Raikkonen becomes the third Finnish champion in history [Reuters]

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen has won his first Formula One title after Lewis Hamilton's attempt to become the youngest champion in his debut season suffered after the first lap of the Brazilian grand prix.

Raikkonen won the drivers championship by a single point from the two McLarens of two-time champion Fernando Alonso and Hamilton.

The Finn's unexpected title triumph, saw him leading home Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa in a one-two finish.

Final standings

1. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland 110 points

2. Lewis Hamilton, UK, 109*

3. Fernando Alonso Spain 109

4. Felipe Massa, Brazil 94

5. Nick Heidfeld, Germany 61

6. Robert Kubica, Poland 39

(* Hamilton takes second place in the championship due to having more second-place race finshes than Alonso)

Hamilton finished seventh while team mate and double world champion Fernando Alonso, in what may prove to be his last race for McLaren, was third and 57 seconds behind the winner.

Raikkonen becomes the third Finnish Formula One world champion after Keke Rosberg and Mika Hakkinen and ended the season with 110 points to Hamilton and Alonso's 109.

Hamilton finishes second in the world championship due to having one more second-place finish than Alonso during the season. Both drivers had four race wins.

"We were not in the strongest of positions but we always believed we could recover," said the 'Iceman', after his sixth win of the year.

"Even in the bad times everyone, everyone was sticking together, and we didn't give up ... I think we had perfect teamwork."

Hamilton, who had started the race as title favourite with a four-point lead over Alonso and an advantage of seven to Raikkonen, endured a nightmare afternoon.

Starting on the front row, he had dropped to eighth at the end of the first lap after running wide as Alonso forced his way through and Ferrari settled into a one-two pattern with Massa leading from pole.

Comeback

The Briton then slowed dramatically eight laps later when his electronic gearbox jammed in neutral.

Hamilton managed to reset the transmission but had plunged to 18th place, leaving him fighting a desperate battle to claw his way back into the points.

At the front, Massa sped clear followed by Raikkonen while there was carnage elsewhere.

Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, driving a Renault, re-joined from an off track excursion only to he driven into from behind by Sakon Yamamoto's Spyker.

Hamilton regained his speed as he pushed his way through the field, rising from 18th to 11th with  some supreme passing moves and fast driving.

Hamilton's challenge fell apart
right from the start [Reuters]
The leaders began to pit for fresh tyres and fuel after lap 20 with Massa leading Raikkonen, who led the race for a lap until he also pitted one lap later.

This left the defending champion Alonso out in front for a lap but he also pitted and after the first round of stops the field reassembled with Massa leading Raikkonen and then Alonso at the front.

Hamilton pitted after 22 laps and rejoined in 14th place from where he fought to make up places, passing Brazilian Rubens Barrichello with a sweeping and aggressive dive through the Senna S bends on lap 28.

This put Hamilton into 12th place but he was 50 seconds behind the leader Massa who was running two seconds ahead of Raikkonen with Alonso down in third, 19 seconds adrift.

On lap 30, there was more drama when Kazuki Nakajima in his BMW came into the pits and crashed into his own team of mechanics, two of whom were sent flying and appeared to be slightly injured.

Alonso, his hopes of becoming the first driver to win back-to-back titles with different teams hanging by a thread, could not match the Ferraris' pace, with Raikkonen and Massa registering a 1-2 finish.

Speaking after the race, Ron Dennis, McLaren boss, blamed a gearbox malfunction for slowing Hamilton early in the race.

Rare emotion

"My congratulations to Kimi," Alonso said afterwards. "He did a great championship. He deserves it."

Massa, who had led for most of the first 50 laps, was overtaken by Raikkonen as expected during the second round of pitstops to hand the Finn the title-clinching win.

Germany's Nico Rosberg was fourth for Williams with Poland's Robert Kubica fifth for BMW Sauber and his team mate Nick Heidfeld sixth.

Italy's Jarno Trulli took the final point for Toyota.

Raikkonen, usually impassive on the podium, showed rare emotion after one of Formula One's great comebacks.

The Finn, runner-up in 2003 and 2005, had been 17 points behind Hamilton with two races remaining and was the outsider in the first three-way title showdown since 1986.

Raikkonen's triumph brought the curtain down on one of the most controversial seasons in Formula One history and handed Ferrari the drivers' title in addition to the constructors' championship.

McLaren would have won that title had they not been stripped of all their points for a spying controversy as well as being docked 15 for a pole position furore in August.

Raikkonen's joy, in his first season with Ferrari after joining from McLaren as successor to retired seven-times champion Michael Schumacher, left his former team still chasing their first title since 1999.

"It was so close, we needed just one car to stop," Dennis told reporters.

"In the end Ferrari suffered their reliability problems in the beginning of the season and we've had some today.

"It's not about one race, it's about the world championship and we've got to be positive and sporting and look forward to next year."

While McLaren had led the drivers' championship since the second race of the season, Raikkonen won the first and last to emerge on top.

Boom: There was carnage on lap 30 involving Giancarlo Fisichella, left [Reuters]

Source: Agencies