Raikkonen wins Chinese GP, Hamilton drops out
Three drivers are capable of winning the title in the final race in Brazil.
Shanghai: Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari won the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday as McLaren's Lewis Hamilton missed his chance to clinch the drivers' title by running off the track while entering the pits.
Fernando Alonso of McLaren was second with Felipe Massa of Ferrari third.
The championship will now go down to the final race in Brazil on October 21 with three drivers capable of winning the title. It will be the first time since 1986 that three drivers have a chance to take the title in the last race.
Hamilton has 107 points, Alonso has 103 and Raikkonen 100. A win is worth 10 points. Second through eight at 8-6-5-4-3-2-1.
It was the fifth win of the season for Raikkonen. Alonso and Hamilton have four each. If there is a tie, the number of victories will break the tie. After that, the number of seconds will be counted.
Hamilton ran off the track and into a gravel trap while entering pit lane after 31 laps.
"Just unfortunate," Hamilton said.
"We still have got one more race to go," Hamilton said. "We're still ahead."
It was the first time this season that Hamilton failed to finish a race.
"It was my first mistake all year and to do it on the way into the pits was not something I usually do," Hamilton said after the race. "You cannot go through life without making mistakes. But I am over it and we look forward to Brazil."
He had finished out of the points in ninth at the European GP after a crash in qualifying and being cleared to drive the morning of the race. He had made nine straight podiums before that.
"Lewis will be very focused in Brazil . He has the capacity to do well in Brazil," Alonso said. "Everything is looking good for him. For Kimi and me, we wait for a strange race."
Alonso said it would take another upset in Brazil for him to clinch a third successive world title.
"It will be very, very difficult, the championship," Alonso said. "I know it will not be easy to take four points from Lewis.
"For the championship, I still need something dramatic to win. With a normal race it will be impossible."
Raikkonen would need even more unusual circumstances to clinch the title in Brazil, but was buoyed by Sunday's victory.
"We just have to win the race and see what happens to the others," Raikkonen said.
"We saw today anything can happen. We are just in a better position than we came here but still it will be difficult."
Hamilton started from pole knowing he only needed to finish ahead of Alonso to become the first rookie to win the drivers' title, but rain began to fall just as the drivers began the warm-up formation lap.
Eight laps into the race it stopped raining and a dry line emerged on the track. By that time Hamilton was leading, more than five seconds ahead of Raikkonen and nine up on Massa. Alonso was 11 seconds back.
Hamilton was the first to pit after 15 laps, giving Raikkonen the lead for four laps. Raikkonen managed some fast laps with clear track in front of him, and by the time the Finn had emerged from his own pit stop, Hamilton's lead was down to four seconds.
Rain began to fall again, and Hamilton was having difficulty controlling his car, allowing Raikkonen to close onto his tail.
By the 28th lap they were wheel-to-wheel. Hamilton fended off two passing attempts, but Raikkonen got by on the third.
Just three laps later, Hamilton's race was finished.
Hamilton, who had been experiencing tire grip problems, attempted to take the mild turn into the pit lane at speed, but lost traction and left the tarmac after twice trying to correct.
He ended up stranded in a gravel trap near the pitlane entrance. For several seconds he remained in his car trying to get some bite from his tires or a push from the Chinese race attendants, while McLaren team chief Ron Dennis waved his arms in frustration at the pit wall.
Finally giving up, Hamilton walked calmly away, missing out on his chance to clinch the driver's title in Shanghai.
With Hamilton out of the race, Raikkonen continued in the lead, followed by Alonso.
Raikkonen was eight seconds ahead at the start of the 35th lap, and he maintained that buffer the rest of the way as the rain held off.
Behind the place-getters, 20-year-old Sebastian Vettel of Toro Rosso finished fourth, Jenson Button of Honda was fifth, followed by Vitantoni Liuzzi of Toro Rosso in sixth.
In 1986, drivers Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell went into the final race of the season in Adelaide, Australia capable of winning the title. Mansell held a seven-point buffer going into the race, but retired after a spectacular tire failure, allowing Prost to win the drivers crown.