SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Kimi Raikkonen claimed his first world title by one point after previous overall leader Lewis Hamilton suffered a nightmare end to his rookie season at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.
New world champion Kimi Raikkonen on the podium with Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.
Raikkonen, who trailed Hamilton by seven points going into the final race, took advantage of the 22-year-old's nervous start to claim victory for Ferrari ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa.
There were some doubts after the race whether Finn Raikkonen would keep the title, however, as Formula One's governing body -- FIA -- opened up an investigation into possible fuel irregularities.
FIA called a meeting involving representatives from BMW-Sauber and Williams, whose drivers finished fourth, fifth, sixth and 10th, and if at least two of them were punished, Hamilton could have moved up to fifth and taken the title.
Nearly six hours after the race, FIA said there wasn't enough evidence to penalize the drivers or the teams.
McLaren officials later notified the FIA of their intention to appeal the race stewards' decision. ( Watch Ed Foster of Motor Sport magazine discuss fallout from the race ».)
Hamilton had started second on the grid, but allowed Raikkonen to pass him at the first corner and then saw McLaren team-mate and fellow title contender Fernando Alonso -- who finished the race in third -- also go past him.
The British driver spun off the track trying to pass the Spaniard and fell back to eighth place, then plummeted to 18th after gearbox problems caused his engine to cut out.
He set about reclaiming his place among the points with a series of blazing laps, but could finish no higher than seventh.
Raikkonen emulated the feat of his fellow Finn Mika Hakkinen in clinching the world title after taking the lead on the 50th of 71 laps when home hope and defending race champion Massa went into the pits for a routine stop.
With Alonso in third, Raikkonen needed to win to give Ferrari a world championship double after also winning the constructors' title -- and he was comfortably able to stay in front and claim his sixth victory this year.
The 28-year-old Raikkonen said: "We were not in the strongest position at some points of the season but we always believed we could recover and do a better job than the others.
"Even in the hard times we stuck together and we didn't give up. Even from a long way behind we didn't give up. We worked very hard and Felipe helped too. The team has been very close together."
It was a bitter result for Hamilton, who had led the standings since May 13 and had been seeking to become the first rookie and the youngest driver to win the title.
"I am still quite happy. To have come from GP2, who would have thought I'd be number two in my first season in Formula One? said the Briton.
"We have had a few tough weeks but the team did the best job we could and have done a fine job all year. I still believe we had the fastest car.
"I will go into next season with my head held high and I know we will do a better job next year and come back even stronger."
His father Anthony said: "None of us are in pain, we feel great. We have just had one of the most fantastic Formula One seasons ever. If somebody had told me a year ago that we would be fighting for a world championship at this stage they would have been dreaming.
"You know we lost it by one point but we will come back next year and if we don't win it next year we will win it the year after. One thing is for sure, Lewis Hamilton is here to stay."
It also heralded a miserable end to the year for McLaren, who were removed from the constructors' standings and fined $100 million after the spy scandal involving Ferrari which is also likely to see Alonso leave the British-based team in 2008.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis said: "At difficult moments like this you just have to have a sporting attitude to the outcome. Lewis has enjoyed phenomenal reliability from his car this year. It was just a default in the gearbox which selected neutral for a period of time but then sorted itself out.
"It was so close, we needed just one car to stop. It's hard to find the right words but I think the whole team has done a great job all year and should be proud of their achievements."
Raikkonen ended the season with 110 points while Hamilton and Alonso both finished on 109.
Away from the main title race, Nico Rosberg placed fourth in Brazil in a Williams to finish ninth overall, BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica was fifth to end the year in sixth.
Kubica's team-mate Nick Heidfeld was sixth ahead of Hamilton for fifth overall behind Massa, while Toyota's Jarno Trulli took the final point on offer to finish 13th in the standings.
"This is a great feeling," Raikkonen said. "We had some hard times, some reliability problems and lost some points. A lot of people didn't believe in us, but we showed that they were wrong and we were able to come back. It was a great season."
The Finn was reserved in his celebrations on the podium, waving his cap to the crowd before briefly throwing his arms in the air.
He finished the race on the 2.6-mile Interlagos track in 1 hour, 28 minutes, 15.270 seconds -- 1.493 seconds ahead of Massa and 57.019 ahead of Alonso.
Raikkonen -- second in the drivers' championship in 2003 and '05 -- became only the third Finn to win the F1 title, and the first since two-time winner Hakkinen in 1998 and '99. The first Finnish champion was Keke Rosberg in 1982.
"When I saw Hamilton going off, I knew that maybe we had some chances," Raikkonen said. "I wasn't 100 percent sure, I was really just waiting. It took a long time to hear that we had finally won it."
Massa and Raikkonen stayed 1-2 from the start. Raikkonen took the lead after a final pit stop, coming ahead of Massa as the Brazilian apparently slowed his pace.
"Felipe worked hard ... he's been a big help," Raikkonen said.
Massa, who had won four times in the previous five races he started from pole, had an emotional victory in Interlagos last year when he became the first Brazilian to win at home since the late Ayrton Senna in 1993.
Alonso was trying to become only the third driver to win three consecutive titles in the history of F1, along with Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
"I knew it was going to be a difficult situation for me," Alonso said. "It was impossible to keep the pace from Ferrari. I was just waiting for something."
It was the third year in a row the F1 season was decided at the Brazilian GP. Alonso won both of his titles at the Interlagos track in 2005 and '06. E-mail to a friend
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