JAMES ALLEN'S VERDICT
Well, at least this shows you how hard it is to win the F1 world championship!
Lewis Hamilton’s dream of becoming the first ever rookie champion (except for the inaugural year of 1950) was dashed today as his gearbox selected neutral on lap eight, losing him half a minute and dropping him to 18th place.
But if you reflect that after Fuji he had a 17-point lead over Kimi Raikkonen, you wonder how in the hell he could have lost the world title to him in two races. It is one of the greatest misses in racing history.
Kimi did all that was in his power – he won both the final races, while Lewis contrived to score just two points from two races.
Paying for previous mistakes
McLaren are devastated but it is hard to feel much sympathy for them.
They made a terrible mistake in leaving Hamilton out on knackered tyres in China while they hesitated over what to do next.
If they had brought him in two laps earlier, when it was bleeding obvious he was in trouble, and put any kind of tyres onto his car, he would have scored five or six points and Raikkonen wouldn’t even have been in contention in Brazil.
But they tried to win the title in China, when they didn’t need to, and paid a massive price.
So Kimi really has McLaren to thank for this world title because they quite literally gave it to him.
Here in Brazil the picture was more complicated.
Clearly Lewis was cautious at the start, losing places to Kimi and Fernando Alonso, but then he lost his head and tried to repass Alonso.
Remember that at that point he was still going to be world champion as fourth was enough for him.
So it was out of character for Lewis and he will have learned from that. He did what Alonso did in Spain and Canada – a desperate lunge – and as with Fernando, it didn’t pay off for him.
But his real problem today was the gearbox glitch.
It was the first mechanical failure he had suffered all season in a race and I suppose you could say it was overdue. But it was mighty strange the way it happened.
Thereafter he gave it his best shot to climb back up, but the switch to a three-stop strategy and soft tyres quite early in the race on a short middle stint was a gamble.
McLaren say it made up 10 seconds compared to a two-stop by doing it and you’d have to have a hell of a clever computer to disagree with them.
I don’t know. But I feel that Lewis was in a good groove before the switch to softs, passing people easily and making good progress and that stopped once he switched to a three-stop and took the softs.
Ferrari played it very well at the front, waiting to see what Alonso and Hamilton would do.
Robert Kubica briefly took third away from Alonso, but it was because he was on a different strategy.
Once Alonso regained third place it was always clear that Raikkonen would jump Massa at the second stops to become champion
A deserving winner?
Does Raikkonen deserve to be champion? Of course he does because a supreme talent like his should be rewarded in the history books.
He has won 15 grands prix, been a front-runner for the past six years and come close to the title on two previous occasions.
Does he deserve it this year? That’s more tricky. He does in the sense that in the second half of the year he was clearly the best driver.
But this year he was off-form in early summer and turned in some odd performances before he got his act together in France.
Since then he has been an express train. He’s scored 78 points since France, while Lewis scored just 51.
A lot of that is down to the fact that it took Kimi some time to get up to speed with the Bridgestone tyres: They act differently from the Michelins in the way they turn in to a corner and as that is a key area where Kimi gets his speed, he had to adapt his style to get the most out of them. That took several months.
Also he had reliability problems in Spain and Nurburgring, which cost him big points.
But I look at the qualifying incident in Monaco where he lost concentration, and at the restart in Bahrain where he did the same, and at the several times in the early part of the year where Hamilton caught him napping and I wonder whether he was personally giving 100 percent there.
But it’s great news that F1 has a new champion and I’ve no doubt that there will be three world champions in the field in the next couple of years because Hamilton is going to win the title next year or the year after: that is clear.
A wealth of talent
The scene is set for a golden era, with three world-class drivers fighting for the championship provided that the politics do not stay so intense.
The racing this year has been superb, absolutely superb, and all four front-runners have played their part in that. But off-track has been very unpleasant indeed and we’ve all got caught up in it to varying degrees.
There have been some very strong support performances too.
Nico Rosberg ended his season on a high note with an absolutely sensational drive to fourth place, ahead of both BMWs – his best drive in F1 to date.
He is my standout driver of the day and it’s been a great season for him. I wasn’t sure he merited the hype last year, but now I’m certain that he is one of the top talents.
He needs a winning car to show us whether he is on the same level as Kimi, Lewis and Fernando.
Nick Heidfeld has also been outstanding this year and Heikki Kovalainen, although he had a very poor weekend in Brazil as he did at the first race in Australia, has shown in the second half of the year that he is a strong driver.
I’ve enjoyed the racing this season. I’m worn out by the politics, as are most of the media, and I hope to God that we don’t have more of the same in 2008 because I don’t think it does any good for the sport’s credibility.
But we have a new world champion, Ferrari have shown that they still have the winning habit even without Schumacher and Brawn and now we gear up for the 2008 season.