While this year’s Brazilian GP is the second to last race of the season and the championship has already been decided, in 2007 the battle for the drivers’ title went right down to the wire. It was a battle between McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari that unfolded not only on, but also off track.
McLaren had already been stripped of all points from the constructors’ championship after ‘Spygate’, a huge scandal where McLaren obtained technical documents of the current Ferrari from longtime Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney. Max Mosley even considered removing the points of the drivers as well, which would have had dramatically interfered in the intense championship battle, but fortunately these were allowed to stand.
After Fernando Alonso’s crash in the spectacular wet race in Fuji and Lewis Hamilton’s subsequent victory, the championship could have already been decided at the following Chinese GP. However, McLaren made a crucial mistake, leaving Hamilton out on wet tyres for too long despite an already existing dry line.
The Brit was struggling and ultimately ordered to get into the pits, but got stuck in the pit entry’s gravel trap! The championship leader was out of the race and with Raikkonen taking the victory the fight for the drivers’ title went to the final race in Brazil with three drivers still in the title hunt…
Points before Brazil:
1. Hamilton 107
2. Alonso 103
3. Raikkonen 100
A crucial start
With the old points system (10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1) back then, Raikkonen’s chances did not look too good; The Finn had to hope that something would happen to Hamilton. Interestingly, for the race Ferrari seemed to have better pace than McLaren around the Autódromo José Carlos Pace. Despite that, Hamilton managed to take second place in qualifying behind local hero Felipe Massa and ahead of title rivals Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso.
The start of race proved to be crucial. Raikkonen made a great gateway and was already past Hamilton and next to Massa into turn one. With the Brazilian leading the field ahead of his teammate through the next corners Hamilton had to lift off briefly behind Raikkonen, which opened an opportunity for Alonso who passed his teammate out of the Senna-S,
Setbacks for Lewis
Hamilton ambitiously tried to get the position back on the following straight, but coming out of the slipstream the McLaren driver misjudged his braking point and almost hit his teammate. This sent Hamilton off the track and he rejoined in eighth position. After a few laps he had already gained two places back to sixth, but then another issue occurred. The McLaren got slower, the gearbox went to neutral, and the car was left just rolling.
Many drivers had already passed Hamilton when his gearbox suddenly began working again and he could shift through the gears and get his car going again, but he already dropped back to 18th place. A huge blow, but the McLaren driver wasn’t going to give up. He progressed through the field again.
At the front Massa was still leading Raikkonen and Alonso, with the Spaniard unable to keep up with the pace of the Ferraris. However, with the situation as it was at that moment he would have won the driver’s title. But it was clear that Ferrari would find a way to switch positions at the front despite the fact that team orders weren’t allowed in 2007.
At the pit stops Ferrari called Massa in first and the Brazilian got stuck behind traffic as he left the pits. That was the chance for Raikkonen to catch up, allowing the Finn to keep the lead after he pitted.
A close title decider
With Raikkonen leading ahead of Massa and Alonso it looked surprisingly good for the Ferrari driver to claim his first title in his first season with Ferrari. However, with Hamilton progressing further through the field it seemed that it may end up close. With Raikkonen leading, Hamilton needed fifth to secure the title but had only made it to seventh and was already lapped with a few laps to go.
The group ahead, of Rosberg, Kubica and Heidfeld, had their own battles and any collision could have been deciding for the title. However, luckily for Kimi, nothing changed before the chequered flag and Ferrari took a solid one-two, and with Alonso third and Hamilton seventh, this made Kimi Raikkonen the world champion of 2007.
After the chequered flag the team famously informed Raikkonen about the outcome of the title decider: ‘It’s all over. Hamilton seven, Hamilton seven. By my calculations we win the championship by one point!’
Points after Brazil:
1. Raikkonen 110
2. Hamilton 109
3. Alonso 109
And so an intense season came to an incredibly close end. The Finn achieved what he missed twice with McLaren in 2003 and 2005 in only one attempt with Ferrari.
The rest is history: To this day, Raikkonen is still the last driver to win a world championship with the Scuderia and Fernando Alonso still hasn’t won another championship yet. Hamilton recovered from that big disappointment, winning the title the following year in a very close race at the same spot before taking three more titles with Mercedes years later.
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