Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The New Formula 1 World Champion

All eyes were on the Brazilian Grand Prix last Sunday (my eyes were glued to the tube too, I ignored the fact that it was starting at 12 Midnight RP time and that I had work the next day. But come on, some things are worth staying up late for). It is the last race of the Formula 1 Season with this last race setting the stage for the final battle for the Driver’s Championship – but wait, it gets better. Three (3) drivers will battle it out for 71 laps. Lewis Hamilton, the rookie sensation leading the points; his teammate, Double World Champion Fernando Alonso is 4 points adrift and the last contender, Kimi Raikkonen who’s been a runner-up three times (twice to Schumi and once to Alonso) is 7 points below Lewis.

Pre-race, it was a little disheartening for a Kimi-fan like me. In Formula 1, 7 points is really something short of a miracle. In this setting, for Kimi to win the World Championship, he has to win the race – Hamilton should place no higher than 6th place and Alonso should place no higher than 3rd. Or, Kimi can place second – Hamilton shouldn’t score higher than a point and Alonso should place no higher than 5th. Impossible right? Think again.

If anything, the last race proved that one cannot really predict what’s gonna happen with 22 cars in the starting grid. Kimi started 3rd with Lewis and Massa up ahead. Before the first lap ended, Kimi was on second with Lewis down to 7th place. Lewis and Fernando were kinda slugging it out since the last half of the season and it was no surprise that they went wheel to wheel on the first corner. Lewis ran wide and that move cost him several places down the line. Seven laps later, the camera focused on a sloooowww Lewis (initially thought of as a gearbox problem but post-race interviews stated that Lewis admitted to pushing the start-sequence button). 40 seconds later he was delegated to 18th place. In their defence, Mclaren did everything they could to help Lewis win the Championship. But things did not work for them at this race.

Alonso, on the other hand, admitted to just not having the pace to match the prancing horse’s cars when the Ferrari’s started to push. He was a distant third at the end of the race.

Now, just how did Kimi win the race with Massa, in an equal car, leading? Partly, they worked as a team as can be seen from the beautiful synchronized start that they had which pushed Lewis to third place and moved Raikkonen up to second in the first lap. The rest is just Kimi’s sheer pace. After the first pit stop, Massa still came out ahead of Kimi. But on the second stint, Kimi stayed on for two laps after Massa pitted and clocked in a series of fast laps. With this, he came out less than two seconds ahead of Massa to take the race lead. And the rest is history. After the Brazilian GP victory, Kimi was crowned as the World Champion as Lewis was classified 7th place, one lap down.

Looking back at the season, this result seems so unlikely coming from Japan given that he trails Lewis by 17 points with just two races remaining. In the last 3 races, he scored 26 points compared to Lewis’ 12 points. I guess one shouldn’t really give up until all is said and done.

The races are over for the 2007 season but the drama is yet to end for this controversial season. Post-race, BMW and Williams (they finished 4th, 5th and 6th) were found to have irregularities in their fuel’s temperatures. The FIA held on to the race classification as they concluded that there is insufficient evidence to punish the two teams. Mclaren, seeing this as a chance to win Hamilton the title, filed an appeal. The FIA is yet to announce when the decision on Mclaren’s appeal will be announced.

Whatever happens, I still think that Kimi deserves the title having won the most number of races in the season. I just find it ironic that Kimi went to Ferrari because of Mclaren’s unreliability and that same unreliability probably handed him the World Title.

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