On 7th October 2007, Kimi Raikkonen won the Chinese Grand Prix. After the storm, both meteorological and polemic of the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, everything seemed set for the coronation of Lewis Hamilton as world champion. Ferrari arrived in Shanghai, hanging on to hopes that were pretty much no more than theoretical, given the 17 points that separated Raikkonen and Hamilton, at a time when a win was worth 10 and the 12 point lead the Englishman had over his team-mate, Alonso. “It will take a miracle,” said Jean Todt in Fuji after the race. “What is certain is that we will do our utmost to win the last two races of the Championship.”
It’s impossible to say if it really was a miracle, but there can be no doubt that Ferrari did all it could in the last two races of the season, taking two wins with Kimi and two podiums with Felipe. The rest was down to the opponents being below par, starting with the round in Shanghai.
In qualifying, only Hamilton was quicker than the two Ferrari men. In the race, as had happened eight days earlier in Fuji, the rain played its part, falling on the starting grid, where Raikkonen and Massa were on the second and third spots respectively. At the start, Kimi kept his position, but Felipe was passed by Alonso: however the Brazilian reacted brilliantly to retake third before the end of the opening lap.
In the first part of the race, Hamilton gradually pulled away from Kimi, while Felipe and Alonso dropped back from the Finn. On lap 10, the Englishman had a lead of 6.6 over Kimi, 11.3 over Felipe and 13.2 over his team-mate. The pit stops for the front runners began on lap 15: Hamilton was the first to come in, followed by Felipe on lap 17, Alonso on 18 and Kimi on lap 19: all four men stuck with the same set of standard rain tyres. Thanks to his later stop, Kimi halved the gap to Hamilton, so that he was 4 seconds off on lap 20.
Felipe stayed third at 16 seconds, with Alonso fourth at 17.6. Track conditions gradually improved, so that a few drivers gambled on fitting dry tyres. Of the leading quartet, the first to pit was Felipe, who switched to the grooved tyres on lap 26, immediately after he had been passed by Alonso. Unfortunately, a new rain shower fell on the circuit and Felipe found himself in difficulty, struggling to keep the car on track in the damp conditions. In bigger trouble however was Hamilton, who saw a threatening Kimi closing in on him.
Already by lap 27, the Ferrari man could have taken the lead, but the yellow flags meant he had to maintain station, until getting by on lap 29. Hamilton, his tyres now worn out, tried to pit at the end of lap 31, but his race ended stuck in the gravel alongside the pit lane entry. You could see what this meant on the faces of those watching; joy for the Ferrari crew, pain on those of the McLaren men and the expressions and gestures of Ron Dennis, unforgivingly captured by the TV cameras, as his protégé’s first match point in the title decider escaped him. On the following lap, when the rain had stopped falling, both Kimi and Alonso pitted: when they were back on track, the gap between them was 11 seconds, with Felipe trying in vain to get inside the Spaniard at Turn 1. Leading was Kubica, although he would soon retire with a technical problem. Alonso tried to attack Kimi, but the Finn, once passed the understeering phases caused by the new tyres, comfortably controlled the situation, while Felipe gradually lost ground to the McLaren driver. Kimi’s smallest advantage was +7.9 on lap 41 and then settled to between the 8 and 10 second mark. In the final part of the race, with the track now almost completely dry, the first three put on a show of fastest laps: Felipe won this particular contest on the very last lap.
That’s how the first part of the miracle came about, but there would have to be a two week wait before the second and harder one.