Tue, Oct 23, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Raikkonen keeps cool to take F1 title

FLYING FINN Kimi Raikkonen pipped Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso by one point to become the Formula 1 champion after a dranatic race at interlagos

AGENCIES , SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

Kimi Raikkonen reacts on the podium after winning the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo,Brazil,on Sunday.

PHOTO:AP

Kimi Raikkonen is known as "The Iceman," and he more than kept his cool on Sunday, winning the Brazilian Grand Prix and capturing the Formula One title.

Raikkonen won his first F1 crown by taking advantage of Lewis Hamilton's mistake on the first lap and a subsequent gear box problem with the Briton's McLaren, combined with Fernando Alonso's disappointing run.

The Ferrari driver took the lead with 21 laps to go, rallying from third in the drivers' standings to win the closest title race since 1986. Teammate Felipe Massa was second in Sunday's race.

"We had very good speed in both cars," Raikkonen said. "We're just taking it easy, saving the tires and the cars. We could have gone much faster it we wanted to. It was perfect teamwork from the team and it paid off very well. It's not only been in this race, but the whole year."

Hamilton, trying to become the first rookie to win the title and F1's youngest champion, went off the track on the first lap and struggles with car problems to finish seventh. Alonso could not keep up with the pace of the leaders and finished third.

Alonso would have had to finish second and Hamilton fifth to keep Raikkonen from winning the drivers' championship after his victory.

There were some doubts after the race whether Raikkonen would keep the title, however, as motorsport governing body, FIA, opened an investigation into possible fuel irregularities.

FIA called a meeting involving representatives from BMW-Sauber and Williams, whose drivers finished fourth, fifth, sixth and 10th. If at least two of them were punished, Hamilton could have moved to fifth place and taken the title.

Nearly six hours after the race, FIA said there was not enough evidence to penalize the drivers or the teams.

However, an FIA spokeswoman said McLaren had announced their intention to appeal.

Raikkonen erased a seven-point gap from Hamilton coming into the race to finish with 110 points, one more than Hamilton and Alonso.

"This is a great feeling," Raikkonen said. "We had some hard times, some reliability problems and lost some points. A lot of people didn't believe in us, but we showed that they were wrong and we were able to come back. It was a great season."

The Finn was reserved in his celebrations on the podium, waving his cap to the crowd before briefly throwing his arms in the air.

He finished the race in 1 hour, 28 minutes, 15.270 seconds -- 1.493 seconds ahead of Massa.

Raikkonen is only the third Finn to win the F1 title, and the first since two-time winner Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and '99. The first Finn champion was Keke Rosberg in 1982.

It was a hectic start for the Brazilian GP.

Hamilton, who started in the front row beside pole-sitter Massa, was passed by Raikkonen and Alonso on the first turn. He then made a mistake trying to recover the position from Alonso three turns later to drop to eighth spot after the first lap was completed.

It was a while before Raikkonen was aware of the implications.

The Englishman moved back to sixth place after six laps, but his car slowed dramatically with a gear box problem two laps later and he seemed on the verge of retiring from the race. His car suddenly picked up pace again, but he had already dropped to 18th.

Hamilton's car was without problems for the rest of the race as he moved past the slower cars with ease. By lap 18 of 71, Hamilton was 11th, but he couldn't manage to move up past seventh.

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