the sport's governing body, the FIA, chose to strip McLaren of their constructors' points and impose a record US$1 million fine rather than penalize Hamilton and his teammate Fernando Alonso.

He's also had to contend with the complete meltdown in his relationship with double world champion Alonso.

Alonso, who along with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen can still win the title in Brazil, has fallen out big time with McLaren and Hamilton over his treatment at the British team since switching from Renault.

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