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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Raikkonen gatecrashes Hamilton party

Kimi Raikkonen spectacularly gatecrashed Lewis Hamilton's hoped-for British Grand Prix party by claiming his first Silverstone victory.

All the hype had surrounded Hamilton in the build-up to the race, in particular after the world championship leader put his McLaren on pole.

But it was Ferrari star Raikkonen who stole his thunder, claiming back-to-back victories for the first time in almost two years.

Hamilton was forced to settle for third - extending his run of podium finishes to nine - as a combination of one bad pit stop and seemingly poor tyre choice allowed team-mate Fernando Alonso to take second.

But with eight grands prix remaining, Hamilton still has a 12-point lead over Alonso, with Raikkonen now third in the title race and 18 points adrift.

Felipe Massa has dropped to fourth in the standings as he could only take fifth after an aborted start led to him beginning the race from the pit lane instead of from fourth on the grid.

The Brazilian, though, still managed to blitz his way through the field to claim four precious points.

As such, if he had managed a clean getaway, he would almost certainly have knocked Hamilton off the podium for the first time.

But what a shame for Hamilton, in particular after making the start he would have dreamed about overnight.

McLaren, though, gambled by preferring the harder compound tyre from the off, compared to the soft option for the Ferraris, so giving them extra grip.

Once the five red lights disappeared at least there was no repeat of Hamilton's poor start in the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours a week ago.

On that occasion Hamilton was overtaken - for the first time in his Formula One career - by Raikkonen, helping the Finn to his second win for the Maranello marque.

This time around Hamilton was clean away, cutting from left to right across the track to defend the inside line heading into the first corner at Copse.

It was perfect, but at no stage over the following 16 laps was Hamilton able to open any kind of gap on Raikkonen, who remained within a second as he hounded the young Briton.

At one stage on lap 14 'The Iceman' was virtually alongside his McLaren rival, whose first stop two laps later did not go to plan.

Hamilton went to pull away as the lollipop man flicked the sign telling him to engage first gear, despite the fact his car was still being refuelled.

With clean air for two laps Raikkonen put his foot to the floor, and it proved crucial as he emerged from the pit lane ahead of Hamilton.

That battle, though, had deflected the attention off Alonso, who had managed to stay on the coat-tails of the leading duo over the first third of the race.

When he pitted on lap 20 for a 6.3secs stop, it came as a major surprise when he grabbed the lead, with Raikkonen and Hamilton in his wing mirrors.

From that moment hopes of a win on home soil disappeared for the 22-year-old because as the laps ebbed away, so he dropped further and further behind Alonso.

It then became a battle between Alonso and Raikkonen, who held a gap of around five seconds to the Spaniard throughout the middle stint until the second round of pit stops.

Raikkonen stayed out six laps longer than Alonso, providing the second turning point of the race as the Ferrari star reversed the positions, and with it ultimately taking the victory by 2.4secs.

Robert Kubica was fourth for the second successive race for BMW Sauber, holding off Massa in the final third of the race in an enthralling battle.

The remaining points places were taken by the second BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld, followed by the Renaults of Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella.

In the constructors' battle, McLaren hold their 25-point cushion to Ferrari.

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