Kimi Raikkonen - an unlikely winner of the 2007 F1 world championship

Kimi Raikkonen won his one and only Formula 1 world driver's championship in 2007 - a season remembered as one of the most dramatic in the sport's history.

Kimi Raikkonen celebrates being crowned the 2007 Formula 1 world champion. (Image: Twitter)

A look back at the 2007 Formula 1 season features far too much scandalous details to fit into just one article. However, the most amazing part of the season was when Kimi Raikkonen won the world championship.

Raikkonen was, in many ways, the third horse in a two-horse race. Most expected the title fight to come down to the McLaren-Mercedes’ of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

Indeed, the new driver pairing had the quicker car – and were at each other’s throats for most of the season. It seemed, in many ways, a new twist on the Alain Prost-Ayrton Senna rivalry.

Yet in the end, it was Raikkonen who won the title. Hamilton and Alonso, so focused on each other, lost sight of the bigger picture – and would pay the price.

The season culminated at Brazil, which saw a thrilling race to cap off a thrilling year. It was the type of drama most fans had forgotten about; the early 2000s were charecterised by Ferrari’s dominance, often at the expense of others.

However, the Ferrari dominance had been broken by Renault and Alonso in 2005 and 2006. 2007 saw the Scuderia finally pick up another title – but this time as the underdogs.

With 14 years having passed since the season finished, let us look back at what was a tumultuous, bitter, exciting, unpredictable and overall thrilling season in F1.

The background

The 2007 season was, as mentioned before, an extremely chaotic one. The title fight was initially played out largely between Hamilton and Alonso. The rookie Brit impressed all and sundry with his swift acclimatisation to the sport.

Alonso, meanwhile, developed a full-blown rivalry with his younger teammate – both a personal and professional one. Raikkonen, whose debut season at Ferrari was marred by inconsistency, won races but did not lead the championship for long periods.

The two McLaren drivers traded wins and podium finishes, but their budding rivalry helped no one – not least the team. And then SpyGate hit.

The scandal, which saw secret information exchanged between Ferrari and McLaren engineers, rocked the sport. And resulted in McLaren’s dismissal from the constructor’s championship.

However, the two drivers kept all their points and could compete for the world title.

Going into the final race in Brazil, it was Hamilton who held the lead. He was atop the standings with 107 points. Alonso was second with 103 points, with Raikkonen third with 100 points.

Raikkonen had the toughest journey to the title, given he needed to win the race and hope Alonso finished below second and Hamilton below fifth.

For Hamilton, a fifth-place finish – which brought 4 points – would guarantee the title. And for Alonso, he needed to simply outscore Hamilton by 5 points and finish ahead of Raikkonen.

Kimi Raikkonen does the unexpected

Qualifying on Saturday saw Felipe Massa take pole, with Hamilton in second; Raikkonen and Alonso sat third and fourth, respectively. For Hamilton, he simply needed to hold position to win his first title in his rookie year.

However, Hamilton was jumped on Lap 1 by both Raikkonen and Alonso. Still, a fourth place finish was enough to secure the title but it wasn’t going to be that simple.

Hamilton tried to get back into the podium places with an overtake on his teammate. But the move did not work out and, what’s worse, he was forced to run wide. Hamilton was now in eigth, the title well and truly slipping away from him.

To make things worse, his car began to be affected by gearbox issues. The McLaren slowed down to a crawl as Hamilton tried hard to reset the CPU of the car.

He managed to do that in about 30 seconds, but by then was stuck all the way down in 18th. Given Raikkonen was leading and Alonso was in third, he needed to be fifth.

Hamilton would manage to climb up the field, but only finished seventh and was lapped by Raikkonen, who led most of the race. Alonso would finish third, some distance behind the two Ferraris.

And so a crazy season ended in a crazy way. Hamilton would finish the year second on countback; he took more podium finishes than Alonso, with whom he finished level on points.

But the man of the hour was Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was, on his third try after coming close in 2003 and 2005, finally a world champion.

The aftermath

Few knew it back then, but this would be the only world title Kimi Raikkonen would win. He was not even in contention the following season; Hamilton’s main title rival in 2008 was Felipe Massa, Raikkonen’s Ferrari teammate.

And that title would be won in even more dramatic circumstances. Few knew it back then, but that would be the first of seven for Hamilton.

Raikkonen would eventually take a sabbatical from the sport in 2010, before returning with Lotus and then for a second spell at Ferrari. He is currently at Alfa Romeo and will retire at the end of the season.

Massa is now retired too but Hamilton and Alonso are still going strong at Mercedes and Alpine, respectively. Both will be around for the 2022 season at least.

Shayne Dias

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