Sao Paulo:Kimi Raikkonen won his first Formula One title by winning the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, taking advantage of Lewis Hamilton's mistake on the first lap and Fernando Alonso's disappointing run.
The Ferrari driver took the lead with 17 laps to go, coming from third in the drivers' standings to win the tightest race for the championship in 21 years. Teammate Felipe Massa was second in Sunday's race.
Hamilton, trying to become the first rookie to win the title and F1's youngest champion, went off the track on the first lap and later had problems with his McLaren to finish seventh. Teammate Fernando Alonso could not keep up with the pace of the leaders and finished third.
Alonso would have had to finish second and Hamilton fifth to keep Raikkonen from winning the drivers' championship after his victory.
Raikkonen erased a seven-point gap behind Hamilton coming into the race to finish with 110 points, one more than Hamilton and Alonso.
It was a hectic start for the Brazilian GP.
Hamilton, who started in the front row beside pole-sitter Massa, was passed by Raikkonen and Alonso in the first turn.
He then made a mistake trying to recover the position from Alonso three turns later to drop to eighth spot after the first lap was completed.
The Englishman moved back to sixth place after six laps, but his car slowed dramatically with an apparent gear problem two laps later and he seemed on the verge of retiring from the race. His car suddenly picked up pace again, but he had already dropped to 18th.
Hamilton's car seemed to be without problems for the rest of the race as he moved past the slower cars with ease. By lap 18 of 71, Hamilton was 11th, but he couldn't manage to move up past seventh.
He had needed a top-two finish to guarantee the title on Sunday without depending on other drivers.
Massa and Raikkonen stayed 1-2 from the start. Raikkonen took the lead after a final pit stop, coming ahead of Massa as the Brazilian apparently slowed his pace.
Massa, who had won four times in the previous five races he started from the pole, had an emotional victory in Interlagos last year as he became the first Brazilian to win at home since the late Ayrton Senna in 1993.
Spyker's Sakon Yamamoto crashed with Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella on the first lap, and both were forced to retire.
Kovaleinen crashed hard in the 38th lap at the third turn. He was on his feet for several minutes, but later was preventively transported to the medical center.
Two Williams mechanics received minor injuries after Kazuki Nakajima, debuting in F1, failed to hit his pit marks and ran over the mechanics.
Alonso was trying to become only the third driver to win three consecutive titles in the history of F1, along with Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
Alonso was the only driver using an older engine because of his crash at the Japanese GP three weeks ago. Drivers must use the same engine in two consecutive races, and Alonso had a new one in China and was using it again in Brazil.
Thrilling and turbulent
The Brazilian GP marked the end of one of the most thrilling and turbulent F1 seasons in decades.
It was the first time since 1986 that three drivers reached the final race in contention for the title. It hadn't happened since Alain Prost edged Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet to win that year's championship.
The season - the first without the great Michael Schumacher - was marred by a spying scandal that led to a record $100 million fine for McLaren, which was found guilty of using leaked data from Ferrari.
The British team was kicked out of the manufacturers' championship, which was easily clinched by Ferrari.
There was also a heated internal dispute in the McLaren team, with Hamilton and Alonso trading accusations during most of the season.
Alonso complained he deserved more respect as a two-time world champion, and hinted McLaren was favoring the English rookie. Alonso and McLaren team chief Ron Dennis didn't speak to each other for a long period, and FIA was forced to summon an official to oversee the team at the Brazilian GP to make sure all drivers were treated equally.
The controversy led to speculations that Alonso would leave McLaren next season, sparking rumors about his future. Renault, the Spaniard's home when he won the last two championships, said it would welcome his return, and even Ferrari was thrown into the mix.
The parity on the track also was refreshing, with at least four drivers in contention in almost all races. McLaren and Ferrari dominated and traded wins from the beginning. Both teams arrived at the season finale with eight victories each.
It was the third year in a row the F1 season was decided at the Brazilian GP. Alonso won both of his titles at the Interlagos track in 2005 and '06.