Despite heading into the Brazilian Grand Prix with few expectations of being able to land his first world title, Kimi Raikkonen emerged from Interlagos unable to quite believe that he had snatched the crown from under the noses of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

By the time the Finn had landed at Zurich airport on Tuesday, however, the reality of his achievement was beginning to sink in - and he was enjoying every moment.

"I am so happy it almost hurts!" he grinned, "This is like a dream come true. This is something I wanted to reach since I've been a child. I was seven years old when I first saw a race track, an old small kart circuit called Bembole just five kilometres from where I lived. It was like a second home for me. Now, 22 years later, I have many favourite race tracks, but the most important one is Interlagos - more than 5000 kilometres away from home!"

Raikkonen admitted that the joy of clinching the title had been heightened by the fact that he had missed out at the final round in the past.

"I've always said that the aim of my career is to become world champion. I came very close a couple of times but, in the end, everything turned out fine," he reflected, "We have always given our best to try to win. Doing that in sport, you have to always push to the max until the end as you never know what may happen in a race - you only have to look at the last three races and you know what I'm talking about.

"Fuji was really terrible for us, as we were at the back of the pack and our race was over almost immediately. We left Japan and were 17 points behind, without the possibility to fight back - I think I can say that no more than ten people outside of the team would have bet on us. But we didn't give up. In a certain sense, we believe in miracles. China was our joker - we won and the driver on the top of the standings [Hamilton] didn't make any points. That gave us some hope, but there still weren't many chances for us left."

Despite heading to Brazil seven points adrift of Hamilton, and with Alonso between them, Raikkonen's chances of landing the title still needed a lot of outside assistance.

"The last race was really emotional," he admitted, "The first four drivers in the field didn't retire, but there was a tough fight for positions between us and our competitors. Maybe I had the best start of the season, and maybe I could have passed Felipe at the first corner, but I had a plan - and it didn't involve a fight with my team-mate. I could see in my mirrors that Hamilton was next to Alonso in turn three, and that he had a problem. I realised then that we had the chance we had hoped for, this first lap seemed to be decisive for the whole championship."

Hamilton's problems grew from a first lap off while battling his McLaren team-mate, with a costly gearbox glitch that dropped him to the back of the field and left him with too much to do to salvage the points needed for the title. Raikkonen, meanwhile, was able to emerge from his second pit-stop ahead of Felipe Massa and went on to win his third race in four to end the season on a high.

"I don't think that I've ever experienced such emotions in the cockpit," he admitted, "Everything worked perfectly fine. It was like a birthday present from heaven! We could have had more pace and I want to thank Felipe again for his support - he did what he could do, just like a perfect team-mate. As a team, we couldn't do more than a double win [1-2 finish] but, when I had crossed the line, the most important thing to know was what Hamilton had done. I asked for information over the radio, but there was just silence for a couple of seconds. Finally, [engineer] Chris [Dyer] told me that [Hamilton] came in seventh and my heart nearly went into flames due to happiness! This is it - we're world champions!"

Although McLaren has appealed the result of the race, due to allegations of fuel irregularities with both the Williams and BMW Sauber teams, it appears likely that Raikkonen will be able to hold on to his crown. His final comment, however, will be one last barb in Ron Dennis' heart.

"It is fantastic being a part of the greatest team of all time," he said, "This year I really enjoyed Formula One more than ever before. I dreamt about winning the title with Ferrari, and I bet that this is every driver's dream. This team never stops - they work at the max and never give up. We had some difficult moments, but we always managed to come back. And this shows the quality of the people working there.

"Now it's time for a holiday, the first as world champion."

 

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