F1 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Hamilton denied as Raikkonen claims title

Oct 21, 2007 - 9:21 PM By Ian Parkes Special to PA SportsTicker

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Ticker) -- Lewis Hamilton immediately put his Formula One world championship heartbreak behind him by defiantly roaring "We'll go for it next year."

Far from being disconsolate or downhearted, Hamilton was instead philosophical after losing out to a new champion in Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen by a single point at the end of a dramatic Brazilian Grand Prix in which he finished seventh.

"It's been a crazy year and I honestly can't say I'm really gutted - I'm not," said Hamilton, who would have been the first rookie, and the youngest driver, to win the title had he held on to his lead in the standings. "I finished second in the world championship. I beat my team-mate under extremely difficult circumstances. I beat the two-time world champion. That was the goal.

"I went into the race and I said to myself that whatever happened today, it's been a phenomenal year. Who would have thought I would be leading the world championship going into the last race. I could have been world champion, and it's a great feeling to be in that position."

But it was for naught.

"It's just a shame our team, with everything that has gone on this year, we didn't get the drivers' championship," Hamilton said. "But we'll go for it next year."

Hamilton had not suffered a reliability problem with his McLaren all year, so surely it was a matter of time that one should hit him in the most important race of his career.

The 22-year-old, who had led the championship since the Canadian Grand Prix in early June, had already suffered a nervous start to Sunday's three-way thriller in Brazil.

By the end of the Senna S curves on the first lap, Hamilton dropped from second to fourth behind title rivals Raikkonen and teammate Fernando Alonso. An error followed as Hamilton braked sharply behind Alonso at the end of the Reta Oposta straight, relegating him to eighth.

Even then that was not disastrous as he still had the duo in his sights, but after making his way up to sixth, on lap eight his gearbox inexplicably shifted into neutral.

For 30 seconds, Hamilton's dream looked like ending on the track as he slowed almost to a standstill.

Hamilton could be seen rocking in his McLaren, virtually willing it to get going, while all the time the field streamed by.

Whatever the problem, his car finally regained power, setting the surely frustrated young star on his way again, albeit trailing 18th and 33 seconds down on third-placed Alonso.

"I just thought someone doesn't want to me to win this championship," Hamilton said. "I've had some tire problems and there was my mistake in the last race (in China), but going into this race, for something happen to again... but this is racing.

"To think I've come from GP2 and I'm now ranked number two in the world, I think is a positive thing. I have every confidence we can go into next year with a good car. I know the team will do a good job and I really can't wait. For sure, we can do a better job. We'll be even better prepared and the team will keep pushing; I'm going to keep pushing."

Hamilton will also have a year of experience to build on.

"I've the experience now, I'll bank that and we can start afresh," Hamilton said. "And as for certain mistakes I've made, I won't make them next year."

When pole sitter and race leader Felipe Massa came in for his second pit stop on lap 50, at that stage there was only going to be one outcome.

Raikkonen needed to win the race, so for three laps he put his foot to the floor, and at the end of his second stop he emerged marginally ahead of his Brazilian teammate.

That was job done for the Finn as he took the checkered flag by 1.4 seconds from Massa, and crucially the title for the first time in his career.

With six wins to his name in his debut season for Ferrari after leaving McLaren last season, Raikkonen was a worthy winner.

"We had some hard times, some reliability problems and we lost quite a lot of points," said Raikkonen, who after the United States Grand Prix trailed Hamilton by 26 points. "People were saying we weren't in the championship any more, but we showed them we were wrong, and we came back strongly in the end.

"That's down to great team work from a lot of people - including Felipe - so it's been a great season."

With the title Raikkonen follows in the footsteps of other Finnish greats Mika Hakkinen and Keke Rosberg.

"This is such a great feeling," Raikkonen said. "A couple of times I've come close, but it never really happened, and this year it looked like it was going to be another of those years. I know what it's like to lose out in the last race. I lost by a couple of points a few years ago (2003 to Michael Schumacher) and it's not a nice feeling.

"But this has been a great year. It was perfect teamwork and it paid off - not only in this race but all season."

Outgoing champion Alonso came home third and finishes third in the championship as, although he is level on points with Hamilton and tied on wins, Lewis' greater second-placed record gives him the edge.

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