Passion

<em>Photo: Getty Images</em>

Kimi works a miracle in the last race

Although he doesn't appear to be the favourite until the very last minute, Räikkönen wins the Drivers' title, marking the beginning of the post-Schumacher era

The 2007 season of the Formula 1 World Championship is one of the most exciting of all time, with a very happy ending for Ferrari and its fans. It opens on 18 March in Melbourne, with a host of changes. Having announced his retirement, Michael Schumacher is no longer representing Ferrari. In his place is Kimi Räikkönen, who has joined the team from McLaren, alongside Felipe Massa, who has already proven his mettle. The English line-up includes world champion Fernando Alonso, who finds himself in the same team as a young man with high hopes who has just won the GP2 title: a certain Lewis Hamilton.

For Räikkönen, the championship starts in the best possible way: the Finn succeeds in taking home a win during his début for Ferrari, something only Juan Manuel Fangio, Luigi Musso, Giancarlo Baghetti, Mario Andretti and Nigel Mansell had previously managed. From that moment on, Ferrari and McLaren take it in turns to occupy the top step of the podium: in Malaysia and Monaco, Alonso wins, while in Bahrain and Spain, Massa is triumphant. In Canada it is the turn of young prodigy Hamilton to reign victorious; he thrashes his rivals, doubling his success in the United States and taking the first place in the hearts of the public.

Kimi Räikkönen exults after winning the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, in 2007 <em>Photo: Getty Images</em>
Kimi Räikkönen exults after winning the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, in 2007 Photo: Getty Images

Immediately after the race in Indianapolis, a scandal explodes that will go on to dominate the entire summer: Ferrari discovers a boycott attempt on the eve of the Monaco GP. There's a suspicion that someone in the team could be involved, but the details are still unclear. What is certain is that a white powder has been found near Räikkönen's car, which could have been used in an attempt to cause the Finn's engine to seize up. A theft of a number of drawings and information concerning McLaren's rivals is then discovered. Meanwhile in the championship, Kimi wins in France and the UK, climbing up to less than twenty points behind Hamilton in the rankings. However, in Europe, he is forced to withdraw, and Alonso and Massa take centre stage in a wheel-to-wheel duel - in the literal and metaphorical sense. In the end, the Spaniard gets the upper hand, but with Hamilton only in ninth place, the fight for the world championship reopens. The last European race is held in Belgium, and Ferrari wins a fantastic one-two. Hamilton is in the lead with 97 points, two more than Alonso and 13 more than Kimi.

Ferrari arrives at Fuji, Japan, as World Constructors' Champion. Meanwhile, the final FIA judgement on the espionage case is issued, condemning McLaren to exclusion from the Constructors' rankings and imposing a fine of 100 million dollars. Nothing changes for the drivers, however, who remain in the race. Hamilton wins, and seems to be home and dry, since Alonso has withdrawn and Räikkönen is only in third. Just two races away from the end of the season, he is 17 points away from rookie Hamilton. And there are only 20 up for grabs overall…

Kimi Räikkönen after his victory in the 2007 French Grand Prix<em> Photo: Getty Images</em>
Kimi Räikkönen after his victory in the 2007 French Grand Prix Photo: Getty Images

In China seven days later, it's raining but the track is drying out. All the cars are fitted with intermediate tyres that don't need changing, even when it stops raining, in an attempt to stretch the stint and save a pit stop. Räikkönen is beside himself: to the sound of fast laps being completed, he stays on Hamilton's tail as he leads the race, and looks as if he could also secure a lead in the championship. However, Kimi overtakes the English driver, who begins to push more and more in an attempt to keep pace with the Ferrari. His right rear end begins to show signs of failure, so the team calls him into the pit. Hamilton comes into the pit lane with too much enthusiasm and ends up in the sand, running aground and being forced to withdraw. Räikkönen wins the race, although he remains seven points behind, with Alonso four points from the leader.

For the first time since 1986, three drivers compete for the title in the last race of the season, although Hamilton only needs to stay in the running. At the start of the race, Massa takes the lead over Räikkönen. In an attempt to close in on Alonso, the English driver ends up going wide, dropping to tenth position. A few laps later, the gearbox on his McLaren seizes up for 30 interminable seconds, with Lewis advancing only by inertia. He's overtaken by the entire group before he can get going again. He manages to claw his way back up many positions and finish in seventh, but in the meantime, the Ferraris have changed places and something incredible happens: Räikkönen finishes the race as world champion, the ninth behind the wheel of a Ferrari. The marque boasts 15 Drivers' titles, and the same number of Constructors' titles. The fans have cause to celebrate once again. The post-Schumacher era has got off to a brilliant start.

Ferrari