Raikkonen: 'It's one of my best wins'

Kimi Raikkonen produced a stunning performance to race through the field and secure his seventh win of the year in the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on Sunday.

The Finn started from 17th on the grid after a rain-affected qualifying and snatched the lead from Italian Renault driver Giancarlo Fisichella on the final lap of the race.

“It was much more difficult than any other of my wins, but in one way it is much nicer when you have to fight for it.
So, it is one of the best ones,” said Raikkonen.

Fisichella had led after the first round of pit stops, but Raikkonen was too hot to handle as he and the new world champion Fernando Alonso, whom he has battled all year for the title, showed they are the class of the field.

Spaniard Alonso, who started just ahead of Raikkonen in 16th, produced an equally stunning drive to climb all the way into third place as he claimed his 14th podium of the year.

Raikkonen and Alonso produced some thrilling moves and Alonso, who promised to be more aggressive after winning the title at the last race in Brazil, said: “I had no need to take care about anything, so I really went for it.

“It was good, but I think the strategy this time did not work too good for us. We had an extremely competitive car; I felt quicker than Kimi today for the first time in the last part of the championship.

“Unfortunately I was not able to beat him because before my first stop I was in front of him by a long way and because of the stops and the traffic I was third at the end, but it’s okay and it is good for the constructors.”

Indeed, it was not all joy for McLaren as Juan Pablo Montoya made an early mistake and crashed out on the first lap, handing a boost to Renault’s efforts in the constructors’ championship.

Renault moved back ahead of McLaren in the race for the title and with one race to go, the Chinese Grand Prix in one week’s time, they now lead by two points.

Boost for Webber

Australian Mark Webber gave his poor season a welcome boost when he made the most of a seventh-placed grid spot to race home in fourth in his Williams after an exciting battle with Briton Jenson Button.

Button lost out to Webber in the final set of stops and finished fifth, extending his run of consecutive points-scoring races to nine on his BAR-Honda team’s home circuit.

Scot David Coulthard finished sixth for Red Bull Racing, while German Michael Schumacher, who enjoyed some thrilling mid-race battles with Alonso and Raikkonen, faded away in the final laps to finish seventh.

Toyota’s dreams of home victory faded early and although Ralf Schumacher led the field away from pole position, his car was extra light and he failed to retain his lofty position, dropping to eighth by the end.

Schumacher made a clean start from pole as Fisichella passed Button for second, but Japan’s Takuma Sato and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello both ran wide at the first corner and almost collided as they crossed the gravel.

Michael Schumacher had a strong start as he moved up from 14th to seventh, while Alonso followed him through from 16th to eighth and Raikkonen, who started 17th, climbed up to 12th.

But Colombian Montoya hit trouble before the first lap was over when he went wide at the final corner and shot into the barriers, taking off the left-hand side of his McLaren car.

The safety car was brought out immediately as Montoya’s stricken machine was craned away and when it came back in, on lap seven, the leaders held station with Schumacher ahead of Alonso and Button.

Pizzonia and Trulli out

Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia spun out in his Williams at turn nine on lap 10 to end his race, and on the same lap Italian Jarno Trulli was out after BAR-Honda driver Sato tried to sneak down the inside of the Toyota at turn 16.

Alonso enjoyed a thrilling battle with Michael Schumacher during the first round of pit stops and made it past with a spectacular move, leaving the German to fend off Raikkonen in equally spectacular style.

But it was the other Renault of Fisichella that was leading the way after the first set of stops, with the Italian moving ahead of Ralf Schumacher to steal the lead while usual contenders Raikkonen and Alonso sat in fifth and eighth.

Raikkonen finally pitted at the end of the 45th lap and came out 5,4 seconds behind Fisichella leaving the pair with a nine-lap battle as they chased the race to the chequered flag.

Behind that pair, Alonso closed in on Webber and took him in a swinging move to into the first corner, and then Raikkonen made it past Fisichella to take the victory in the first corner of the final lap.—AFP

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